The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, the bees are buzzing and the allergies are sneezing – spring is here! It is a fun filled time of the year as we celebrate Hanamatsuri, the Cherry Blossom Festival and our annual Golf Tournament.
On April 7th Placer Buddhist Church (PBC) will be observing Hanamatsuri in which we celebrate the birth of the historical Buddha. Sakyamuni Buddha was said to have been born in Lumbini’s Garden and sweet rain came from the sky. Symbolizing this event, we will be decorating the Hanamido (flower pavilion) with flowers donated by our members. The Hanamido symbolizes Lumbini’s Garden and it is truly a beautiful setting during the service. If you would like to donate flowers (no thorns or strong scented), please bring them by the temple on April 6th before 2 PM. The Hanamatsuri Service will be followed by a mini-food bazaar for all members – each attendee will be given a box lunch of various types of sushi, chicken, nishime and namasu.
Recently, I attended a memorial service at the Sacramento Betsuin for a long-time member who had passed away. Seated next to me was a Caucasian gentleman about my age who, I assumed, was not a Buddhist (he did not have a nenju). Being strangers, we did not say a word to each other throughout the service. As the large congregation started the lengthy process of offering incense (Oshoko), I finally asked him how he knew the deceased. He replied that the two of them once worked together and then asked if it would be alright if he did not get up to offer incense. I replied that yes, it would be OK, but that the ritual of offering incense was just to purify ourselves as we stood in front of the Naijin (altar). I also said that we do not pray but by putting our hands together (Gassho) we are simply joining our impure world with the pure world of Amida Buddha. The gentleman further stated that he enjoyed the sermon given by Rev. Bob Oshita who stressed the importance of impermanence and interdependence.
This experience made me realize that frequently at our services (not necessarily memorial services) non-Buddhist attendees often sit through without knowing the meanings of what we do and the rituals we follow. It only makes it harder for them to grasp the fundamentals of Buddhism and possibly accepting Jodo Shinshu as a way of life. Hence, when ministers and minister assistants precede their Dharma Talks with a little background of some aspect of Jodo Shinshu, it opens the minds of these newcomers who then become more receptive to our service. Rich Kawahata has been giving a brief yet informative introductory of the events about to happen during memorial services and the meanings behind rituals such as Oshoko.
So next time you are sitting next to a stranger at one of our services, break that silence by introducing yourself and offering brief explanations to some of the things we do. That stranger will certainly appreciate it and maybe you will see him or her again at our temple.
We’ve got talent! On August 31st, the Walnut Grove Buddhist Church will be hosting a music fest during which members of the 7 temples that make up the Northern California District of the Buddhist Churches of America will be showcasing their musical talent. There will be food booths, courtesy of Walnut Grove temple, to go along with the competition. Presently, PBC’s lone entry to this event is Julie Iso, who will be performing with her harmonica. She can play the piano too, and suggested that we form a singing group which she will accompany on the piano. Now I’ve heard some pretty good voices singing the Gathas during our Dharma School services, so who do they belong to? If you are interested in being a contestant or know of any member who’s got talent, contact Rich Kawahata.
Thanks to Miwako Yamashiro and Shizuko Strom we now have a beautiful, shiny, black piano in our Hondo. They combined to purchase the piano as a gift to the temple, replacing the old, worn one that “weighed a ton” and was hard to tune. The new piano’s beautiful notes will be heard during visits by the Sacramento Betsuin Choir or whenever volunteers are willing to play it during our services.
Most of you don’t believe in ghosts (obake) nor are they accepted in Jodo Shinshu but on May 5th at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, the 7 Northern California District Buddhist temples will be sponsoring screenings of “Infinity and Chasu Ramen.” This film was shot entirely in San Francisco’s Japan Town and its lead actor is Hiroshi Kasiwagi who hails from Placer County. More importantly, Hiroshi is the brother-in-law of our own Nob Nimura and plays the role of one of two ghosts who touches the lives of different people. Show times are 4:00 and 6:45 PM with a separate VIP Reception at 2 PM held at Megami Restaurant next to the theater. The $10 ticket for the show or $30 for the VIP Reception and show can be purchased from Rich or Ron Kawahata or me. On with the show – see you there.