The radiant light, unhindered and inconceivable, eradicates suffering and brings realization of joy; the excellent Name, perfectly embodying all practices, eliminates obstacles and dispels doubt. This is the teaching and practice for our latter age; devote yourself solely to it. It is eye and limb in this defiled world; do not fail to endeavor in it. Accepting and living the supreme, universal Vow, then, abandon the defiled and aspire for the pure. Reverently embracing the Tathagata's teaching, respond in gratitude to his benevolence and be thankful for his compassion.

~ Shinran Shonin, Passages on the Pure Land Way

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Kikyoshiki Experience

NOTE: The following essay was first published on my personal Facebook page at 12:23PM on March 23, 2016.
This Higan’e, I was fortunate to attend services at three Jodo Shinshu temples here in Japan. The first was Nishi Honganji ( in Kyoto, my denomination’s head temple (Honzan), where I met with Rev. Eiken Kobai and received my Dharma-name after an unforgettable tour of the temple’s architectural treasures led by Rev. Clifton Dodatsu Ong. Immediately following the kikyoshiki ceremony, I had the opportunity to attend the service held in Amida-do (the H...all of Amida Buddha). Here, for the first time, I heard the sound of the Kansho bell and listened as the hall reverberated with voices chanting the Sanbutsuge and Wasan.

On Sunday, I journeyed to Nara to attend Higan’e service at Jokyouji ( at Reverend Clifton's invitation. This beautiful and historic temple was founded in the 13th century by Gyoen, a disciple of Shinran Shonin who was formerly a samurai. Here, I was honored to meet the granddaughter of Rev. Riken Katsura, Rev. Zuiken Inagaki’s teacher. Serious listening to the Buddha-Dharma is a matter of course at Jokyouji, where Zuiken Sensei’s legacy is alive and well. His writings were referenced multiple times during my visit, and I even had lunch in a room where his calligraphy adorned the walls. One of the temple’s members, at the age of 100, travels four kilometers by bicycle to attend services! To hear the Dharma in the company of such dedicated fellow-travelers was a rare privilege indeed. I was also presented with two books, Zuiken Sensei’s biography of Shakyamuni Buddha, and an introduction to Shinshu teaching by his son Rev. Zuio Inagaki—beautiful gifts that I will certainly cherish in memory of the wonderful people I met at Jokyouji.

The next day, I went at the invitation of Rev. Eiken Kobai to Osaka, where I attended another Higan’e service at Jofukuji. All the temple members listened with rapt attention to Kobai Sensei’s Dharma-talk on the meaning and significance of Ohigan (literally, "the Other Shore”), frequently nodding or saying the Nembutsu as his explanations and numerous illustrations resonated with them. After the service, I was invited to the room housing the family obutsudan, where I learned that I was the first American to visit the temple since it was rebuilt following World War II. At Jofukuji I also met my friend Mr. Yoshida Tokushin in person for the first time. To commemorate our meeting, Mr. Yoshida gave me a golden Dharma-wheel pin and Japan Buddhist Federation clip for my montoshikisho, which I will wear in gratitude for this encounter.

Each of these experiences reminded me of the familiar words of Ondokusan, sung so often during Higan’e:

 Such is the benevolence of Amida’s great compassion,
 That we must strive to return it, even to the breaking of our bodies;
 Such is the benevolence of the masters and true teachers,
 That we must endeavor to repay it, even to our bones becoming dust.

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