Namu means to take refuge.“To take refuge” is to respond
to the command and follow the Call of the two honored ones, Sakyamuni and Amida.
Excerpt from Introduction to Notes on the Inscription on Sacred Scrolls
San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple
6996 Ontario Rd., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Resident Minister: Rev. Naomi Seijo Nakano
Hanamatsuri is a Japanese word literally meaning Flower Festival. It is also the birthday of Siddhartha Gautama, later to be known as Sakyamuni Buddha (Jpn, Shakyamuni Buddha). During the observance we have many symbols relating to his birth. It is a most beautiful and breathtaking event for Buddhists.
Some temples have a white elephant with six tusks, King Suddohana and Queen Maya awaiting for many years for a child and to no avail. One night she had a dream of this white elephant and to and the King’s delight, she was with child.
We prepare a hanamido or flower palace that symbolizes the birthplace. It was customary for Queen Maya to journey to the family’s home to await the birth of her child. It is said that it was an extraordinary time, for the fields were filled with flowers and beauty. She stopped to smell the blossoms of the Asoko tree in Lumbini Gardens. As she reached up to touch the flower she delivered her child from her right side. To the King and Queen, it was a wish fulfilled and thus named their child Siddhartha.
It is said when he was born he rose and walked seven steps and within each step a lotus sprang forth. With his right hand toward the heaven and his left pointed to the ground he was to say, “Above heaven and below heaven, I alone am the World-Honored One”. Then a gentle and sweet rain fell to bathe the child. We symbol this rain by pouring sweet tea over the baby Buddha in our offering of thanks and gratitude. However this “I” referred by Siddhartha does not refer to him but can be replaced with our “I”, which is our assurance that we also may attain Buddhahood.
It is said that Siddhartha went beyond the six steps, which represents the six realms in which we dwell every second of our lives. We struggle through hell (suffering). hungry ghost (greed, impatience), fighting spirit (anger), animal (beastly behavior), human being (ignorance) and heavenly being (the self we would like to be or think we should be). But Siddhartha took the seventh step toward freeing all sentient beings of their blind passions and assures us that we too can attain Enlightenment or Buddhahood. This is a space of peace and happiness.
These are merely symbols to remind us of the teachings. But it is also a reminder for us to be more mindful of our gratitude and thankfulness, for without his extraordinary insights we would not be able to hear Amida Buddha’s teaching or be surrounded by their compassion and wisdom. This Hanamatsuri is a continuous lifetime of hearing the Dharma and trying to open our ears, hearts and mind to true awakening.
It is amazing that after 2,500 years we can still hear the teachings. However we tend to become too relaxed in our listening or take for granted of this assurance, it is a continuous struggle. However there is good news, we have Namu Amida Butsu. In hearing this recitation, we are re-minded of our gratitude and thankfulness of the constant compassion and wisdom. It is our call to Amida Buddha in guidance and direction. We share of Nembutsu with true thankfulness and a grateful heart.
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano
Southern District Temples