Over the past Memorial Holiday, Shinnyo-en Foundation hosted a small group of guests to experience the Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony on Ala Moana Beach in O’ahu, HI. Originating from a traditional Buddhist ceremony to honor and pay respect for ancestors, the Lantern Floating Hawaii has now become an international memorial event that is open to all who wish to use this ritual to send prayers and messages of peace to the future, as well as to embrace the present that they are living without their loved ones.
On Memorial Day, our guests from Amita Health, Alexian Brothers Medical Center (Elk Grove Village, IL) and Claremont School of Theology (Claremont, CA), approached Ala Moana Beach Park with great anticipation for the Lantern Floating Ceremony. Sprinkles of rain didn’t deter anyone’s spirit from taking this precious opportunity to contemplate on the names and messages that they wished to write on their lanterns. Some of our guests were keenly interested in the spiritual and religious meanings of the ceremonial rituals as they studied religions. Others wanted to take this opportunity to relate their own faith and religious beliefs juxtaposed to the Buddhist belief of “the other shore (i.e., the afterlife).” Yet others grieved for the lost patients, or their deceased family and friends.
When 6,000 lanterns were released on the shore carrying uniquely written messages and prayers, some of the lanterns turned around to drift back to the shore as if they had a message to give to the senders. Both Rev. Stefanus Haryono of Claremont School of Theology and Marjorie Collette of Amita Health, Alexian Brothers Medical Center pondered what it might have meant that their lanterns drifted back to them unexpectedly.
Over the reflection discussion the following day, Rev. Rei Sakasai, a board member of the Foundation, offered Stefanus a plausible interpretation of his returned lantern, saying that it might have wanted to convey a “thank you” from his deceased mother to whom he dedicated his lantern. With heightened emotion, Stefanus shared the interpretation with others who came to hear the impressions and experiences that the guests, including Stefanus, from Claremont School of Theology presented in November. The guests from Amita Health, Alexian Brothers Medical Center, are also hoping to share their memorable experiences of lantern floating in their community of Elk Grove Village in May this year.
Whether their lantern sailed off swiftly or turned around momentarily, all guests took significant meaning away from their experiences during the ceremony. We hope that our short video will convey the solemn yet uplifting experiences that our guests had over the lantern floating. This video was produced with Bill Paris, Producer/Director of Photography, Crew Hawaii Television LLC.