Remembering the day Buddha was born

LIHU’E — A gentle rain fell on April 8, 565 B.C. in Lumbini Gardens, Nepal, but on Sunday, April 2, 2006, the sun was shining in Lihu’e.

That is the date Buddhists celebrate the birthday of Buddha, Shakyamuni. The event is marked by numerous tales that talk of the scene in Nepal where the son of King Suddohana and Queen Maya was born amidst birds singing, beautiful flowers in bloom, and a gentle rain bathing the new-born child.

This is just one description on the origin of Hanamatsuri, translated to mean flower festival.

Guests to the annual Hanamatsuri services on Sunday poured sweet tea over a statue of the Buddha enshrined within a hanamido, or temple lavishly covered with fresh flowers.

The sweet tea represents the gentle rain that bathed the infant Buddha at his birth.

A similar structure of greater magnitude occupied the main stage where ministers from the Kaua’i Buddhist Council officiated the formal service at the Kaua’i Veterans Center in Lihu’e.

“The island is healing itself, and we are here to heal and to respect,” said Dr. Jane Ely, the keynote speaker for the annual celebration.

Ely was trained to the ways of the American Indian by her grandfather and other indigenous elders, and provided insight into some of the parallels and differences between the Native Americans and Buddhists in her keynote address. Ely is an enrolled Cherokee and Mi’kmaq and closed her presentation with a Mi’kmaq prayer.

Hundreds of guests representing Buddhist churches from throughout the island gathered for the day of celebration where they could enjoy each other’s company, engage in traditional popular events like a lucky number drawing for a variety of prizes.

Hanamatsuri marks one of the significant dates in the Buddhist calendar as it celebrates the birth of the Buddha who became Enlightened following six years of wandering. Buddhists also mark Dec. 3, as the date of Enlightenment, or Bohdi Day celebrating the Bohdi tree under which the Buddha was meditating when he became Enlightened.

A youngster and an elder match up to offer a floral presentation from each of the Buddhist churches from the Kaua’i Buddhist Council and gathas, or hymns of praise and gratitude fill the large auditorium.

The Rev. Noriaki Fujimori of the host Kaua’i Soto Zen Temple, Zenshuji served as the officiant while Toyoko Iwase was the program hostess.

Members of the Kaua’i Buddhist Council include the Waimea Higashi Hongwanji Mission, Koloa Jodo Mission, the West Kaua’i Hongwanji Mission with temples in Waimea, Hanapepe, and Koloa, the Waimea Shingon Mission, the Lihu’e Hongwanji Mission, the Kapa’a Hongwanji Mission, the Kapa’a Jodo Mission, the Tibetan Buddhist Dharma Center, and the Kaua’i Soto Zen Temple, Zenshuji.

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