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In Japanese, there is a proverb that says “Hot and cold weather last until the equinox”. This week-long ceremony takes place on the spring and fall equinoxes, the middle of an important week when the weather is usually very good.
Higan is the teaching that leads people from the world of delusion to the world of awakening. There are six components of this teaching: giving, precepts, perseverance, diligence, zazen, and wisdom. It is taught that if we carry out these practices we will be blessed with happiness and good fortune.
On the day before Higan, it is the custom in a Japanese home to clean the Buddha altar, to straighten up the various Buddha implements, and to change the flowers on the altar. It is also customary to make offerings of rice dumplings on the first day of the week. On the equinox (the middle day of this week) rice cakes covered with bean jam called ohagi or botamochi are offered. And once again on the final day of the week, dumplings made from rice flour are offered. During this time, offerings of food, special sweets, and fruit are also made.
Visiting the temple
It is customary at this time to visit the temple to present offerings of pounded-rice cakes (mochi), sweets, fruit, and so on to the principal image of Buddha as well as the family ancestors.
It is also the custom at Higan to visit the family grave to express our gratitude to the family ancestors. For those people living far away from the family grave, it is especially good to visit the temple and family grave during Higan. This is a good way to learn the warm-heartedness customarily expressed during Higan of giving rice cakes covered with bean jam to the neighbors and one’s relatives.
Visiting the family grave
A visit to the family grave first begins with cleaning the grave stone and grave site. It is particularly important to scour places that easily become dirty such as water basins and flower vases. Older wooden stupas are mindfully removed and disposed of according to temple instructions. Once the grave has been cleaned, fresh offerings of water, incense, and favorite delicacies of the deceased ancestors’ are made. The temple priest is then asked to chant a sutra at the grave, at this time, we join our hands in wholehearted prayer.
Following the visit to the gravesite, it is proper to remove the food offerings. No one likes to see spoiled offerings and they are also unsanitary. It is also good to clean up the special gravesite for graves that are no longer tended by family members and offer incense and flowers. In Japan, this is thought to express the beauty of one’s heart and mind.
Our gratitude to Santa Cruz Zen Center for their permission to link to this dharma talk.
Our Abbot, Rev. Myo Lahey will provide a lecture @ SFZC for advanced Buddhist studies on: The Platform Sutra, or T’an Ch’ing, of the Sixth Ancestor, also known simply as the Sutra of Hui Neng, is a pivotal work in the history and development of Ch’an (Chinese) or Zen (Ch’an’s name in Japan) Buddhism in China. It is probably the only work in the Chinese scriptural canon that is of Chinese origin, is not allegedly spoken by Buddha himself, and yet is accorded the status of a sutra, or a direct revelation of the Buddha Word. In it we find many of the characteristics of Ch’an which would come to be identified with that form of Buddha Dharma. It is also striking in the contrasts it exposes between the Ch’an style and more traditional sutra-based teachings.
2 videos, second begins as chapter 13. Endless gratitude to all in these videos, produced these videos and all who have helped keep the light shining to today. Including you. Enjoy!
This Friday is the Summer Solstice Enjoy your longest day and shortest night.
A few of us joined SFZC to march in the 2012 Gay Pride Parade and here are a few photos. You will have to look hard in the background to see some of your fellow HSZC Sangha members, but we are there! And we will work on getting some photos we took added to this website soon!