Buddha’s Birthday Celebration

April 8th is the day where we traditionally celebrate the historical Buddha’s birthday. The legend is that there was a sweet rain of flowers when the Buddha was born. He immediately took seven steps representing the seven cardinal directions and pointing up to the sky and down toward the earth said “Above the heavens and below the earth I alone am the world honored one!” We honor this event with a ceremony where we bath a statue of the baby Buddha with sweet tea and offer incense.

We will begin at 6am with a period of zazen, followed by a short chant service and then the ceremonial bathing of the baby buddha and offering of incense. We will conclude with chanting of the four great Bodhisattva vows and sampai (prostrations).

This event is open to all those who are vaccinated with the booster. You are also welcome to join us for our morning chant service and zazen for which you should be seated in the zendo by 4:50am. If you wish to come just for the ceremony please arrive around 5:50am and join in the walking meditation before we begin the service at 6am.

We will also broadcast this event online for those unable to join us in person. You will need to have a copy of the updated version of our Virtual Sutra Book which contains all of the necessary chants.

Zoom Link: [Event has passed]

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Guidance in the time of Corona 30

Dear All,

Already 3 months we all have been making huge efforts. Our dedication has brought us to this point today that the actual numbers of people becoming infected was not as big as assumed. I would like to thank each person who has made such great effort.

The Buddha went to Takuhatsu and in one house, there was one young man who had just washed his face, then facing the east, he bowed, facing the south, he bowed, he faced the west and bowed, he faced the north and bowed, he faced upwards and bowed, he faced downwards and bowed. The Buddha saw these dedicated bows, and went to the young man: “You are very young, yet very devoted to your bowing. Is that how you bow every day?” – “Yes, I bow daily.” – “Whom do you pray for in the east, who is it in the west, and who in the south and north?” – “There is no meaning in my bowing, I just do as my parents taught me.” – “Since you are doing something of importance, yet since you are doing it without knowing the meaning, that is a pity and is not good enough. Your bowing is very devoted, yet you need to know the purpose, I will teach you now. When you bow to the east, you bow in thankfulness to your parents who gave life to you. When you bow towards the south, you express your thankfulness towards all of your teachers, who taught you in school, taught you how to cook and sew, taught you your profession, express your thankfulness towards all who have taught you something. When you bow to the West, you express your thankfulness towards your partner and children. When you bow towards the north, you express your thankfulness towards your friends and acquaintances in life. When you bow upwards, you express your thankfulness towards those who have shown you the spiritual path and have supported you on it. When you face downward and bow, you can express your thankfulness for those who have made so many efforts to support your life.
This is called bowing in the six directions,“ the Buddha taught him.

The Buddha is teaching that we cannot lose our attitude of thankfulness towards anything we encounter. We have been supported until now and are still being supported thanks to many karmic connections, for this we can be thankful. Nowadays people have become lonely and poor in mind, this is the time we are living in.

The existence of each person is equal. We have so many natural disasters in the world, so many problems in the world and they seem to increase. And the number of people who spread their dissatisfaction onto others also seems to increase. This is where we as humans need to return to being thankful.

We may still know and be aware of our thankfulness towards our teachers, in any country in any religion this is being taught. The Buddha said: Bow towards your partner and children. He says bow towards those who are working and supporting you. Live in a way that you feel thankful for each person.

The Buddha said this 2600 years ago, when women were still looked upon as not being equal. Still the Buddha said, bow towards your wife, bow towards your husband. Truly seeing the human value of each person, and seeing the need for each relationship needing to find a balanced way in harmony.

We need to live our life with the feeling of thankfulness. In a dojo, a professional place of training, the monks learn to bow towards one another.

We can understand somehow that we bow to our partner, since he/she supports our life as well. But bowing to our children? If we are not careful, we believe that our children are our children. Seen from a Buddhist point of view this is different. The life of the children came forth from the womb of the mother yet the life energy is being passed down from ancient past. We all had a past life, and since we are only aware of what happened after we were born in this life, we do not know about what was before. We simply forgot. We were not suddenly born by chance. We all have a past. When you have many children you will know that each child has their particular abilities. This child has never heard music at home yet may have a deep appreciation for it. The parents may not be painters, yet a child may be gifted in drawing. This shows that the base for this ability may have its origin in a past life. Scientist talk about DNA yet that is not all there is to it. Each person´s personality is expressing the past life. This child has its own past life and now has the karmic connection to be born through my womb, we can only be thankful for this.

