SERMON

November 17, 2004 at LA Church
Rev. Junnosuke Ishida

Today we have performed the memorial service for Master Gedatsu Kongo. It was 56 years ago that the Master has entered the spiritual realm. When the Master entered the Buddha’s world all the Gedatsu teachers including Miss Fumi Iguchi were at his bedside, in the early morning of November 4, 1948.

I would like to talk about the Master. Master was born on November 28, 1884 at Kitamoto Village(now a city), Kita-Adachi County, Saitama Prefecture, as the second son of a well-known wealthy family. During early childhood he was raised with deep affection by his parents. His common name was Eizo. The Okano family was a deeply religious family, having the community’s trust for the head representative of the temple parishioners, and a guide for the Fuji-Ko.. During childhood he was very mischievous and was called “Abatei”. Thought he was unruly he had a honest personality and a strong sense of justice. From his early years he had a strong desire for the pursuit of learning from the head priest of Tamonji Temple he was taught on Buddhism and worldly matters.

One evening when the Master was ten years old his father suddenly told the Master to go to the Tamonji Temple to keep an eye over the mulberry leaves all night. During that time, people in rural areas raised mulberry for the silk worms. Likewise, the Okano family raised many mulberry trees. Since these trees were planted near the temple, the harvested leaves were temporarily stored on the temple ground. These leaves were often stolen, so the Master was made to watch the leaves. However, being only ten years old, his mother and older sister worried. Normally a quiet sister, Shima, cried and pleaded to the father to stop it. Tamonji Temple located near the Okano household, and thought it was facing the Nakasendo highway, it was a very desolate place in those days. It was surrounded by a graveyard and there were no lights. It was a very likely that some mulberry thieves would come around. The father, however, did not yield and had the Master be sent to the temple. Perhaps the father had in mind to punish Eizo for always being wild. Or perhaps the father’s felt that a boy must be able to prove his manhood. But Eizo went to the temple nonchalantly. The night was pitch-back, the owls were crying and some birds flew nearby with screeching sound. The temple ground being surrounded by graves became very spooky as the night progressed. Eizo sat on the ground with arms folded. At home, the sister and other members of the family were very nervous. Even his mother who usually didn’t spoil the Master did not remain calm. However, in the morning Eizo with good cheer came home. The family asked him. ”Were you alright? ” Eizo answered proudly that a Ni-O Deity(a fierce looking guardian deity of Buddhist temples) appeared during the night. Eizo said it, “Did you smell my fart?” At this remark even the father was astounded. There was another episode of the Master during the same year. While he was playing with his friends, the conversation turned to who was the bravest. They decided to test the nerves of each member of the group. The place as usual was the graveyard of the Tamonji Temple where it was determined that they would spend the night. After having supper, the children gathered at the temple ground talking merrily, but as time went on, there were less and less talk. Around Eizo who sat calmly with his arms folded, the children gathered around shoulder to shoulder trembling slightly. Whenever a slight sound was made everyone became tense. Pretty soon nobody was making any movement. Time went slowly. The hope that dawn that would not soon come was evident. Finally someone who could not take it anymore began to cry. That everyone except Eizo, a chance to run away at full speed from the graveyard. Eizo however remained at the grave site until dawn. Next day at school, the classmates asked Eizo if he had stayed at the graveyard all night. He calmly said yes without any arrogance or blaming of his friends from this, the Eizo’s reputation became well known, and his nickname of “Abatei” was said with a sense is of respect.

The above-episodes are all written in the book, “The Biography of Master Gedatsu Kongo”. The Master was also stout-hearted and jovial. During his youth, he had a talent for excelling in commerce and experienced ups and downs being successful at one time and failing another time. At one time he even became homeless. But with his innate characteristic of being bold, he engaged himself in the shipping business and became a success did not bring true life happiness. So at forty-five years of age, he was converted into the religious world. Later while observing social conditions he established a religious organization at the age of forty-nine’ years (1929). For next twenty years he devoted his entire life to the Way of Gedatsu until his passing into the spiritual realm in 1948 at the age of sixty-eight years old. It was a time of strict religious control during the time of his religious conversion in the twenties. The Master was in a very difficult position in the formation of the religious organization. First he became a Buddhist novice at Taiyuji Temple in Yamanashi Prefecture and later transferred his religious affiliation to the Shugendo (mountain ascetic training) and became a member of the Sanbo-In, Daigoji Temple in Kyoto, changing his name to the Buddhist name of Seiken. Upon his entering into the spiritual realm, his posthumous title of Gedatsu Kongo was conferred by the head temple of the Daigoji Sect.

The principal deity of the Gedatsu Church is the Supreme Spirit of the Universe. Enshrined in the left is the Gochi-Nyorai Deity and enshrined on the right is Master Gedatsu Kongo. While the Master was living, deities enshrined were the Supreme Spirit of the Universe and the Gochi-Nyorai Deity. Upon his entering into the spiritual realm, the founder of the Gedatsu Church was also enshrined.

The Gedatsu Manual gives the following explanation of the title, “Gedatsu Kongo”. In esoteric Buddhism, the principal Buddhist deity is the Dainichi-Nyorai and followed by many other Buddha and deities. Among the deities is one called the Kongorei Bodhisattva or Joyunoh Bodhisattva. The hided title of this Bodhisattva is called Gedatsu Kongo. Kongorei is a bell whose sound permeates throughout the universe. This Bodhisattva has power to bring ecstatic joy to the Buddha and all mankind. The significance of the joy is manifested with the bell. Joyunoh Bodhisattva’s original vow is to remove all suffering, agony, sadness, delusion and bring a bright and happy life to all mankind.

Gedatsu Kongo literally means to bring utmost joy and happiness without any discrimination to Buddha and mankind. This is the reason why the Master received such edifying posthumous title. When you chant the Hogo, Namu Gedatsu Kongo, you are embracing the Master and become one with the Spirit. The spirit of the Master is identical with these spirit of the deities and Buddha. Without any distraction from your thoughts, as with the recitation of the Hannya Shingyo, one must sincerely chant the Hogo. In partnership with the Master, let us dedicate ourselves to the teachings of Gedatsu.