Hanamatsuri 2002!

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."

At the start of the Service, participants pour symbolic sweet tea over the statue of the Baby Buddha.

WCBT's Dharma Schoolers presented a short skit on the life of Shakyamuni Buddha.

The Dharma Schoolers emphasized how lucky we are to be able to listen to the Buddha's teaching today.

WCBT's Dharma School did a great job!

Next. Mr. Peter Hata showed a film clip from the movie, Little Buddha, which showed how Siddhartha became Shakyamuni Buddha by defeating the enemy "Mara" through meditation. The key point Peter made was that Mara is not an external enemy, but the "enemy within," or what we term the "ego-self" in Buddhism. He reminded us that the real significance of Hanamatsuri is to celebrate the spirit of the Buddha, which is the awakened mind (the same thing as "Basic Desire" in Dr. Haneda's terminolgy). This "mind" or "spirit," he said, is actually within all of us. Therefore, Hanamatsuri is really a celebration of all our "births" as well. "When the Buddha's spirit is awakened in us, we are reborn as true human beings," he said.

In the second half of his talk, Peter Hata discussed how the Buddha's teachings have been given a contempory expression in songs like Green Day's "Time of Your Life," Quincy Jone's "Everything Must Change" and Disney's "Colors of the Wind." Then, everyone was treated to a wonderful performance by WCBT's teen Lotus Band, which performed these songs live!