A number of notable annual celebrations occur every year. Events and their approximate dates are listed below. Please contact your local temple for specific dates and times in advance. Individual temple celebrations vary in accordance to local schedules.
Shusho-ye (New Year’s Day Service) – January 1
-The New Year’s Day service to reflect upon and correct our past mistakes and look forward to a better life in the new year. Reflection, hope and resolution are some of the basic elements of an active religious life.
Goshoki Ho-onko (thanks giving Service for Shinran Shonin) – January 9-16
-A memorial service for Shinran Shonin, founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. His followers gather to express their appreciation and thanksgiving for his efforts in making it possible for us to receive the love and joy of Amida Buddha.
Nehan-ye (Nirvana Day) – February 15
-Shakyamuni Buddha passed away on February 15. This service is to remind us of Buddha’s noble teachings and pay tribute to him. The followers of Jodo Shinshu revere Shakyamuni Buddha because He is the manifestation of Amida Buddha on this earth.
Spring Higan – March 17-23
-The Spring Equinox Celebration Service takes place in fall and spring when both night and day are equal. Higan means crossing over to the “other shore”. At this unique time of the year, the two shores of light and dark are so close to one another the passage back and forth is easier. The other shore referred to is Nirvana, or the Pure Land. Our forefathers thought this theme was so important, that they held this service twice annually.
Hanamatsuri – April 8
-The “Flower Festival” is commemorated on this day to celebrate the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became enlightened as Shakyamuni Buddha. The “hanamido” a miniature floral altar of bright flowers, provides the setting of the beautiful Lumbini Garden. The statue of the baby Buddha, illustrates the merits of Amida Buddha, reaching out to all beings. The pouring of sweet tea on the statue of baby Buddha (kambutsu) represents the gentle rain which fell on Lumbini’s Garden that day.
Bathing the baby Buddha on Hanamatsuri, Manitoba Buddhist Temple
Gotany’e – May 21
-The birth of the Founder of Jodo Shinshu is commemorated annually on this day as an expression of joy and happiness.Shinran Shonin was born at Hino, a few miles southeast of Kyoto on May 21, 1173.
Obon – July and August
Obon is a Buddhist observance that was originally observed in Mahayana Buddhist countries, including China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.
Obon season is a time to express our gratitude to loved ones who have passed on before us. Without them, we would not be who we are today, due to the basic tenet of interdependence. We would not be where we are and we would not be able to do the things we do to enjoy life. Just think about the number of people involved in creating each of us. If we go back just thirty generations, we can calculate that there were over two billion parents, starting with our two parents, their four parents, and so on—and that’s just the physical part.
Since we’re all influenced by a countless number of beings, our interconnections, and therefore our debt of gratitude, is without bounds. Thus, temples hold an Obon memorial service to enable people to pay tribute to the departed. The service is usually held separately from the festival so that the sangha (Buddhist community) can participate in this solemn and respectful remembrance in quiet reflection.
The word “Obon” is the abbreviated name of the ancient Ullambana Sutra, whose Japanese pronunciation is Urabon. The sutra tells of the Buddhist monk, Maudgalyayana (Mokuren in Japanese) who offered food to the sangha in an effort to release his mother from her hellish torments. When she became liberated, her son is said to have danced for joy.
Autumn Higan – September 20-26
-Fall Equinox Celebration Service (see Spring Higan service)
Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada Day – October
-The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada established JSBTC Day (formerly BCC Day) to commemorate the founding of Jodo Shinshu in Canada in October 1905.
Eitaikyo – November
-Eitaikyo is an abbreviation of “Eitai Dokyo” which literally means the perpetual recitation of the sutras. The Perpetual Memorial service pays tribute to those who departed before us.
Bodhi Day – December 8
-Celebrating the day that the historical Buddha (Shakymuni) experienced enlightenment. This is the day that Prince Gautama Siddhartha attained enlightenment to become the Buddha, the Awakened one. Therefore, this day signified the dawn’s on man’s universal emancipation from suffering and ignorance. “Bodhi” in Sanskrit means enlightenment.
Joya’e – December 31
-This service is held at all temples on New Year’s Eve when the old year is coming to a close. It expresses our thanks for Amida Buddha’s guidance throughout the year. Traditionally, the New Year’s Eve temple-bell is rung 108 times to signify the number of human passions or defilements which each of us is said to possess. As the sound of the bell disappears into the quiet evening night, so too does the memories from the many events of the previous year as we begin the New Year with a clear mind and heart. However, in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, we are taught that we cannot truly rid ourselves of our blind passions. Instead, Shinran Shonin has shown us that what is important is to realize that we are limited beings full of blind passions and our rebirth into Amida Buddha’s Pure Land can only be achieved through the great working of Amida Buddha, or the Nembutsu itself.