FOR PLN 23 JANUARY 2015
REV DAICHI GARY ROBINSON
must confess that following the successful conclusion of the significant
17th biennial European Shin Buddhist Conference held here in my
hometown of Southampton last year, my spirits began to dip and
when what began in September as 'a well-deserved rest' extended
into October the brightest light on my horizon to focus on was
117th London Eza - Hôonkô-Otorikoshi at Three Wheels
on 5th October 2014. I am so glad I attended! The subject matter
of Rev Sato's talk ("Cleaning out the Channels of Faith")
proved to be 'just what the doctor ordered' to snap me out of
my lethargy. I have included a portion of Rev Sato's talk on page
4 in this issue of PLN.
next event in my Dharma Diary at the end of last year was the
Hôonkô Fest at the Hongwanji Jodo Shinshu Temple,
Eko House in Dusseldorf, Germany. You may remember that I reported
on the same event here in PLN this time last year and asked
the rhetorical question "was it worth it?" The answer
then was 'yes' so this year I didn't think twice about making
the trip and concentrated upon solving the issues of how I might
achieve this rather than why.
the last few years Hoonko has become a fixture in my annual
spiritual activities calendar and as a result of my experiences
I do now believe that all Buddhist, including us here in the
UK and Europe, should do all we can to gather together somewhere
at least once a year if only to demonstrate a communal gratitude
for the Nembutsu and Amida's vow that just the saying of Namu
Amida Butsu guarantees our birth in His Pure Land.
Hoonko is a time in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism when we observe the
memorial of our founder, Shinran Shonin. Depending on whether
the old Japanese lunar calendar is used, or the western Gregorian
calendar, typically this holiday is observed either around November
28th (as in the Higashi Honganji) or early January from the
9th to the 16th (as in the Nishi Honganji) respectively. The
observance began after Shinran's daughter, Kakushinni carried
on administration of Shinran's mausoleum, as did her descendants,
who ultimately became the Monshu of Nishi Hongwanji Jodo Shinshu.
the word hoonko; 'hoon' means "return of gratitude"
and 'ko' means "to clarify the meaning of" or "gathering".
This is why I said earlier that we Shin Buddhist in the UK and
Europe should seize upon the opportunity to observe Hôonkô
and actually "gather" together to fulfill our vows of
taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma - and the Sangha. The
Buddha and the Dharma are eternal and unchanging - but the Sangha
is organic and whether it lives or dies is in our own hands because
we are the Sangha. Furthermore, the only requirement for membership
of this band of brothers and sisters is that we become ready and
willing to listen to our teachers
and each other.
of the most significant achievements of last year's ESC17 held
here in the UK was that it encouraged and enabled the face to
face meeting of a number of individuals who till then had only
met with each other in spirit and here in the pages of this
journal. While there is therefore no doubt that this journal
exists to serve a purpose it will never be able to replace the
depth of encounter that comes about when those with common beliefs
(and doubts!) come together with the intention of LISTENING
to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
biennial European Shin Conferences do by definition occur only
once every other year so we have to wait till September 2016 for
the next to take place, in Antwerp, Belgium. Given this, we here
are at Chomon House are working on a plan for 2016 that can involve
us all in a line by line study of Shinran Shonin's Shoshinge and,
in the process, become competent in chanting it ourselves when
we meet here at Chomon House for the first SBFUK Hoonko Otorikoshi
in November 2015. Details of this meeting and an associated 'distance
learning' program which I am in the process of discussing with
Rev Sato of Three Wheels will be published in the next issue (#24
April 2015) of this journal.
end this editorial which has taken the form of diary detailing
my activities following the 17th ESC I return to the subject
of Three Wheels and mention the Shokai Retreat that I attended
there, Fri 21st through to Sun 23rd November.
is a form of spiritual training which was instigated at Shogyoji
(the Mother Temple of Three Wheels) by the late Head Priest,
Reverend Master Reion Takehara (Daigyonin-sama).
the war it was commonplace for people evacuate or escape from
the city to the countryside; an action known as 'Sokai'. Daigyonin-sama
took this secular term and altered it to give a positive conception
of confronting rather than running away from life. The two characters
in the term 'Shokai' mean respectively 'letting flow' (sho) and
'opening' (kai) and thus describe a period of spiritual practice
designed to allow the waters of faith to flow freely both in individual
and inter-personal dimensions. As Rennyo Shonin exhorts us in
the Ofumi (1.16, On Sarae No Sho): "Constantly dredge out
the Channel of Faith and let the water of Amida's Dharma flow
freely". This sentence refers back to the title of the talk
given by Rev Sato for the 117th London Eza - Otorikoshi at Three
Wheels on 5th October 2014. In his welcoming message to attendees
of the Shokai retreat held 21st - 23rd Nov 2014, Reverend Sato
year has nearly gone by and as we gather together for this retreat
it is an important time for us to understand and cherish each
other as individuals, and through sincere reflection in the
light of Amida to 'create enlightened energy' to self-benefit
and benefit others in the new year ahead."