Shin Buddhist Holidays

New Year's Day (Shusho E)

“For followers of Shin Buddhism, the New Year’s Day service is significant because it offers that wonderful opportunity to express our deep gratitude for the countless blessings we enjoy.  Moreover, it enables us to realize the compassionate Heart of Amida Buddha which embraces us at all times. Where we have failed, we must strive to correct and rededicate ourselves to the Way of the Nembutsu.”

-Rev. Norito Nagao taken from his article on New Year’s Day Service in Buddhist Special Observances & National Holidays

 

In a Nut Shell...

Date: January 1st (Shin Buddhists have adopted the western calendar)

Translation:   Shusho-E: Observe-new year-gathering.

Description:  Celebration of the beginning of a new year and an expression of gratitude for all the possibilities a new year offers. 

What does the temple do to celebrate? New Year’s Day service, visit family and friends, prepare dishes with mochi; place pine branches on doors.

New Year's Day (Shusho E)

“For followers of Shin Buddhism, the New Year’s Day service is significant because it offers that wonderful opportunity to express our deep gratitude for the countless blessings we enjoy.  Moreover, it enables us to realize the compassionate Heart of Amida Buddha which embraces us at all times. Where we have failed, we must strive to correct and rededicate ourselves to the Way of the Nembutsu.”

-Rev. Norito Nagao taken from his article on New Year’s Day Service in Buddhist Special Observances & National Holidays

 

In a Nut Shell...

Date: January 1st (Shin Buddhists have adopted the western calendar)

Translation:   Shusho-E: Observe-new year-gathering.

Description:  Celebration of the beginning of a new year and an expression of gratitude for all the possibilities a new year offers. 

What does the temple do to celebrate? New Year’s Day service, visit family and friends, prepare dishes with mochi; place pine branches on doors.

 

shinran shonin memorial day (ho-on-ko)

“Each year, on the 16th of January, faithful followers of Shinran Shonin assemble together to pay homage to his memory and to Amida Buddha for having awakened man to the existence of life’s supreme debt of gratitude...

Shinran Shonin interpreted the acknowledgment of gratitude to mean an reciprocal thought or act motivated by a profound feeling of gratitude for Amida Buddha’s invocation of his power to enable us to attain faith.  Reciprocal acknowledgment is not, therefore, merely giving donations or attending religious services.  In other words, it is not just a duty or responsibility.  It is, rather, and opportunity -- a privilege and blessing -- which comes naturally as one becomes more deeply aware that all things, including one’s faith, comes from Amida Buddha.  Our faith and manner of living which are the very essense of life are bestowed upon us through the grace of Amida’s compassion and merciful benevolence.”

- Rev. Gibun Kimura (translated by Rev. Tour Kakimoto), taken from his article on Shinran Shonin Memorial Day in Buddhist Special Observances & National Holidays

 

In a Nut Shell...

Date: 16 January

Translation:  Goshoki Ho-onko: Honorific-death anniversary-repay-indebtedness-observance.

Description:  Shinran Shannon Memorial day commemorates the anniversary of the death of Shinran Shonin, the patron founder of the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism. 

What does the temple do to celebrate? one of the principle holidays in which one participates in the art of “hearing the light” through listening to sermons, talks, ritual, and Sangha fellowship (Masao Kodani and Russell Hamada from Traditions of Jodoshinshu Hongwanji-Ha (1984))

 

Nirvana day (nehan e)

“Nirvana Day...is one of the major Buddhist holidays.  The Sanskrit term ‘Nirvana’ literally means ‘extinction, the extinction of the worldly illusions and passions.’  Wherever the extinction of illusions and passions is bing achieved, there will be a calm and peaceful Nirvana, but the term which applies to this particular day means the death of the Buddha Sakyamuni.

Since the Buddha had attained his Enlightenment on this earth, he was a living Buddha and his Buddhahood would never die, but as the Buddha appeared from Dharma (Truth) onto this earth in the form of man in order to save man, his manhood had been a subject of earthly restrictions.  He passed away at the age of 80 and entered into Mahaparinirvana or the absolute free state of Enlightenment...

