'Those people that we love are not gone,' Rev. tells S.L. Buddhists

By Whitney Evans, Deseret News

Published: Sun, July 13, 2014, 4:25 p.m. MDT

 Rev. Jerry Hirano of the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple.

Rev. Jerry Hirano of the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple.

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — The smell of incense filled the air as family members came up one by one to honor the Buddha and pay respects to their deceased ancestors.

Each took a pinch of incense, fed it into an incense burner and bowed to Amida Buddha before one family member placed a tealight candle in front of a placard bearing their loved one's name that sat on a table near the front of the room.

Thirteen names sat placed behind the candles in the hondo, or chapel, that was filled to capacity with members of the Sangha or their family and friends.

"Those people that we love are not gone. They are a part of each of us and continue to hope and encourage that we have a good life," said Salt Lake Buddhist Temple Rev. Jerry Hirano in his remarks to those gathered for the Hatsubon service Sunday at the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, 211 W. 100 South.

The Hatsubon, or first Obon, is memorial service for families of those in the Sangha who died over the past year. It is part of the Japanese Obon festival, held Saturday near the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple. Saturday's events included food, vendors and traditional dances.

For the Japanese, the Obon holiday is similar to Americans' Memorial Day. People go to their hometowns and often visit graves as part of the holiday.

Obon comes from the Ullumbana Sutra given by the Amida Buddha to one of his disciples, Maudgalyayana, or Mokuren, who was grieved upon discovering that his mother had gone to what Buddhists call the realm of hungry ghosts.

The Amida Buddha told the disciple to perform selfless acts, or dana, to redeem his mother's soul.

Hirano interpreted the disciple's vision of his deceased mother to be a reflection of the guilt he felt for not doing more for his mother when she was alive. By doing service for others, he was able to lift that guilt. Hirano encouraged those gathered to remember that their loved ones would have wanted them to be happy.

"When I think of all these people who have died, nobody here would say, 'Don't have a good life. I want you to feel pangs of guilt because you didn't do enough for me when I was alive.' I think everybody here would want to tell you, 'Have a good life.'"

Rev. Hirano explained that the festival celebrates the interconnectedness of families. He encouraged those gathered "to enjoy whatever time you have in this life you have to be able to realize how you are connected to everybody else."

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com, Twitter: whitevs7

1. one old man
Ogden, UT,
July 13, 2014

What a wonderful philosophy. Thank you, my Buddhist neighbors, for sharing this with us.

2. Tyler D
Meridian, ID,
July 14, 2014

The irony here is that Buddhism as originally taught was not a religion in any sense most would recognize – it was a path to leading a moral life and achieving liberation from suffering. In fact for the 45 years he taught after he became enlightened the Buddha said on many occasions that he was not a deity or someone to by worshipped, but was rather a fellow traveler and guide on this path.

But there’s a large segment of the human population that needs mythic religion and will turn any great set of teachings into one, including turning its founder into a god.

Since this happened even with a movement started by a guy who cautioned against this tendency repeatedly, it should come as no surprise that this happened to a movement started by a guy who only taught for three years and spoke mostly in parables.

3. BigCougar
Bountiful, UT,
July 14, 2014

@Tyler D
"Since this happened even with a movement started by a guy who cautioned against this tendency repeatedly, it should come as no surprise that this happened to a movement started by a guy who only taught for three years and spoke mostly in parables."


The irony in your point is that you tried to compare Buddha (a person who cautioned against being made a diety) with the Son of God who openly proclaimed who He was and what His mission was. That's sort of like trying to compare apples to oranges.

4. Tyler D
Meridian, ID,
July 14, 2014


Fair point – and you raise an issue that requires a good deal of cultural understanding to unpack.

In the Buddha’s culture gods were ubiquitous but also different in kind than people. Buddha was trying to show that not only are these gods fictions, but that an enlightened person is divine (in the only way that is real) and that anyone can become enlightened – so he downplayed the divine in favor of the human.

In Jesus’ culture much of the same was going on (except one god and not many) in terms of people seeing God as wholly Other, but Jesus was trying to show them that this is not so and on occasion emphasized the divine in all of us (e.g. John 10:34) And isn’t this also the LDS view (King Follett Sermon)?

In my view the only real difference between these two great teachers was culture and how they were interpreted by their followers. Jesus was misunderstood by most (except perhaps the Gnostics) from the beginning whereas for the Buddha it was hundreds of years before deification as something not humanly possible crept in.

5. sharrona
layton, UT,
July 15, 2014

RE: God is transcendent, He is separate from His creation and not dependent on the created order in any way.” He is not a part of his creation but completely different because God wasn’t created. Nor does he rely on creation. You and I are dependent on our everyday substance of oxygen,food, or creation… God isn’t.

He is also immanent, creation is not God (pantheism), nor does God depend upon it. Creation, instead, depends upon our Creator for its continual existence.” (e.g. Heb. 1:3& Eph. 4:4-6)

God's immanence is in Immanuel= God with us. When Jesus was on earth he was literally with us. God is the Great I AM. He is with us. Mt. 28:20,”I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The God Who Is There, God as revealed by the Bible. Francis Schaeffer