The Commemoration on the Accession of the Jodo Shinshu tradition (Accession Ceremony) or Dentō Hōkoku Hōyō started on October 2, 2016 and continues until May 2017. This special observance is being conducted before Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin at the Main Temple (Honzan) in Kyoto to formally announce that His Eminence Kojun Ohtani has taken on the responsibility of Monshu. He is thus following the footsteps of his predecessors to spread the Dharma with an emphasis on sharing the Nembutsu teaching to a greater number of people throughout the world. A total of 80 services will be conducted during this time. Honzan has designated two dates for overseas members (October 21, 2016 and March 31, 2017) to participate in this auspicious observance.
On October 14, 2016, a group of members from Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii led by Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani and Rev. Kazunori Takahashi joined in a special Japan tour to participate in the Accession Ceremony and as well as to enrich their spiritual understanding and appreciation of the Jodo Shinshu Tradition. The group also visited the following sites and places associated with the 8th Head Priest of the Hongwanji, Rennyo Shonin. Included were Honshuji, Takayama Betsuin (Higashi Hongwanji), Yoshizaki Betsuin, Eiheiji, Hieizan Enryakuji, Tsumura Betsuin and Osaka Castle. It was truly an educational and gratifying experience to visit those historical sites and to meet with the ministers/members who shared their joy, appreciation, and commitment of the Buddha-Dharma.
On the morning of the Accession Ceremony on October 21, members from Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, together with the members from the Buddhist Churches of America and the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada, were privileged to have a private audience with the Gomonshu. The staff of the Hongwanji International Center had arranged this special audience for the overseas members, and the Gomonshu kindly took the time for us in spite of his very busy schedule. Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani and daughter, Ms. Naho Umitani, delivered messages of appreciation to the Gomonshu on behalf of Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. It was a very heartwarming experience for each participant to shake hands and have a group picture with the Gomonshu.
Then in the afternoon, the Accession Ceremony was held at both Goei-do (The Founder’s Hall) and Amida-do (The Amida’s Hall) simultaneously. Hawaii members were seated in the very front section of the Amida-do. Both halls were filled with people, and the voice of the Nembutsu resounded in the temples during the newly introduced “Hosan Dento Saho” ritual. The earth actually shook during this ceremony, as a large earthquake in Western Japan was felt in Kyoto and the ceremony was interrupted for 15 minutes and then re-started!
Immediately after the Accession Ceremony, a “Dharma-Light Gathering” was held and the Ohtani Family (Gomonshu, Lady Ruzumi Ohtani, 5 year old son and infant daughter, Former Gomonshu, and Former Lady Noriko Ohtani) were introduced. During the Interview, the Gomonshu and Lady Ruzumi Ohtani delivered messages in English for the overseas participants. Lady Ruzumi Ohtani encouraged us to continue to follow the Nembutsu path by holding the Dharma close to our hearts as our spiritual foundation. The Gomonshu said, “I would like to extend my heartfelt welcome to you for coming all the way here. I am very happy to be able to observe this commemoration together with the delegates from overseas as well as those from across Japan. I hope to see you all again in your own respective districts.”
This article by Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani, Executive Assistant to the Bishop, appears in the November issue of HQ Update.