On Sunday October 24, 2010, I attended a Buddhist service at the Buddhist Church of Florin. The service was held at 10:00 a.m. and it lasted for about an hour. The morning service began with the ringing of the kansho. The reverend and his assistant entered bowing to the area where the Amida Buddha Statue was and they placed fruits and flowers in the table that was in front of the statue. They chanted a nembutsu, “Namo Amida Butsu”, which means “I rely upon Amida Buddha”. This was followed by the singing of a sanbutsuka and the reading of a passage, the "Golden Chain." After the sanbutsuka and reading, a brief silent, seated meditation period was followed by the reading of a second passage, the "Three Treasures." After the second reading, children that attend the dharma school were asked to come to bow in front of where they offered oshoko. They came in order of lowest grade to the upper grades and their parents came as well to do the same ritual. This was followed by the chanting of a sutra or gatha and a Dharma talk. The Dharma speech was about Gratitude-the giving of thanks to everything, after this, we gasho and chanted. The service is concluded with the singing of another sanbutsuka, the "Ondokusan” and announcements are made. After the announcements are finished, everyone gets up and offer oshoko, offering of Incense. Proceed toward the altar and bow lightly at a distance of about two steps in front of the shoko table. Step up to the table, and with the right hand take a pinch of granulated incense and drop it over the burning incense. Take two or three steps backward, bow, and return to your seat. It is symbolic of the followers purifying their mind and body before paying homage to Buddha. At the same time the smoke rising from the burning incense teaches us a lesson on the transiency of all existence.
I noticed that there were a lot of symbols around the church. The first symbol I noticed was,”The Wheel of Law”, known as the Wheel of Life or Wheel of Dharma. It is called Dharmacakra in Sanskrit and Dhammacakka in Pali. The eight spokes of the wheel represent the Noble Eightfold Path. Their equal length symbolizes justice. The tire around the wheel represents the all-embracing Wisdom of Buddhahood. The hub teaches us modesty and thoughtfulness. The axle is the unchanging Truth upon which the Wheel turns. The idol in front of the church, “Amida Buddha”, had jewels hanging from above its shrine, which represented the jewels that the prince took off as he was giving away his life of luxury and beginning his quest of spiritual awareness.
The Four Noble Truths comprise the essence of Buddha's teachings, they are the basic tenets. These tenets are incorporated in our everyday life. They are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. More simply put, suffering exists; it has a cause; it has an end; and it has a cause to bring about its end. The notion of suffering is not intended to convey a negative world view, but rather, a pragmatic perspective that deals with the world as it is, and attempts to rectify it. The concept of pleasure is not denied, but acknowledged as fleeting. Pursuit of pleasure can only continue what is ultimately an unquenchable thirst. The same logic belies an understanding of happiness. In the end, only aging, sickness, and death are certain and unavoidable.
The Four Noble Truths are a contingency plan for dealing with the suffering humanity faces -- suffering of a physical kind, or of a mental nature. The First Truth identifies the presence of suffering. The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only...
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