January 1: Shusho-e
New year’s day service, Gathering to Recover the Correct Path. This is traditionally the first service of the year, held on the morning of New Year's Day. It is a time to renew and affirm our ties to the Nembutsu teaching and to our fellow members of the Sangha.
January 16: Goshoki Hoonko
Observance of Anniversary of Death and Repay Debt of Gratitude, Shinran Shonin's Memorial Service. Within the Nishi Honganji tradition this is the most important observance of the year. It is held to acknowledge our debt of gratitude to Shinran Shonin for opening the Nembutsu teachings for us. Presentation of annual Dana Award. A New Year's Party luncheon is usually held following the service.
February 15: Nehan-E
Nirvana Gathering and Day of Service. When Shakyamuni Buddha attained Enlightenment, he achieved the state of Nirvana. However, in retaining his physical body he did not achieve complete Nirvana. This observance is to commemorate Shakyamuni Buddha's death and entrance into complete Nirvana.
March 21: Shunki Higan-E
Spring Other Shore Gathering, Spring Ohigan. In the Jodo Shinshu tradition this observance is also called San Butsu-E (Gathering to Praise Buddha). There are two observances of Ohigan. One is in the Spring and one is in the Fall, which coincide with the Spring Equinox. These days of equal day and night are also moderate n temperature and are therefore considered ideal for contemplating the Nembutsu teachings. The "other shore" is in reference to the other shore of enlightenment as opposed to this shore being the world of Samsara (Life and Death). Since it is through the power of Amida Buddha's vow that allows us to transcend this world to the world of enlightenment, this is a special day set aside for us to praise Buddha.
April 8: Hanamatsuri, Kanbutsu-E
Flower Festival, Bathe Buddha Gathering. This is the day we celebrate the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha. Legend tells us that when the Buddha was born in Lumbini's Garden, the garden was in full bloom. At his birth, sweet rain fell from the sky and the Earth shook in six directions. On this day, we celebrate the birth of the Buddha and commemorate it by pouring sweet tea over a statue of the baby Buddha, thus the name Kanbutsu-E. The image of the baby Buddha is enshrined in a Hanamido (Flower Viewing Hall), decorated with many colorful flowers.
May 21: Shuso Gotan-E, fujimatsuri, Hatsumairi
Sect Founder Birthday, Wisteria Festival, infant presentation. This service celebrates the birth of Shinran Shonin (1173-1262), our sect founder. It’s also called Fujimatsuri in reference to the Wisteria flower, which represents our sect. Unlike other flowers that stand straight when in blossom, the wisteria hangs down as if in humility. This teaches us that true and real humans don’t stand up in arrogance at their accomplishments, but rather realize that they have much for which to be grateful. We also hold Shosanshiki/ Hatsumairi (first visit ceremony) or Infant Presentation service for children born into our Sangha over the past year. It is a day to present new children to Buddha and to the Sangha, and to celebrate their first steps upon following the Dharma.
June: Eshinni Ko Fujinkai Kaiin Tsuito Hoyo
Eshinni and Fujinkai Members Memorial Service, graduation Service. This is a memorial service for the wife of Shinran Shonin, Eshinni. Eshinni is considered the first role model of Jodo Shinshu womanhood. The service is held in memory of any Fujinkai member who died during the previous year. Prior to this service a Graduation service is held for our Dharma School students at which attendance and special awards are presented. This is the last day of Dharma School until September. This is usually held the first or second Sunday in June.
July: Obon Festival
Usually held on the 2nd Saturday in July, and is the largest festival of the year. The festival and the Obon memorial service are held in recognition of a story found in the Ulambana Sutra. The story concerns one of Shakyamuni Buddha's ten great disciples, Mogallana. In the sutra Mogallana learns the true meaning of gratitude through the life and death of his deceased mother and the help of Shakyamuni Buddha. At his realization, Mogallana's joy was so great that he began to dance. To commemorate this legend one of the highlights of the Obon festival is the dancing by the Sangha and others from the community.
July: Urabon-E, Kangi-E, Obon & Hatsubon Memorial Service
Ulambana Gathering, Gathering of Joy. This special service is held on the Sunday following the Obon Festival. This memorial service is held in dedication and gratitude for all the members of our Sangha who have died over the previous year. Its basis is the same as our Obon Festival. Kangi-E is the name used traditionally in the Jodo Shinshu Tradition. This name represents the joy we feel for Amida Buddha's vow to save all sentient beings and the joy in knowing our deceased Sangha members are likewise embraced in that compassion.
September: Dharma school picnic, Beginning of Dharma School
The Dharma School picnic is held on the Sunday following Labor Day. The Dharma School start service and registration day are held on the first Sunday after the Dharma School Picnic.
September 23 Shuki Higan-E
Autumn Other Shore Gathering, Autumn Ohigan. This service is held for the same reasons as the Spring Ohigan.
December 8: Bodhi Day, jodo-e
Enlightenment Day, Completion of the Path Gathering. This is the day that Siddartha Gautama attained enlightenment at the age of 35 and became the Buddha. The Saturday before this service, we usually hold a Bodhi Day seminar. This is a one day seminar featuring a special speaker.
December 31: Joya-E
Last Night Gathering, New Year's Eve Service. This year-end service is held to express gratitude for all the causes and conditions which have allowed us to live this past year. It is a time to reflect upon the interdependence of all Sangha members and the lives we live. At the end of the service all those attending the service participate in the ringing of the Joya no Kane (Last Night Bell). The Temple Bell is rung 108 times signifying the 108 Bonno or Passions that make up our human existence. This bell is rung to recognize these traits in our own personalities and express appreciation for Amida Buddha's compassion, which embraces us,even though we are bound by these passions.