Hanamatsuri – The Birth of Siddartha Gautama

Rev. Jay Shinseki Rev. Shinseki's Blog

“The reason for the Tathagata’s appearance in the world
Is solely to preach the ocean-like Original Vow of Amida.
The ocean of multitudinous beings in the evil age with five defilements
Should believe in the Tathagata’s true words”
Shoshin Nembutsu Ge

It is hard to believe that we are already in Spring and soon will be observing Hanamatsuri (Flower Festival) in celebration of the birth day of Siddhartha Gautama better known as Shakyamuni Buddha. History tells us that he was born on April 8, 643 BCE. Like many of you I love the Spring, not only because it brings the Hanamatsuri celebration, but Spring brings great weather. We begin to see the new leaves budding on the trees and flowers start to bloom. It is a sign of new life and the sign of the continuing cycle of nature.

Each year in April we reenact the scene of the Buddha’s birth at Lumbini’s Garden in India. We decorate our hanamido (Flower Shrine) with flowers and a statue of the baby Buddha. The Buddha’s birth is celebrated because like Spring, it was the beginning of a new life and the beginning of a new and important teaching brought to the world. Hanamatsuri truly is one of the most colorful and stirring commemorative services we have in our tradition. This year we will celebrate with the Salinas & Watsonville Buddhist Temples with a combined service in Salinas.

An important aspect of the Hanamatsuri observance as Jodoshinshu (True Pure Land) Buddhists is the above passage from the Shoshin Nembutsu Ge (Gatha on the True Faith in the Nembutsu ). Our founder Shinran (1173-1264) writes about the appearance of Shakyamuni Buddha in the world and his sole purpose is to reveal the 18th vow of the Buddha urging us to take refuge in Amida Buddha.

For us as Jodoshinshu followers there is a never ending quest to come to grips with our karmic burden. This means to come to the realization that as ordinary human beings we are always producing and burdened by our karma. Becoming aware of awakening to our foolish self (bonno 煩悩) is the opening of the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha. Shinran emphasized that although our present self is defiled our hearts and minds reside in the Pure Land.

Understanding this makes the birth or appearance of Shakyamuni Buddha and Shinran’s realization of the importance of this event all the more significant. It reminds us that it is not just a celebration of a birth, but the very source of our salvation. When all other paths have been exhausted and we find ourselves in a state of hopelessness the light of Amida’s Vow burns brightly and illuminates the darkness of our ignorance. I can imagine Shinran’s joy when he encountered the Vow, and his urgency to us as he wrote his gatha on true faith.

I implore all of you readers to join us on Sunday, April 22nd at 10:00 am at the Salinas Buddhist Temple (14 California Street) to celebrate the Buddha’s appearance in this world and together express our gratitude. We are honored to have as our guest speaker Rev. Henry Adams of the San Mateo Buddhist Temple. In addition, we are honored to have our Socho (bishop) Kodo Umezu, our Hongwanji representatives Rev. Kiyonobu Kuwahara, Rev. Anan Hatanaka, and three IMOP ministers from Kyoto Japan in attendance.

Gassho,
Rev. Jay Hosei Shinseki