This month at the Daikokuji America Temple in San Mateo, we will be observing Ohigan which coincides with the spring equinoxes. It gives us the opportunity to contemplate the reality of our existence and the vow of Buddha Mahavairocana to liberate us. The week offers a period of personal reflection and remembrance, when many in Japan visit the graves of their ancestors to clean up, leave offerings of food and flowers, hold memorial services. Traditionally the time of transition between seasons is believed to bring the world of the living and the dead closer together.
Ohigan has another significance. Ohigan is taken from To-Higan. Its name literally means “the other shore" which means from this world of ignorance and suffering to the other shore of enlightenment and peace. In early Buddhist teachings*, the path to enlightenment is described as traveling from the near to the far shore. The term also evokes the dualism of our lives as well as the oneness of the totality of our existence. That’s because the other shore can be reached in this lifetime by entrusting in the Buddha’s vow.
* The observance of Ohigan is a tradition said to have been inspired by Prince Shotoku (574–622), a semi-legendary figure who is considered the first great patron of Buddhism in Japan.
During the service, we pay homage to our ancestors and remind ourselves to practice the teaching of the Buddha by observing the six paramitas (Roku Haramitsu). 1. Giving, generosity and charity 2. Self-restraint, discipline, and personal integrity 3. Patience, tolerance, endurance, and acceptance 4. Effort and diligence 5. Meditation, concentration, and mindfulness 6. Wisdom, insight, understanding and tranquility
Higan festivals are held during the week(s) of Spring and Autumn Vernal Equinox. This year's Spring Equinox in San Francisco, CA is on March 19th at 8:49pm.
In order to reach the other shore, one does not have to wait for the end of one’s life. We can all reach the other shore right now by hearing and entrusting in the Buddha’s vows and allowing Buddha’s energy to fill our hearts and minds with wisdom, compassion, and thoughts to help us transcend the ordinary.