Editor’s note: This year the local Buddhist temples will not hold Hanamatsuri services due to COVID-19. Twenty-nine-year-old Bishop Cosmo Hirai brings a young new perspective to the community. We have also added two previously published essays by Rev. David Fujimoto and Bishop Chishin Hirai because they provide insight relevant to the current struggles of the pandemic.
THE MEANING OF “HANAMATSURI”
Bishop Cosmo Hirai
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
“Kambutsue,” or more commonly known as “Hanamatsuri,” is a significant day for all Buddhists. It is a day that Buddhists around the world celebrate the birth of Buddha, also known as Siddhärtha Gautama, or Oshaka-sama in Japanese. Oshaka-sama is revered as the founder of Buddhism and lived in ancient India about 2,500 years ago. Upon his birth in the Lumbini Garden, it is said that beautiful flowers were scattered from the sky, and with the first seven steps that he took, a lotus flower would blossom under his feet. This is why the celebration is called “Hanamatsuri” or “flower festival.”
The Todaiji Hawaii Bekkaku Honzan typically holds its Hanamatsuri service in April. However, this year’s service has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the traditions observed during the Hanamatsuri celebration are based on the events that occurred at the time of Oshaka-sama’s birth. After the service, members take part in a ritual ceremony of baptizing the baby Buddha in amacha, or sweet tea. A miniature floral altar of bright flowers is set up representing the beautiful Lumbini Garden where Buddha was born.
A tiny bronze statue of baby Buddha is situated on an open lotus flower and worshipers use a small bamboo ladle to pour the sweet tea made with hydrangea leaves over the head of the statue three times. This represents the two dragon kings that poured perfumed holy water on Oshaka-sama upon his birth. At Todaiji Hawaii, on each of the three pours, we pray. On the first pour, we pray for world peace; on the second, we pray for our ancestors; and on the third, we create our own prayer.
Todaiji Hawaii’s special Hanamatsuri celebration and regular services provide all Buddhists with the opportunity to gather, develop, and strive to understand Buddha’s teaching as a way of life through the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
The Four Noble Truths comprise the essence of Buddha’s teachings. They are: (1) the truth of suffering, (2) the cause of suffering, (3) the end of suffering and (4) the Eightfold Path — the path that leads to the end of suffering.
The Eightfold path consists of eight practices: (1) the right view, (2) right resolve, (3) right speech, (4) right conduct, (5) right livelihood, (6) right effort, (7) right mindfulness and (8) right samadhi (“meditative absorption” or “union”). Members learn about these Buddhist principles through sermons given by Bishop Hirai during temple services.
Located in the heart of Nu‘uanu, Todaiji Hawaii, now known as Todaiji Hawaii Bekkaku Honzan was founded in 1953 by Bishop Tatsusho Hirai. The temple was originally an affiliate branch of the main Todaiji Temple located in Nara, Japan, but became its own temple and is considered the main branch in the United States. Todaiji Hawaii Bekkaku Honzan services long-time members, and welcomes new members to join.
Bishop Cosmo Hirai is a third generation Bishop of Todaiji Hawaii Bekkaku Honzan. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in Psychology, with a minor in Japanese.
For more information, please visit www.todaijihawaii.com.