Saito Goma 2015 April 5

On Sunday April 5th, 2015, as the spring afternoon came to a close, a small crowd of around 300 people gathered in the middle of Honolulu, just a few blocks from bustling Ala Moana Center, to take part in a ceremony that predates Buddhism by some 500 years.  Esoteric Buddhist orders took a Hindu purification ritual and made it in their own.  Incorporating parts of the ceremony and making it a part of esoteric and Shugendo practice.  Called Saito Goma, the ritual involves building an outdoor bonfire altar, one that will
receive the wishes and prayers of everyone who wants to participate.  As part of celebrating 100 years in Honolulu, the Shingon Shu Hawaii asked ministers from Kyoto Japan who participate in Shugendo rituals throughout the Kansai area to help perform this very special goma service.
Honolulu has been suffering from very unpredictable weather and Easter weekend proved to be in keeping with the wild fluctuations in climate.  A heavy downpour
occurred on the eve of the Saito Goma, but by Sunday afternoon, the skies were clear.  The conch shells of the ministers broke through the waning light and quiet of a lazy spring dusk.  The heavy beats of Taiko drums from
Taiko Center of the Pacific and Master Kenny Endo reverberated through the air, clearing the spiritual path from the front of the temple to the Saito Goma altar set up in the parking area.  Ten years had passed since the last Saito Goma service, and the temple seemed to be relieved that the accumulated karma of everyone who passed through its threshold would be cleansed and purified.  Rev. Quinn Hashimoto took the holy flame that has been kept
burning on the temple's altar since receiving it from the Torodo Hall at Okuno-in at Koyasan in 1936, and from where legend has it, the flame has burned for 900 years, to light the Saito Goma altar.

From l to r : Assoc. Rev. Jeff Hoji Keller, Assistant Resident Minister Rev. Quinn Hoken Hashimoto, and Director Rev. Ven. Reyn Yorio Homyo Tsuru.
The service also established the promotion of Rev. Quinn Hashimoto to Assistant Resident Minister of Shingon Shu Hawaii and the official receiving of kesa and robes for Associate Minister Jeff Hoji Keller who administers the extended temple Shingon Western Fellowship in Sacramento, California.                                                         

Assoc. Minister Jeff Hoji Keller receiving kesa from Dir. Rev. Reyn Yorio Tsuru

Rev. Quinn Hoken Hashimoto receiving his certificate of promotion to Assistant Resident Minister of Shingon Shu Hawaii by Dir. Rev. Reyn Yorio Tsuru as Resident Minister Sumitoshi Sakamoto looks on

Reverend Shinsei (Foster) Uyehara led a group of six ministers from Kyoto Japan to perform this very rare service.  The Saito Goma, or Great Illumination Service, is held to dispel delusion, cast light on darkness, and at Shingon Shu Hawaii to purify the temple and its congregation on the 100th year of its existence. 
The ministers performed several rites, including a bow and arrow purification to cleanse all points of the compass and to consecrate the ground over which the Saito Goma altar was constructed.  Then Rev. Kaien Matsunami
proceeded to perform a "cutting away of delusions and untruths" with his sword blade in a stylized martial routine.  The altar was lit, and prayer tablets submitted from all over the United States and Japan were offered, carrying the hopes and prayers of everyone who turned in the tablets.  Finally after the huge flames subsided, the embers were
flattened, and the ministers carried boxes of omamori amulets for those that ordered them for their families.  Three hundred people were in attendance, and most elected to cross over the embers and through the flames when invited to do so.  The crossing over the sacred Saito Goma altar has been compared to coming through the womb once again, reborn, refreshed, and with a clear karmic slate.