We were gathered together at the TorontoBuddhist Church for the Eitaikyo Service on November 21st. Eitaikyo comes from “EITAI-DOKKYO :永代読経” which literally means, Perpetually (eitai:永代) Chanting (doku:読) Buddhist sutras (kyō:経).
We have changed from the idea of accumulating individual virtue to the spirit of dedication to and appreciation for those who have come before us. Eitaikyo gives us a connection to our past and shows us we are all interconnected and not alone.
This link between past and present can be viewed, as “we would not be who we are, without the compassion and support of our family, our friends and our Sangha.” Our family and friends’ dedication to our temple and their devotion to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism allows us to “perpetually” share the teaching of Nembutsu in the present and into the future.
We all lead busy lives. Eitaikyo gives people, who may live far away or who don’t attend temple services regularly, a chance to honour their loved ones once a year in November.
The Eitaikyo book lists those honoured as founders and as supporters of Toronto Buddhist Church for their devotion and support to our temple. The reason why the Nembutsu teaching is here today and we were able to encounter the Nembutsu is that many Nembutsu members have carefully protected it for a long time.
Many people in the Toronto Buddhist Church also have helped to develop the temple to pass on the
Nembutsu teaching to the next generation. If I say that to recite Nembutsu is an effect, the Buddha lets me know there were so many conditions to encounter the Nembutsu teaching in the past.
A monk said that the Buddha knows not only a cause and an effect but also realizes many conditions
between the cause and the effect. A long time ago, people called it Karma in Sanskrit. Without the conditions or karma, cause and effect would not exist. Our existence is also made up of a variety of invisible conditions.
When I teach this teaching to children, I often use the metaphor of a flower. For example, the flower
blooming is the effect. Why did the flower bloom? It’s because there was a seed. However, if there was only the seed, it doesn’t bloom the flower, because the seed cannot bloom the flower without the help of soil, water, and sunlight.
We often think a cause makes the effect, but it’s not true. A cause and many conditions or Karma make the effect.
When we hear this story, it’s easy to imagine what karma is, but when we think about our spiritual mind
or emotional state, it’s quite difficult to understand what karma is. The Buddha had so many disciples because he clarified the root cause of suffering and explained his various teachings.
When we talk about the teachings of the Buddha, we often use the phrase “everything is impermanent.” That means; “Everything that has a form will eventually fall apart.” But if that form refers to our loved one’s lives, or our own life, it can open our eyes. When we realize that our loved ones and we are
going to die someday, the phrase “Everything is impermanent” becomes a part of us deeply. It’s no different today than it was in the past.
When the Buddha was still alive, a woman came to him for advice with a lifeless baby on her chest. She
asked the Buddha to bring her deceased child back to life. The Buddha replied, “All right, I’ll bring him back to life.” She was overjoyed. However, the Buddha made one condition for her. He said, “Bring me a poppy seed from a family who has never lost a loved one. If you can find it and bring it to me, I will bring the child back to life.”
She hurried back to the town and visited many houses to find a poppy seed. She could find a seed, however, every family had lost a loved one. She couldn’t get the poppy seed to meet Buddha’s requirement. In the evening, she came back to the Buddha. When the Buddha asked her whether she was able to find the poppy seed from a family who had not lost a loved one, she replied that Buddha didn’t need to bring her child back to life anymore. When she asked many families in the town, she
realized that not only she had lost a loved one, but also everyone had the same sufferings as her.
Therefore because she understood the conditions of her child’s death, she was able to accept the suffering as suffering instead of turning away from it.
In conclusion, I want to share one more cause and effect with you. Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow leads us
to place our palms together in Gassho. Just because Amida Buddha made the Primal Vow, does not mean we automatically, do Gassho. There are many, many conditions that bring us from the cause to the effect.
One of the most important conditions is the support people who make the sharing of the Buddhist
teachings possible. Without these people we would not have a temple, we would not have Sangha, we would not have an opportunity to listen to the teachings. Without this important support, we might not be able to encounter Amida’s Primal Vow and place our palms together. That is why we do Gassho to the Eitakyo book to show our respectful mind and gratitude to them in November.
Rev. Yoshimichi Ouch