JUNE 25th was a joyful and historic occasion. We consecrated the main hall, Jiunzan Tendai-ji, performed eye opening rituals for our new Dengyo Daishi (Saicho) statue and Yakushi Nyorai (Healing Buddha) honzon (image), and celebrated our tenth anniversary. Altogether about 350 people joined us in this celebration. In addition to the 250 people from the States we were joined by over 100 people from Japan, including over 30 monks, and many prestigious leaders. Some of these dignitaries were as follows: Kobori Gomonshu, President of the Jigyodan and Oshima-sensei, Shitsujicho (Executive Administrator) at Sanzenin Temple in Kyoto. Gomonshu is an abbot of a Monzeki Temple. Morisada-shigyo, the Executive Director of Enryakuji and Kobayashi-fukushigyo Vice Director of Enrakyuji. Kanda Gomonshu of Kaneiji Temple, the Eastern head temple for Tendai-shu. Nishioka-sensei, Chancellor of Tendai-shu, and Sugitani-sensei, the Chairman of the Jigyodan. There were many other notables we might mention, including a number of Daisojo. A full list of the dignitaries is available.
The Rakkei-shiki was an historic occasion for more than one reason. First, the Tendai Buddhist Institute is the first Betsuin in North America and the ceremony was the first Tendai ceremony of its kind in the Americas. Second, along with the dignitaries and monks from Japan there were about a dozen non-Japanese Doshu and Betsuin Soryo who processed with the Japanese and participated in the ceremony. All of these people had trained in America. That was the first time in Tendai history that non-Japanese Tendai monks, trained in the States, conducted a ceremony with their Japanese colleagues. Third, in addition to the Doshu and Betsuin Soryo who have learned and practiced shomyo (a characteristic chanting of hymns normally performed by monks), a group of about ten lay people chanted along with their Japanese co-religionists in both English and Japanese.
This summer was a time to perform ceremonies, acknowledge the many donations and blessings we have received and express our gratitude to everyone who has worked to create a true Tendai Buddhist sangha in the United States. The renovation and ceremonies were intended to coincide with the 1,200 year anniversary of the founding of Tendai in Japan by Dengyo Daishi (Saicho). A question asked during the consecration is why is it important to have such a magnificent new hondo, other than logistic reasons. The answer is simple – to fulfill our vision. With this in mind we need to ask what the vision is for Tendai Buddhist Institute in the next ten years.
Our vision comes from the first two lay vows. First and foremost is not to commit violence. We are therefore first dedicated to peace. Peace in the world, our nation, our institutions, and in our families. Second we take the vow to avoid misappropriation and exploitation of time, people and money. This is a direct reference to not stealing, and by extension to be involved in issues of social justice. These two vows will manifest in a number of ways to be discussed later. Further, as we have noted in the past, Yakushi Nyorai is our honzon. Our choice of the Medicine Buddha was a reflection of our desire to devote ourselves to the healing of our nation’s wounds. We will actively work to heal our nation and the world from the violence and exploitation that has become a way of life in the post-modern era. Our renovated hondo provides us with an opportunity to renew our vision. Thank you Jigyodan and Tendai-shu for providing our new building and encouraging our visions.