Annual Ancestral Service
May 1 , 2022
10 AM PST
Amatsu-norito / The Lord's Prayer
POEMS (Main Altar)
All the millions of spirits
In the three planes of the world
Will rejoice in happiness
As the Divine Light
Who are still wandering
In the spiritual realm
Will be saved today
By the bright Light of God.
My ancestors are happy
Together with me,
For now I pray
Morning and night.
POEMS (Ancestral Altar)
BIRTH AND DEATH
By his repeating
The process of birth and death,
The spirit of man,
Learns, expands, until it attains
Total, Eternal Glory.
I have realized
That my body and spirit
Would not be here now
Without the father, mother,
Who gave me birth, cared for me.
Making our parents and ancestors
Happy in the spiritual world
By our good deeds
Is the best and greatest
Of filial acts.
PRAYER OF JOY AND HAPPINESS
In deep reverence,
We contemplate the fact that the Great God of
Light has descended to earth in order to fulfill
The great mission of saving the world.
God is dispelling all the earth’s spiritual clouds,
Cleansing all sins and impurities
From both the spiritual and physical realms, and
Causing the ideal world of paradise to be born—
One filled with Light, everlasting joy and
Causing the ideal world of paradise to be born—
One filled with Light, everlasting joy and
Happiness everywhere—a world all humanity and
Every living creature has longed for
Throughout the ages.
In this paradise
There is perfect weather all year round,
A gentle breeze blowing every fifth day
And rain falling every tenth day,
Without storms of any kind.
Because of God’s boundless love,
All evil spirits and misguided ones
Submit themselves to divine rule.
All bad practices cease
And all wrong laws are corrected.
Because negative forces are awakened to truth,
All forces of Light fulfill their missions
Even nature itself—its mountains rivers and
Foliage are influenced by the love of God.
All birds, animals, fish and insects—all life—
Have their rightful places and enjoy their
Such is the state of the true, ideal world.
In the sky overhead,
birds of heaven are seen flying,
And auspicious clouds float along,
portending happy events.
On earth there are countless beautiful flowers
Filling the air with their lovely fragrance.
Among shrines and stately mansions
soaring into the air,
Outstanding is the temple of the God of Light
With its golden –tiled roof, glittering in the sun.
This is truly the picture of Paradise on Earth.
When that day comes
Everyone has bountiful harvests,
Their storehouses are full of food,
And fish are caught in abundance.
Happy voices are heard everywhere,
Everyone enjoys life to the fullest.
Boundaries between countries disappear,
Enmities between races and all conflicts
Vanish like bad dreams.
All people are earth are one
Under the rule of the Great God of Light.
All are embraced in God’s arms of love.
In our daily work and livelihood
We are guided by God’s intelligence and wisdom.
Without medicine, we are blessed with long and joyous lives.
We all enjoy prosperity,
Doing good deeds,
And accumulating virtue.
Ancestors, family and friends,
Join us in our prayers.
Please bless all souls with your great love and
And help us to live in accord with your will.
We pray from our innermost hearts
That Paradise on Earth is realized.
(Pause for personal prayer)
Guardian of the spiritual realm,
Protect and bless all souls
With supreme happiness.
In accordance with your will,
Give expansive radiance to all souls.
Ancestors and the Preparation for Life after Death
For some time I have felt the need to write about what happens when the spiritual body leaves the physical body, and a nurse has left a rather good description as seen through her spiritual vision, so I would like to recount it here. This is an example from the West and occasionally there are people in both the West and in Japan who can see phenomenon of a spiritual nature. I have forgotten the details of this particular episode, but I do remember the important points which I give here.
“At one time, I was observing an invalid at the moment of death, and from the forehead came something like a column of white-colored mist that rose and slowly spread. The haze seemed to form, and it soon took on a human shape. After a few minutes the mist became the exact form that the person had had while still alive. It stood and appeared to observe its corpse and seemed to want to do something to inform of its presence the people gathered around who were sadly mourning. Realizing it was in a different world than they, it seemed to give up and after a while, turned around and headed for the window and effortlessly went outside.” The nurse’s story depicts well the actual process of death.
This account shows the condition of the change from life to death of the average individual. The spiritual worlds of the East and West differ, though, the Western spiritual world being horizontal and the spiritual world of the East, vertical. Japan has a myriad number of deities and divine beings with shrines of great, medium, and small size and of upper, intermediate and lower levels. Shinto shrines can be official on several levels, including prefectural, and then again, there are shrines that belong to each locale, village, and so forth, which shows how the spiritual world in Japan is segregated by many levels. It is fair to say that the West is for the most part Christian, and so the difference between the vertical East and the horizontal West is quite distinct. The former is pantheistic and the latter, monotheistic.