Nowadays even though hardly anyone will say so, there are many parents who see their children as their own. When we think about this, we as parents are here to stop that special ability in our child and support it in developing it further, so that it can live a life standing on its own feet.

That is why the Buddha is teaching us that we should also express our thankfulness towards our children. The parents did not make the child, but the child appeared and borrowed the womb of the mother to take form.

Many doctors and nurses and caregivers are working for those who have been infected by the corona virus, they even may become infected themselves. Yet they continue their work and make efforts. When we see this, we need to be thankful for their devoted efforts. This is the great treasure they are giving us during this time which we deeply need to be thankful for.

If we receive the teaching of the Buddha, we need to deeply feel this thankfulness from the bottom of our mind. We also continue our efforts, seeing the efforts not only the medical team but of the many people working in society.

Please everyone take this huge state of mind of yours as most important, that can see the efforts which each person is making. This is my deep wish.

(this is the final entry of the Guidance in the time of Corona, by Shodo Harada Roshi)

Guidance in the Time of Corona #9

Dear All,

The situation changes daily, the number of infected people as well. Does this new corona virus actually influence our life or is it only the talk about it?
Today is the birthday of the Buddha, the Buddha was born and awakened to human´s original mind. Teaching us what it is we can believe in, not as some philosophy to believe in, but he was speaking from his own actual experience. We have been guided by these words, embraced by the love of the Buddha, while we are alive in these uncertain times, we can experience a deep serene state of mind.

The Buddha´s birthday is also called the flower celebration. For this ceremony I wrote a poem in which I express my gratitude.

Flowers are laughing, birds are singing
This is the scenery we are perceiving now, Sakura flower blooming, Birds can be heard singing everywhere, becoming more daily. Singing empty minded, blooming empty minded. If we carefully listen to nature,

Completely freed from all doubts.
All those worries of society are being forgotten and let go of.

Leaving the womb taking seven steps
Hearing this does not suffice, my own words are needed

It is said that the Buddha walked 7 steps when born, symbolizing walking the whole earth. This of course did not actually take place. It means that the Buddha was born with this huge expansive mind. The Buddha pointed with his right hand to the heavens and with his left hand to the earth and said: Only I exist in this world. There is no God who scares us, neither is there an evil that can affect us. All is created by humans. Nowadays there is so much uncertainty, so many worries which appear as sickness. We see the news about people dying and of course anyone would become worried hearing this. But we need to see clearly at this point. How could we react in such circumstances? How should we look upon it? Carefully see that we do not let those worries become bigger in our mind, we settle within, and bring forth our wisdom, facing this changing reality straight on. We cannot fall into panic and become worried. This is how we as humans need to take responsibility. All 7, 5 billion people on this planet, we all need to awaken to the truth, and from there face the problems and make efforts on the path to resolving these.

Losing it all through the six senses
Everyone mistakes these words, not taking them as one´s own truth, but only thinking about oneself, about one´s satisfaction, about one´s own peace of mind – a huge misunderstanding. Don´t get stopped by the interpretation of these words.

What can we believe in, each person needs to revise this for himself. In the olden days, Confucius said, “I taught in different ways yet people do not understand me. I will stop teaching now. “His students replied: “You cannot do that. However much you teach, people will not understand. But if you stop teaching, even more so do people not know what to believe in.” Confucius replies: “This world does not speak, spring, summer, autumn and winter come about, all move naturally without a mistake. The leaves grown and fall again. In winter the whole world is quiet. The heavens do not speak a word, yet nature moves along in its own course.”

What makes the flower bloom in spring time? What makes the leaves grow, change color in the autumn? We do not know what moves them, yet without knowing this we can see the changing seasons.

There are disasters when many people lose their life, then again new life is born. When we see how nature moves, how the season change, we get a sense for the law which is at work behind it.

When the Buddha was about to die, he said to his students: I taught you the law of impermanence. How about it?” Since no one else replied, Anurda Sonja spoke and said: “You have taught us the eightfold path. We have received your wisdom and know well that humans were born to suffer, that is because we gather. The only way out is to know this immovable state of mind. We do need to make efforts and polish our wisdom. We all have understood this teaching of yours well.” – “If you have understood, then I can enter Nirvana.” Everyone started to cry and because they are crying so much, the Buddha raised his head once more and said: “Did you not just say that you have understood the truth? All who were born will die. This is a law. If we look at it from a personal small view we make mistakes. But looking at the whole picture, this is a law. I will die. I cannot go against the law, but the truth which I have realized is not the body and will live forever. This is what we call Dharma, it cannot be perceived with our eyes, yet people are born and die, this is the law. If we get stopped by the phenomena, we cannot see the whole picture.

