Report on the 129th London Eza incorporating the Hoonko Otorikoshi Ceremony.

The Hoonko Otorikoshi Ceremony is the most important religious ceremony of the year in which we express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Shinran Shonin for everything he has done for us, and upon entering the Buddha-room it was immediately noticeable to see how beautifully adorned the shrine had been for this annual commemoration.

The Eza immediately followed the 18th Shokai Retreat, the theme of which was “Awakening to what has been done for me” and so the participants could really appreciate Shinran Shonin’s immeasurable gift to us. During the Shokai Retreat we were also able to listen to an English translation of the Otorikoshi Wasan and to practice it during a chanting lesson. This helped in making the chanting during the Eza very strong and powerful, and it was noted by more than one that the youngest members of the Sangha were particularly impressive.

After the service Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato gave a talk entitled “Traveling the Bone Trail” which was a record of his recent Pilgrimage to the Battle Fields of Papua New Guinea in which he conducted a series of memorial services to commemorate all those who died there. He talked about the terrible suffering of the soldiers and the incredible bravery and sacrifice made by the wounded men who made it possible for the able bodied to escape at the cost of their own lives. He also talked about how in the years after the war, a deep friendship had been formed between the Japanese war veterans and the indigenous inhabitants, who had also suffered greatly, and at his amazement at the welcome and kindness shown to him and the other members of the pilgrimage by the local people.

The very moving talk made us become aware of how much we owe to the sacrifices of others, such as the soldiers, who make it possible for us to live our lives today. Afterwards there were many impressions given by the Sangha. Many of the older members, who could remember the war or the years after, were able to make the younger members become aware of the terrible tragedy and sadness that was a consequence of the war.

After Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato’s talk we were then introduced to Mr and Mrs Ida. Both live at our head temple Shogyoji in Japan and have been doing so much to support the existence of Three Wheels in London for many years. Since their arrival a week earlier, they had both been very busy meeting and sharing conversations with many different people connected with Three Wheels, furthering Venerable Chimyo Takehara’s wish, following an important discussion last year with Professor John White, that there be greater spiritual exchange between Shogyoji and Three Wheels. It made us remember how lucky we are to have the support and guidance of Shogyoji, and to be part of a much larger Sangha.

Mr Ida shared his own experience of growing up just after the war, and his sad memory of many of his young friends having to grow up with no father. He also expressed his gratitude to the soldiers and survivors who had made it possible for us to live our present lives. He then talked about the recent Shokai Retreat and how happy he was to see the development of the Three Wheels Sangha here in the U.K. He was especially impressed by the younger members and happy to see Rev. Kenshin Ishii’s continuing spiritual development.

Mrs Ida then expressed her gratitude for being able to visit Three Wheels and how attending Shokai had allowed her to remember what had been done for her, and especially her parental love. She talked about her Father and how she could still remember his words and feel deep gratitude towards him.

Professor John White thanked Mr and Mrs Ida for everything they are doing for Three Wheels and again reminded us of the debt of gratitude we owe to them and to everyone at Shogyoji. He then suggested that we actively try to think of ways of promoting spiritual exchange between Shogyoji and Three Wheels.

After the closing of the Eza we were treated to a fine buffet meal where everyone had the chance to socialise and relax with old and new friends.

Chris D.