Hanamatsuri 2000!

West Covina Buddhist Temple Celebrates Buddha's Birthday
"Hana" means "flower" in Japanese, and "matsuri" means "festival," so Hanamatsuri means "flower festival." It is an annual celebration of the birthday of the Buddha, who was born approximately 2500 years ago in the area now know as Nepal.

Specifically, the abundance of flowers symbolize "Lumbini Garden," the actual site of the Buddha's birth to Queen Maya and King Suddhodhana. The sweet tea that is poured over the statue of the Baby Buddha symbolizes the "sweet rain" that is said to have come down from the heavens when the Buddha was born.

At his birth, the Baby Buddha is said to have taken seven steps and declared, "Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am most noble." This statement expresses the essence of Buddhism. In his "What is Hongan" essay, which is in our Library, Dr. Nobuo Haneda explains:

"When Shakyamuni said 'above the heavens and below the heavens' he was talking about the two types of gods that the people of his time believed in. When he said 'above the heavens' he was talking about heavenly gods. When he said 'below the heavens' he was talking about earthly gods. Saying 'Above the heavens and below the heavens,' he was indicating that he does not need any gods, any external divine saviors. When he said 'I alone am most noble' he was talking about the 'Basic Desire' in his being."

Dr. Haneda clarifies that this basic desire, known as Hongan in Shin Buddhism, is "the most basic and fundamental human desire, the oldest and earliest human desire. It is the desire that differentiates human beings from other animals. It is the aspiration to be a Buddha (a real human being) - to live the most meaningful and fulfilling life as a human being. It is extremely important to know that "Basic Desire" does not belong to some specific individuals; it belongs to all human beings."

"When Buddha was born, he said that his 'Basic Desire' was most noble. This is the tradition of Shakyamuni Buddha."

Before the Service, some very artistic ladies arranged the flowers on the "Hanamido." Note the beautiful Wisteria from Mary Hatakeyama's garden.

Jason Iwama, Brian Iwama, Ricky Leong and Jonathan Ogino had time to "pal around."

WCBT's resident accompanist Merry Jitosho performed "sweet" music while the Sangha gave their sweet tea offerings.

The first to offer sweet tea are usually the younger kids. Here, Kristin, Brian, Jonathan and Jason show how it's done.

The entrance of the teenage Junior YBA members into the Hondo is usually accompanied by a sudden rise in decibel level (not that anyone minds...it's rather entertaining)

Throughout most of the offering portion of the service, there was a long line before the Hanamido

In our tradition, as one approaches the Hanamido, they should respectfully "gassho" (head bowed and hands together), as Mrs. Laura Miyake demonstrates here. The act of gassho expresses our gratitude for being able to receive the wonderful teachings of the Buddha.

After gassho, we pour sweet tea over the statue of the Baby Buddha, as Peter Hata demonstrates. The sweet tea recalls the "sweet rain" that is said to have come down from the heavens in honor of the Buddha's auspicious birth.

Young Brandon Kawaguchi shows that all members of the Sangha share in this tradition.

At the close of the service, everyone received a cupcake complete with candle. Together, we all sang "Happy Birthday" to the Buddha!
*pics courtesy of Danny Iwama, Bill Dubble and Laura Miyake