The Buddha...shows us with his life a perfect pattern on how to believe in Dharma, how to live on earth, andhow to associate with man.  On this sacred day of Nirvana if we could look into ourselves honestly, take inventories of ourselves within our limited abilities and our own karmic restrictions and advance one step toward the ideal of human life, there would be achieved something which commemorates this day.”

- Rev. Arthur S. Yamabe, taken from his article on Nirvana Day in Buddhist Special Observances & National Holidays

 

In a Nut Shell...

Date: 15 February

Translation:  Nehan E: Nirvana Day.

Description:  Marks the death of Shakamuni Buddha and the day he attained complete Nirvana. 

What does the temple do to celebrate? Special Sunday Dharma talk.

 

Spring/Fall higan (higan e)

Higan is a Japanese Buddhist celebration during the Spring and Fall equinox.  Higan literally means "Other shore" and symbolizes nirvana.  We are all on "this shore" and endeavor to reach the "Other Shore."  During these two times day and night are in balance and Buddhists would be reminded of the path to the Higan.  Traditionally this was the time to reflect on the six paramitas.  The six paramitas define the path to the "other shore."  Shin Buddhists teach that we have all reached the "other shore" when Amida Buddha attained enlightenment so Higan is celebrated differently.  It is a time to reengage with the paramitas, not because it is a path to where we already are, but because of our gratitude for each having been enlightened.

In a Nut Shell...

Date: 21 March/21 September

Translation:

Shunki Higan-e: Spring season other shore gathering.

Shuki Higan-e: Autumn season other shore gathering. 

Description:  A celebration of the Spring or Fall equinox that is used as a way to refocus on the six paramitas (giving, right behavior, endurance/patience, endeavor/effort, meditation, & wisdom); the six paramitas, when followed through, leads to the "other shore" or nirvana.  For Shin Buddhists, this balance emphasizes the harmony of day and night as a reflection of the virtues of Amida Buddha and leads us to gratefully try to follow the six paramitas, not as a way to the other shore, to acknowledge what Amida has already done for us. 

What does the temple do to celebrate? Special services are performed during these two celebrations.

 

Buddha's birthday (Hanamatsuri)

“This is the birthday of Sakyamuni Buddha.  He was born about 2500 years ago in India on the eighth day of the fourth month.  According to our tradition and calendar, this glorious event occurred on April 8th.  His given name was Siddhartha and he was the crown prince of the kingdom of Kapilavastu, on the Nepalese border, one hundred miles north of the present city of Benares.  The legends tell us that at the time of his birth in the beautiful Lumina garden, sweet rain came down from the heaven to wash the baby Buddha and all the flowers in the yard turned into full bloom.  This is why we call the Buddha’s birthday Hanamtsuri.  We decorate the Handmaid (flower chapel) and perform the ceremony of bathing the Buddha.” 

- Rev. Masami Fujitani, taken from his article on Buddha Day in Buddhist Special Observances & National Holidays

 

In a Nut Shell...

Date: 8 April

Translation:  Hanamatsuri: flower-festival.

Description: Commemorates the birth of the historic Buddha, Shakamuni. 

What does the temple do to celebrate? A small flower decorated shrine is set in front of the Naijin and a small statue of the infant Siddhartha is placed inside the flowered shrine.  During the ceremony, sweet tea is poured over a statue of the infant Siddhartha.  The flower shrine represents the Lumina Garden where he was born and the sweet tea symbolizes the sweet rain that fell during his birth.

 

Shinran Shonin Day (shuso gotan e)

“[Shinran Shonin] did not live a fortunate life filled with happy environmental conditions.  Both his parents were gone at an early age and he encountered many hardships throughout his life.  But his spiritual experiences with evolved under many trying conditions and in many places, have given the many followers of the Buddha’s Teaching an answer to the purpose of life in this world.

Shinran Shonin spent his simple and modest life of ninety years with no thought of making himself spectacularly prominent and impressive among the people.  But millions of Numbest followers are rejoicing over his way of life through the guidance of Amida Dharma.”

