Saturday, February 15, 2014



This week, on the full moon which marked Valentine’s Day, we are simultaneously celebrating Maha Puja or Sangha Day which commemorates the spontaneous gathering of over a thousand of Shakyamuni’s arhats (senior disciples). Sangha literally means the “community” and refers to both Shakyamuni’s most intimate followers but also the larger community which supports it. Shakyamuni added sangha as the third jewel, along with Buddha and Dharma, no doubt to reflect the crucial role of human relationships in the relief of suffering.

In Japanese Buddhism this larger community is referred to as sodai, and might also imply the “extended family” supporting a Buddhist temple. It would include clergy and lay-people who were equally engaged in sustaining the temple which served its locale.

Its worth noting the parallel symbolism of our designation of this same weekend as including Family Day (for we Ontarians, at least), a time when we are reminded to honour the importance and individuals who make up our family. We can also recall that we are members of another family, our Dharma family, that collection of people who share our commitment to teaching and practicing the Buddhaway.

Our Tendai tradition is a priestly tradition, one which has built and preserved temples which serve thousands of communities of Buddhist families. There is a remarkable symbiosis between the clergy and its sodai. Families, be they your own or those you serve as fellow members of the larger Buddhist spiritual family, provide us with the context for practice and service.

Please enjoy your time with your family this week,

Yours in the Dharma,                          
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu

Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here

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