“My eyes being hindered by blind passions,
I cannot perceive the light that grasps me;
Yet the great compassion, without tiring,
Illumines me always.”
~Shinrain Shonin (Koso Wasan 95)
Oh yes, it is that season again. Many temples/churches are observing Hatsubon and Obon. These specific
dates are very important to us. We observe Hatsubon for those who have passed from this earthly realm from the previous July to the present July. It is a time of remembrance of their hard-work, sacrifices and yes, of their commitment in raising the family, to the community and to the temple/church. When we lose these people we are awakened to the principle of our impermanence. It is a time of sharing our thanks to our departed loved ones for their devotion and commitment to those whom they cherished and loved. We share our Namu Amida Butsu in honoring those who have passed during the year.
Our history stems from the many first generation Japanese (those who came from Japan, issei) who
worked in the mines or on the railways. They were farmers and some even took up the trade of being
fishermen. It was a tough time and back breaking work. Yet, these jobs put food on the table, a roof over the family’s head and clothes on their backs. However, we forget that the first issei women were “picture brides”. They came on steamer boats to cross the ocean on promises made by their future husbands. They not only suffered on the boat, but when they arrived. They lived a rough life, living in a strange land and married to an image from a photo. These issei have made us who we are and directed our life in Nembutsu. They saw a future for Jodo Shinshu without thought of gender, age, diversity or wealth. It is our Namu Amida Butsu with true heart and mind.
Our Obon is our way of sharing thankfulness, gratitude and appreciation to these pioneers who may have
been an ancestor. We enjoy the festivities of Obon and the dances and we have so much fun. We tend to
forget the issei’s ingenuity, stamina and determination, so that we can continue with this special observance.
We share Namu Amida Butsu with true thankfulness, gratitude and appreciation for their wisdom and
compassion and forethought for the generations to come.
After a day of hard work, Obon dance is a refreshing break. However we cannot forget our history and the
working of Nembutsu. Our dances portray the various works these issei did, to provide. Some dances are
remembrances of Japan, lost loves and how we take so much for granted. We dance by putting the self “into the shoes” of our ancestors. While we dance we forget how good we look or dance, and we dance in showing our true self. We dance to release the true self from this outer shell
people see. We let go of the ego and dance with thoughts of our departed loved ones and show how truly foolish we all are. We are foolish no matter if we dance or watch, so might as well dance among other foolish beings.
So dust off the ol’ dancing shoes, forget about the mistakes we will make while dancing and present the true self, “just as we are”. It is time to “let our hair down”, show our gratitude to our ancestors and truly be our foolish self. I will be dancing.
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano