The following text is by Rev. Taitsu Imal, from a pamphlet published by the Northwest Ministerial Association, Buddhist Churches of America.
The Eitaikyo Muen Hoyo is a memorial service in which we honor all the deceased members of the churches, whether known and unknown, who dedicated themselves for our spiritual welfare which does not necessarily mean to keep the beautiful sanctuary of the church. Rather I would like you to have an understanding that the sanctuary where we all sit and listen to the sermons of the ministers was born as a place which came from the heartfelt adoration of the church members who found their basis of spiritual strength in the teaching of the Nembutsu of Shinran Shonin.
The social function that a church provides is important to serve the need of the community, but to remember the essential part of the beautiful sanctuary is provided for us as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of life and to give us the spiritual strength through the guidance of the Nembutsu, out of warm concern for those devotees who passed away after living the life of the Nembutsu. Because of these unselfish devotees, who were our parents’ and grand- parents who made their efforts to make today’s status of the church possible for our gatherings.
The Eitaikyo Muen, meaning to perpetuate the memories of our departed by means of dedicating the 5utra-chanting is of course for us to remember our debt to them and remind ourselves of what is essential for us is to receive our spiritual strength during this life of travail through listening to the Teaching of the Nembutsu- We are all fortunate recepients of this teaching, but also we should take in consideration as to whether the sanctuary as a place of our spiritual center will or not. IT IS ALL UP TO OUR INDIVIDUAL WILLINGNESS AND ATTITUDE TO SEEK ITS CONTINUANCE. We are all fortunate recipients of all that life can bring us so that we may easily attend services at church, but can we be sure that this life that is so exuberant is safely ours?
I had know an elderly Nembutsu follower who endured himself like so many of our parents who had to struggle in a different soil, away from their mother country. This elderly man was stricken with a terminal disease and I had many opportunities to visit and have a conversation with him in the hospital. He suffered from a condition called terminal cancer which suddenly caused a weakness when his liver became almost completely invaded by the malignant cancerous growth. His mental activity was still sharp but general weakness with complete loss of appetite set in. With his left hand he was caressing and kneading the right arm and the muscles of his right breast. His mouth was mumbling some unintelligible sounds and there was apparent fidgeting on his part because he could not communicate with me. The daughter who was in attendance handed a piece of paper to me.
“Dad asked me to write down these lines. These words are in Japanese and I am not too good at it but I did jot down in kana what I could make out. After one gets accustomed to his unintelligible sounds, some words become understandable~ please read.”
I received the sheet of paper and digested the meaning of his words by reading carefully one word after another. it said:
“Let me thank you, for this my body. For a long time you have served well. Thank you. Farewell. Farewell.”
For some time I sat quietly I often remember these words that he expressed to his body. At least to me his words written by his daughter’s ball pen seemed that his words were speaking of my body that I take for granted. Whatever made him utter such a thought, seemed to that he was a person who was convinced in the great compassion of the Amida Buddha. In my entire life, today will visit me only once, and under no circumstance will it ever return. I tell myself, if being such a precious day of my life, today should not be spent lightly. The motivation to spend this day, whether obedient to the dictates of my petty willful cunning mind, is perhaps not the real state of affairs. There is another force in me that caused a spontaneous bending to the will to live this day as it should be lived.
The Eitaikyo Muen Hoyo is not only merely to express our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have throughout their earthly life contributed their devotion to bring about our sanctuary for the sake of their children, grandchildren and all generations yet to come, but in this manner of rembering the ebbs and flow of life we can be awakened to the importance of each moment of our life with a contended thankfulness and gratitude.
Namu Amida Butsu
Rev. Taitsu Imal
Tacoma Buddhist Church