- Rev Keisho Motoyama, taken from his article on Shinran Shonin Day in Buddhist Special Observances & National Holidays

 

In a Nut Shell...

Date: 21 May

Translation:  Shuso Gotan-E: Sect-founder-birthday-gathering.

Description:  Celebrates the birthday of Jodoshinshu’s founder, Shinran Shonin

What does the temple do to celebrate?  Sanga members attend special services to remind themselves of Shinran Shonin’s life and teachings.

 

OBon

O-Bon is a Buddhist memorial service those who have passed.  It comes from a Ullameana Sutra story.  In the story Moggalana, a disciple of Buddha, sees his mother who passed away many years before suffering in the hell of hungry demons!  With the help of some fellow disciples, Moggalana rescues his mother.  As they see her ascend from the hell to the Pure Land, he and his fellow disciples were so joyful they began to dance.  This was the beginning of the Bon Dance that is celebrated after the Bon service.  In Shin Buddhism, O-Bon reminds us to show our respect to the departed, express feelings of gratitude and thankfulness to the living, and that our enlightenment and the departed's enlightenment comes from Amida Buddha's 18th vow. 

 

The above was adapted from Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu (1955), San Francisco: The Buddhist Churches of America Commission of Buddhist Research and Publication.

In a Nut Shell...

Date: 15 August (based on lunar calendar but Hawaii temples celebration dates from June through August to accomate the many Buddhist temples)

Translation: Bon is to hang upside down i.e. suffering

Description:  Bon is an occasion for rejoicing in the enlightenment offered by the Buddha to all those who have died and all those living (from (1986) Shin Buddhist Handbook. Honolulu: Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii).

What does the temple do to celebrate?  Bon Service, Bon Dances, food, games, traditional Japanese music, cleaning of family grave sites.

 

bodhi Day (jodo e)

“Siddhartha left his home in search of Truth, even though he had every material thing he could desire in life.  Yet he was not satisfied with his life.  After diligently practicing all manner of ascetic disciplines, including starving himself to the point of death in order to gain control over his body, he rejected the ascetic path and took food again.  He realized that one could not think clearly and have a healthy mind without a healthy body.  Siddhartha instead turned to a middle gourd of meditation.  According to the Mahayana tradition, in the early morning hours of December 8th, Siddhartha became the Buddha the Awakened One, the Perfectly Enlightened One.  By his example, he showed us that it was possible for a man to become a Buddha, a fully enlightened person.  We are therefore in possession of this potentiality, this Buddha-nature, which, when awakened and cultivated, will enable us to achieve the same Enlightenment.”

-Masao Kodani and Russell Hamada from Traditions of Jodoshinshu Hongwanji-Ha(1984)

In a Nut Shell...

Date:  8 December

Translation:  Jodo E: attaining-Enlightenment-gathering.

Description:  A celebration of the day Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment while meditating under a pippala tree (known as Bodhi tree today).

What does the temple do to celebrate?  Special service is conducted to remind the sangha of all being’s Buddha-nature.

 

New year's eve (joya e)

“On this last night, temples with the large bell called the Bonsho will ring the bell 108 times.  This is called the “Joya no Kane” or “bell of the last night.”  It is the symbolic ringing away of the 108 passions which inflict man and bind him to the world of delusion.  It is a reminder of the need to free ourselves from the entanglements of our self-centeredness as we face the new year.  We do not know whether our lives will be fortunate or unfortunate, but in the Nembutsu we can know that whichever it is, it will be all right.”

-Masao Kodani and Russell Hamada from Traditions of Jodoshinshu Hongwanji-Ha(1984)

 

In a Nut Shell...

Date: 31 December (Shin Buddhists have adopted the western calendar)

Translation:  Joya E: Last-night-gathering.

Description:  New Year’s Eve service and celebration. 

What does the temple do to celebrate? Gather together at the temple to ring the Bonsho and enjoy each other’s company.

 

Wahiawa Hongwanji Mission

A Grateful Shin Buddhist Community

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