These words of the Buddha are seen by the monks from South east Asia as being the precepts. The daily life of the Buddha is seen as the teaching, thus living according to the precepts is seen as the truth.

Zen has a different view, we need to awaken to the Buddha´s state of mind, to his experience. Not getting fooled by the self, by ideas, if we can taste this huge state of mind, that is where we can find the truth of the Buddha. Not searching for our own happiness only, but as it says in the Vimalakirti sutra, the light of a candle is not shining for itself, but by shining it shares its own light onto the surroundings. And this light is what brings brightness into this world. When it is dark we cannot see much. Only in brightness can our wisdom function. From there we are able to resolve problems. While the candle shines it uses up itself. The candle will burn up but it will give light to another candle, where the same flame will continue to burn and shine wisdom onto the surroundings. A light burning brings light upon others and thus will continue to live through others.
That is what the Buddha said, my body will die, but you can take your experiences and show the truth to others. Taking this truth and letting this world become bright. Thus our own light is what we can pass on. We do not live for the happiness of ourselves, but for all beings, and for this to become reality, we cannot stop making efforts. That is what the Buddha taught us.

A student asks Unmon: “What is the Dharma body?” – Unmon replies: “Roppushu”. The words meaning is “it does not settle within six”. If we explain these words, the number 6 stands for our six senses. Seeing Hearing Smelling Tasting Touching Thinking. These six senses connect us to the world outside. We can perceive the seen heard smelled tasted touched thought world. Unmon did not say it that conceptually. He goes beyond concepts and speaks about our own existence, if we look at it from a philosophical point, that would be a big mistake. The seeing life energy, the hearing life energy, the smelling life energy, touching life energy, thinking life energy – roppushu. All day long we encounter many people, many situations, hear many data, our own life energy is this roppushu. From morning until night from night until morning, we become this roppushu. We become it completely, we fill the whole universe with it. There is no need to try and understand our life but simply becoming it. Through this reality we become the seeing and hearing, we become one with our senses. This experience is what matters. Not staying with dualistic ideas, not stopping there, but in society face reality and not getting confused by it, our human value is to be found there. To be able to pass it onto others is our human responsibility.

Please see that is the place where the Buddha and Unmon are alive, letting go of the small perception and facing that which is right in front of us. Our efforts bring forth our wisdom. Shining this wisdom onto others, for this we cannot stop making efforts

Buddha’s Birthday Virtual Celebration

April 8th is the day where we traditionally celebrate the historical Buddha’s birthday. The legend is that the was a sweet rain of flowers when the Buddha was born. He immediately took seven steps representing the seven cardinal directions and pointing up to the sky and down toward the earth said “Above the heavens and below the earth I alone am the world honored one!”

We honor this event with a ceremony where we bath a statue of the baby Buddha with sweet tea and offer incense. In these times where we all must stay at home and such gatherings are discouraged we will observe this ceremony over the internet.

We will begin at 6am with a period of zazen, followed by a short chant service and then the ceremonial bathing of the baby buddha and offering of incense. We will conclude with chanting of the four great Bodhisattva vows and sampai (prostrations). You will need to have a copy of the Tahoma Sutra Book and the Ceremony Booklet which contains the Verse of Ambrosial Nectar.

Order of events
6:00am Zazen
6:30am Ceremony
Hannya Shingyo (page 5)
Sho Sai Shu Dharani (page 6)
Dai Hi Shu Dharani (page 9)
Eko (read by densu)
Verse of Ambrosial Nectar (pdf)
Bathing of the buddha and offering of incense
Chanting: Four Great Vows (page 16)

We will conclude with a few minutes of casual conversation where any participants are free to make comments and talk amongst the group. If you have some tea on hand, it would be an appropriate time to have a cup!

The Zoom Link for this event is:

Please follow these guidelines for taking part in this meeting:

  • If this is first time taking part in a Zoom meeting with your computer, Zoom will automatically install the needed software. For tablet or smart phone users, you will need to download “Zoom Cloud Meetings”.
  • Microphones will be muted for the sitting. During the informal discussion at the end, wear ear phones (if you have them) to help reduce feedback noise. Otherwise, unmute your mic only when speaking. Mute again when done. You can use the Tap to Speak option for this.
  • Turn up the volume on your speakers to clearly hear the bells and announcements.
  • Position your camera so we can see you sitting with us. Not directly in front, though; that will likely be too distracting.
  • If you have a poor internet connection, turn off your video.