On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked in to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 17 people and injuring 16 more. 49 days after the tragedy, April 4 at 6 p.m., Honoka‘a Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will hold a 49th Day Remembrance, followed by a Community “Right Action” forum. The event is free and all are welcome.

On the 49th day after one’s death, in Buddhist custom, a person enters his or her next life—after a period of seven times seven (49) days. Special memorial services may be conducted every seven days during those seven weeks.

“The notion of the 49th Day to my best study and experience has to do with the accumulated ‘karma’ bearing fruit at the height of the 49th Day period when the ‘rebirth’ or ‘reincarnation’ into the next life has been determined by various pre-conditioned karma,” said Rev. Bruce Nakamura of the Kona Hongwanji, who will preside at the April 4 service and forum.

“The 7X7 days = 49th Day Service was originally a Brahmanic concept and thinking based upon the notion of the indestructible ‘atman’ (real self or soul) that each being possesses from life to next life, until he attains union with the ultimate Godhead,” Rev. Nakamura said.

The service will include the lighting of 17 candles in remembrance of those 17 lives lost. Thereafter, the temple will host a community forum, “Right Action,” featuring guests from various organizations and institutions who are involved in the safety of children in our schools.

Stoneman Douglas High School students clearly expressed that they have had enough of “thoughts and prayers.” They want action. School administrators, Department of Education officials, teachers, counselors, elected and other public servants, ministers, school and police safety officials, students and other community leaders are invited to share positive ideas about Right Action to keep our children safe, and how the community can help them accomplish this.

In a joint statement about the shootings, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii’s Office of the Bishop and Committee on Social Concerns said that, “Acts of gun violence arise out of complex sets of causes and conditions rather than from some inexplicable evil. This concept gives hope that with right understanding and action, we can affect causes and conditions in ways that will reduce gun violence."

Rev. Nakamura said that, rather than look at the shootings as an act of “evil,” directed at people from some external power, people can help by developing more inner self-awareness, reflection and revision of our behavior. 

“Such awareness put into practical everyday living does not necessarily have to begin  in the temple, synagogue, mosque or church. It can begin at home, in family, among friends and neighbors, along with strangers or those in need, first, for the most simple of things—a smile, a temporary abode, a drink or some food to partake. It may be triggered and verified by uncertainty, confusion, chaos, illness, sudden and tragic death, etc.,” he said.

“But together, we should try to make a difference, some difference, our difference,” said Nakamura. “And having said that, at the end of day, we must let it go and surrender it to the power of great compassion ever part of life’s infinite tapestry and great mystery.” 

Please come to honor the memory of those lost, and attend the forum about Right Action. Refreshments and fellowship will follow. Donations of refreshments are encouraged.

For more information, visit honokaahongwanjibuddhisttemple.org, or follow them on Facebook.