Ven. Kenjo Igarashi performed a Bodhi Day service commemorating Prince Siddharha’s becoming the Buddha followed by the monthly Kaji Kito purification and concluding with a memorial service for a relative of a church member. Wasn’t surprising at all that the topic of his lecture was year-end cleaning.
When Rev. Igarashi first became a minister his master would constantly tell him just clean up — clean up the temple, clean up the altar, clean up everything first. That’s how you practice. Chanting the sutra is very important but cleaning the temple, cleaning the altar and cleaning everything is the first practice. That’s why all the time I just clean up everywhere.
When Rev. Igarashi first arrived in Sacramento, it was a tradition that male members of the church would get together monthly to clean the grounds around the temple. But they just complained and complained, and so, little by little, Rev. Igarashi took over the gardening and cleanup of the grounds by himself. One day, long after the tradition of having men clean the grounds was abandoned, a church member commented to Rev. Igarashi that the church had a pretty good gardener and a pretty good janitor.
“So that’s why I’m a pretty good janitor or a gardener than a good minister,” he said, laughing. “That’s alright. It’s just my practice is to clean up everything.”
This isn’t just trash, he explained. It’s a treasure mountain. There is a lot of treasure to be found in cleaning up. That’s why practicing and cleanup is very important.
“Now I am giving you purification — kaji kito. I’m cleaning up your mind and your spirit too, not just the temple,” he said. “I clean up your spirit and mind all the time.”
Rev. Igarashi then told the story of Ksudrapanthaka, one of the Buddha’s disciples. Ksudrapanthaka had joined with his brother, but unlike his brother Ksudrapanthaka just couldn’t remember anything he was taught. Not even the simplest verse. Eventually his brother grew angry and told Ksudrapanthaka to get out of the sangha. Sakyamuni found Ksudrapanthaka outside the monk’s quarters crying and asked him what was wrong. Ksudrapanthaka explained he couldn’t remember anything.
Sakyamuni gave Ksudrapanthaka a broom and told him to just remember “This is broom” as he cleaned up the temple. Ksudrapanthaka cleaned and chanted “This is broom” finally he remembered and developed strong faith. (See this explanation of Ksudrapanthaka’s realization.)
Rev. Igarashi also offered a little Japanese side note explaining why eating Japanese ginger is considered to make you forgetful. It turns out that when Ksudrapanthaka was buried Japanese ginger sprouted atop the grave.
As the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan explains in a Facebook post:
We have a saying in Japan, “You become forgetful if you eat myoga (Japanese ginger).” Do you know why? … A long time ago, one of the Buddha’s disciples was so virtuous that he became enlightened but, at the same time, he was extremely forgetful. Often, he even forgot his own name, so he hung a nameplate around his neck, but he was never able to remember his name for his entire life. After his death, the unknown plant that sprouted from his grave was given the name “myoga,” which means “bearing a name.”
Rev. Igarashi encouraged everyone, “At the end of this year, please clean up your spirit and clean up everything.”