For the process of death, Buddhism gives souls a period of forty-nine days and Shintoism, fifty days, in which the spirit must return to the spiritual world. In Japan, during that period, the newly deceased spirit has a temporary home. In Buddhism, a plain wooden tablet is used for the spirit, and in Shintoism, a doll made of hemp.
One aspect of the death process that deserves attention for those in the physical world in relation to the newly deceased is the effect of extreme sadness. It is only human nature to want to grieve over someone who has just passed away, but grief should be exercised judiciously. Phrases like, “He cannot go where he is supposed to go” and “She cannot rest in peace” are often used conversation, and these expressions describe the attachment of those left behind in the physical world that prevents the spirit from proceeding to the spiritual world. Therefore, after about one hundred days of the person’s passing, one should try to forget about the person. Any photographs of the person can be left as they are for these one hundred days, but after this period they should be put away temporarily. When all concerned have had time to overcome their sadness and attachment, the photographs may be returned to their former positions.
At this point, I would like to comment briefly on the Japanese Buddhist family altar. The inside of the altar is made to represent a prototype of the Pure Land, paradise, a place where the ancestors can gather. Paradise is a place where hundreds of varieties of flowers bloom in full with fragrance wafting in the atmosphere, music is always heard, sustenance is in abundance, and the spirits live happily. This condition is reflected in the physical world by the presentation of flowers, the burning of incense and the offering of food by the descendants.
The ringing of a bell twice is a sign for the ancestors in the spiritual world to gather. Countless numbers of spirits can meet in a moment within the altar. It may seem strange that many hundreds and thousands of ancestors can all line up in the small space of an altar, but spiritual phenomena is very flexible and the spirits can accommodate themselves in a very small space, such as the size of the altar. The spirits arrange themselves in levels of spiritual rank, upper, intermediate, and lower, in an orderly fashion, and nod in acknowledgement to the prayers offered by those in the physical world. The ancestors are able to absorb the spiritual essence of drink and food offerings, but the amount they consume is quite infinitesimal, and since what is presented on the family altar is more than enough for them, the remainder is given to the hungry spirits. The virtue of doing so allows the ancestors to grow spiritually. The first intake of a harvest, unusual foods, and delicious tidbits should be presented as much as possible on a regular basis to the ancestors before the family eats.
A Japanese saying of old has it that our parents may no longer be around in the physical world when we realize the importance of performing acts of filial piety for them, but that is not true at all. Rather, the spiritual acts we do for our ancestors are tremendous acts of filial piety. Visiting grave sites and performing memorial services do please the ancestors, so family members and friends should make offerings on these occasions as much as possible. Spirits can thus be raised spiritually and the time when spirits can be rescued from hell will be advanced.
In Japan, it is often thought that only the eldest son should take care of the family altar and that it is not necessary for the second sons or anyone younger to deal with a family altar but this is a grave mistake. The unequal treatment of children even while the parents are still alive, dealing favorably only with the eldest son and all others, coldly or keeping them at arms length, brings misfortune on the family, as we often hear. If such a condition continues when the parents are in the spiritual world, they will use various measures to let the family in the physical world become aware of the mistake. In some cases, a family member may become sick, so great attention should be paid to this issue.
Another situation that warrants care in relation to the ancestors is conversion to another religion. In some Shinto-derived religions in Japan, people may be asked to change their family enshrinement, or in other religions, to remove from the home their Buddhist family altar, but these actions are all serious mistakes. When members of a family convert in the physical world, the ancestors do not necessarily join the new religion. Even in the physical world, a whole family will not necessarily join if only one family member joins. If traditional enshrinement practices are unilaterally changed, some ancestors may become upset and try various ways to reprimand the family members in the physical world. These measures may take the form of sickness, disease, and so forth among certain descendants. Just these few lines may strike a chord with some of my readers.
Finally, I would also like to touch upon groups in the spiritual world. As in the physical world, there are large, intermediate, and small groups of each religion and denomination in the spiritual world, from the some fifty odd sects in Buddhism, the thirteen churches of sectarian Shinto plus Shrine Shinto, in addition to each denomination of the Christian faith. After death spirits live together as in the physical world, and each spirit enters the respective group to which it belonged while alive. Therefore, there is no place to go for those who did not have faith while alive, so they are very troubled and become homeless. In the physical world, many people would rather not to belong to a religion, but they should find a faith they can trust while still in the physical world as a way of preparing for life after death.
August 25, 1949.
Glimpses into the Spiritual World, Jikan Library, Volume 3 (Reikai Sôdan, Jikan Sôsho Daisanpen)
SENJU KANNON (THOUSAND-ARMED KANNON)
BY MEISHU-SAMA 1934