“Living with Thanks”, Report on the 135th London Eza Incorporating the Hoonko Otorikoshi Ceremony

The Hoonko Otorikoshi is the most important religious ceremony of the year, which is the annual memorial service for Shinran Shonin, the founder the Shin Buddhist tradition. It is a time when we can say thank you, and show our gratitude for everything that he has done for us. On this special occasion the Buddha shrine had been prepared especially beautifully, and upon entering the Buddha room everyone noted how lovely it looked.

The Hoonko Otorikoshi service consisted of a special Buddhist verse (gatha) at the beginning, Japanese hymns (wasan) in the middle, and a notable letter by Rennyo Shonin at the end. Fortunately during the Shokai Retreat, which had been held just before the Eza, the participants had received a chanting lesson, and so during the service everyone was in fine voice.

After the service, we were introduced to Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato, who gave the afternoon’s talk. It was in late 2001 that Rev. Sato began the momentous task of translating one by one the “Letters of Rennyo”, the great 14th century reformer of the Shin Buddhist Tradition, whose letters are fundamental to the transmission of Shin Buddhism. Now 16 years later his completed translation and commentary on each of the 80 letters has been submitted for publication. The title of the forthcoming book is “Living with Thanks – The Five Fascicle Version of Rennyo Shonin’s Letters.”

The topic of Rev. Sato’s talk was the preface to the completed publication written by his Master, Ven. Chimyo Takahara. This preface serves as a wonderful introduction to the work as a whole which Rev. Sato read out together with his own words of thanks to the Sangha for their help in writing the book. Ven. Takehara wrote of the importance of taking refuge in the Three treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and that ‘Salvation through the Nenbutsu” is universally given to ‘anyone”, ‘anytime” ‘any place”. We were told that ‘taking refuge in the Buddha” was the true essence of Mahayana Buddhism and that it was in the one thought-moment, or single instant , of taking refuge, that the Dharma, or Truth, becomes one with the heart of a sentient being. Rennyo Shonin in his letters repeated time and again the phrase “the oneness of ki, or the person to be saved, and Ho, or the Dharma that saves them, in Namu Amida-Butsu.”

We were also reminded by Ven. Takehara of the importance of “Peaceful Awareness” (jp: Anjin) and how steadily over the years a sense of peaceful awareness had been emerging at the gatherings of Dharma Friends at Three Wheels.

After the talk many people thanked Rev. Sato, and expressed their gratitude to him for not only writing such an important book, but also for the last 24 years, which have seen Rev. Sato working tirelessly creating a Sangha here at Three Wheels, which is not only continuing to grow in size but also in depth. It was also noted that without the help and support of his wife, Hiroko, Professor John White and others it would not have been possible.

After this, we were given short impressions by some of the participants who had attended the Shokai Retreat before the Eza. They all expressed their gratitude and joy from their own personal experiences. It was especially good to hear from Mr. Chris Duxbury, who was attending his first Shokai retreat. Initially, he had been a little nervous, but as soon as he entered Three Wheels he had been amazed by the warmth of the welcome he received, and was immediately able to relax and enjoy the Retreat. Mr Sam Kelly expressed his deep gratitude to Shogyoji Temple and to Three Wheels for holding the Shokai retreat which allowed him to encounter the truth of the Buddha’s teaching.

To close the meeting, we were informed of events and activities that will be happening over the coming few weeks. Then it was time to relax and socialise over a fine buffet meal.

Chris Dodd