International Buddhist Congregation Holds Flower Festival
The International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Kosei-kai held its International Hana Matsuri (flower festival) on April 15 in celebration of the Buddha's birthday, at Rissho Kosei-kai's Former Headquarters in Tokyo. A total of 375 people took part, including foreign residents from 23 countries, who live mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The five guests of honor included Dr. A. Saj U. Mendis, deputy chief of mission at the Sri Lankan Embassy.
The opening ceremony began with an offering of lighted candles and flowers to an image of the Buddha by 26 foreign residents, all in the traditional costume of their respective countries. Eleven children in traditional Japanese costume then offered words of praise of the Buddha. During the sutra recitation, representatives of foreign residents from five countries, including Vietnam and Sri Lanka, and nine Japanese members recited together the Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures.
Dr. Miriam Levering, international advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai and professor emerita of the University of Tennessee, delivered a Dharma talk entitled "Why Was the Buddha Born?" Explaining the meaning of the kanbutsue, the ritual of pouring sweet tea over a standing statue of the infant Buddha housed in a small shrine called a hanamido, she said that the ceremony performed on the Buddha's Birthday reenacts the legend that when the Prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha, was born in India, he was bathed in hot and cold water poured from above by two dragon gods. The ritual of bathing the infant Buddha also refers to another episode in the story of the Buddha's birth in which the newborn Prince Siddhartha immediately took seven steps, pointed to heaven above and earth below, and proclaimed: "In the heavens above and below the heavens, I am the world's most honored one. I will free all beings from birth, old age, sickness, and death." This statement by the baby Prince Siddhartha made clear that his buddhahood was near, and that his goal was freeing all from suffering. In Rissho Kosei-kai we believe that everyone has the buddha-nature, and everyone will eventually be able to make the same proclamation. Whoever acts to benefit others and cultivates empathy and wisdom can free others from suffering and attain buddhahood.
Rev. Shoko Mizutani, director of Rissho Kosei-kai International in Tokyo, told the participants that the Buddha promises happiness to all who walk the Buddha Way.
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