January 16, 2000
We celebrate today the Feast of Thanksgiving and gratitude, which in Japanese we cal! HOO-ON-KO. This is a festival to remember Shinran of the Hongwanji, who founded our teachings and spread them in the world,
When Shinran lay dying, he said: “Where there is One saying the Nembutsu, think there are Two: where there are Two saying the Nembutsu, think there are three, for I shall be the extra one.” So, Shinran himself, who in the thirteenth century could never have left Japan today can be found all around the world, this week in Shin homes in Japan, in Europe, in Africa, in South America, in the United States and Canada people will be celebrating this occasion by reciting their gratitude to the Buddha for Shinran ‘s transmission of the Buddhist law. These teachings which once had only few followers, today have millions. But, we should remember the words of Rennyo, who said
“Speaking of the great prosperity of this sect, it is not a matter of the number of people in the assembly and the depth of its solemnity. If anyone, even though it be but a single person, gets faith, this is the great prosperity of our sect.”
This reminds me of a story which you may have heard; it is a story in the vein of Wenceslau de Moraes or Lafcardio Hearne, an old tale, but well worth the telling.
The feast of thanksgiving and Gratitude was fast approaching in a certain community in Japan long ago. Beneath a remote country bridge, not far from a Shin temple was the shack of a beggar, who deeply believed in Shinran’s teachings.