Address of the Koto
August Oko, 2006
On behalf of our Myoshinji Hokkeko Chapter I want to thank you Reverend Kimura for conducting this mornings Oko ceremony and also for your very special monthly Oko msg. Also thank you Reverend Arima for your able assistance this morning.
Some time last year I mentioned a little bit about how fortunate we, as Nichiren Shoshu believers are to have the various traditional memorial services here at the Temple. Actually for me this was the main reason for becoming a Nichiren Shoshu believer. With my son dying of AIDS and wanting to become a Buddhist and be cremated, it added a whole new dimension to my life. Our first Tozan in April of 1987 was to bring his ashes to Japan and at the end of this message I will explain the ending of this story.
This morning I would like to touch a little on the services and also the various opportunities that are available for us and our deceased family members. So I would like to share with you my discussion and guidance from Reverend Kimura on the subject of memorials and memorial services.
First he wanted to remind us that in our Nichiren Shoshu practice, every morning and evening Gongyo is a memorial service. During our Fifth Prayer we pray for all our deceased relatives, all deceased Nichiren Shoshu believers and all others who have departed this life that they may attain Buddhahood through the power of Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
As we all know now, on the first Sunday of the month we have the Okyo-bi Ceremony. Okyo means reciting the sutra and bi means date. Taking it one step further, the Okyo-bi Ceremony is actually the Toba Kuyo Memorial Service. Those of us that have participated in this ceremony know that Toba is the Memorial Tablet inscribed by the Priest on the anniversaries of those who have passed away. The meaning of Kuyo is praying to the Gohonzon for the deceased’s enlightenment.
We also have the very important Memorial Service during the Equinox, The Higan-e Ceremony which is widely practiced in all forms of Buddhism in Japan. It is usually conducted on March 21st and September 23rd. On these two days, the length of daylight and darkness in a day is exactly the same and the sun rises due east and sets directly in the west. In our case we use the closest Sunday to those dates. The meaning of Higan is “arriving on the other shore,” or it signifies “getting across.” In explaining this to Nichiren Shoshu believers the Daishonin stated the following:
“In the great sea of sufferings of life and death, the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings are but a raft or, at best, a small boat. Even if the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings can transport us from this shore of life and death to another shore of life and death, it cannot take us across the great sea of life and death to the shore of great happiness.” (Shinpen, p. 350) (Nichiren Shoshu Ceremonies, p. 20)
The oldest memorial service since the early days of Buddhism is the Urabon Ceremony. On July 16th at our last Urabon Ceremony Reverend Kimura’s sermon was on the meaning of this ceremony. You can request a copy of that sermon or it is available on Myoshinji’s web site.
For us lay believers we have several options available to memorialize our deceased relatives.
First, you can request a personal memorial book and have the Priest enter the name or names of your deceased relatives on the dates they passed away. You can also request a Buddhist name for them. This memorial book also lists all the deceased High Priests, Nichiren Daishonin’s parents and the great lay patron of the Head Temple, Nanjo Tokimitsu. It also list all the significant dates relating to the life of Nichiren Daishonin. This booklet is usually placed on a small memorial table on your left side.
Second, you can also request your deceased relatives names be placed here in Myoshinji’s Memorial Book which is on the Priests left side when facing the Gohozon.
Also, there are two opportunities available in Taisekiji. You can have their names placed in the memorial book in the Kyakuden the (Reception Hall) where they perform Ushitora Gongyo every morning at 2:30am. There, the High Priest will ring the bell and pray for those whose names are listed on that date. Or you can have their names entered in the (Eternal Memorial Book) in the Mutsu-bo where Niko Shonin’s Gohonzon is enshrined and they conduct Gongyo every day at 4:30 pm and a memorial service once a month. Also the High Priest conducts Gongyo there every day after he finishes Ushitora Gongyo.
And lastly, for our own consideration, in addition to the original columbarium, they have built a new building with specific lockers for our own ashes or for the ashes of your deceased family members. In Taisekiji it’s called the Nokostu-do and is located very close to the Hoando. A very beautiful building and location. Some of the lockers have a traditional Buddhist Memorial Tablet with small hanging lanterns on the top and multiple shelves for the urns below. You can purchases various sizes depending on the need for your family. Going back to the beginning of my message to explain our personal situation, we have purchased a locker for three urns and will be moving our son’s ashes there on our next Tozan.
You can get all of these details from the temple or I can help a little on the Nokostu-do. We looked it over when we were on the New Years kick-off Tozan in January of this year and then reserved our spot when we were on the 4th General Overseas Tozan in April.
And lastly I would like to mention, the best way to assure that your wishes are carried out is to have everything spelled out in a will or in your family trust and make sure you also have a reliable trustee. If you would like any of the above mentioned options you can designate specific amounts in your will and the Chief Priest, if notified, will be happy to handle your requests.
Again, if you have any questions please contact the temple and either Reverend Kimura or Reverend Arima will be happy to assist.
Thank you for your kind attention.