"When you came into the Temple today, I hope that you were struck by the beauty of the flowers on the altar. As you know, today is the celebration of the Buddha's Birthday, called Wesak or Hanamatsuri. For centuries, Buddhist temples all over the world have set aside April 8, or a day within that week, to honor the birth of the Buddha. On this day, in both homes and temples, beautiful flowers of many species decorate a tiny altar on which a statue of the infant Buddha has been placed. The statue of the newborn Buddha stands with one finger pointing to heaven and the other to the earth, as Buddhists offer flowers to the special altar and pour a ladle of sweet tea over the figure. Hanamatsuri is named after the beautiful flowers which adorn the altar on this day. However, Wesak used to be called Kanbutsu-e in Japan to signify the pouring of the tea over the statue of the young Buddha. Kanbutsu-e is the time of the year when most living things are beginning to stir to life, and for us, it can be the beginning of a new spiritual life that will be like a fresh breeze." (Rev. Zengaku Soyu Matsoka, Roshi, April 11, 1965)
In Chattanooga today, we celebrated Hanamatsuri with Buddhapalooza, a celebration of zazen, dharma talks, poetry, and music.
The day opened with the traditional ceremony of pouring tea over the head of a statue of the baby Buddha. Music was later provided by the Chattanooga ensemble NADA. If they look familiar to you, it may be because they played at this same event here last year.
The celebration ended with a musical performance by the Atlanta experimental drone-rock band, Triop.
"Today, we have gathered to remember the lesson of Manamatsuri, or the birth of the Buddha. When we pour the sweet tea over the figure of the infant Buddha, it should symbolize the cleansing of our own bodies and minds. Zen is Shu Sho Ichi Nyo (Practice and Enlightenment are just One). The dust in our bodies and minds separating us from Enlightenment are swept away by the sweet tea. Make your body and mind shine. Let the light within you, your Buddha-Nature, shine forth. When you realize your Original Nature, peace will come into your heart and onto this earth." (ibid.)