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Buddhist Thoughts 2005

Buddhist Thoughts
is the SLC Buddhist Temple newsletter which is mailed to Temple members each month. Here we provide excerpts from archival Buddhist Thoughts.

2005 April

Over the past few months, the board of our temple has discussed ways to inform the membership about the importance of the individual’s donations to our temple. As the membership of the temple has changed from Issei to Nisei and non Nikkei families, the meaning and understanding of these donations are often unknown. This article is taken from the book Thank you Namo Amida Butsu written by the late Rev. Chijun Yakumo. Although it was written many years ago, I feel that it imparts some very important information concerning our donations to the temple.

-- Rev. Jerry Hirano

Membership Fees and Ofuse
by Rev. Chijun Yakumo

Somehow the feeling has developed that, although it is all right for Christian ministers to ask for money from their pulpits, especially on TV, the good thing about Buddhist ministers is that they do not do the same.

There are exceptions, of course, but I believe that the traditional Buddhist attitude is that great Buddhist ministers do not talk about money, and this view is strong within our BCA.

I believe, however, that the time has come to speak openly on this subject. I have come to this position because I am presently minister of the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, located in the city where the headquarters of the Mormon religion is located.

As most of you know, all Mormons are required to tithe, meaning that they must give one-tenth of their income to the Mormon Church. This one-tenth is not of their net income, but of their gross income, before taxes or anything else is deducted. As a result, the income of the Mormon Church is very large.

Compare this with donations to our organization. On average, less than one percent of our members’ income is donated to the BCA. From this point of view, Mormons seem much more devout than our BCA members, but the reality is that whether past or present, whether East or West, people are basically the same. Deep in our hearts we all want to keep our hard-earned money and are reluctant to give it to others. This is evidence of our bonno, of our base desires.

Mormons tithe because tithing is emphasized in the Mormon teaching. That is what they must do to be accepted in their society. Their practice is very much like having to pay taxes in order to receive the benefits of living in the United States.

But is you give out of a sense of obligation, is there any difference in what you give and having to pay taxes? Eveyone would like to give as little as possible, and even what is given, is given reluctantly. As an indication of the reluctance of at lest some Mormons regarding their obligation to tithe, a bill for the tithe amount is often sent to members by the Mormon Church a second time.

If the tithe is given reluctantly, I imagine that a Mormon will not consider making a special donation to the church when a special service is requested because he or she has already “paid” for that service with his or her tithe.

Occasionally, a Mormon whose parent was a Buddhist requests a fuenral or memorial service to be held for his or her parent at our temple. These Mormons tithe, of course, but they are unaware that it is customary to make an offering to a Buddhist temple in gratitude for the special service they have requested. Apparently Mromon churches send a bill or statement for the cost of special services.

Compared with this, our Buddhist tradition has existed on the tradition of o-fuse, or making offerings. Our members make an offering of whatever they can when a special service is held, or on special occasions. This o-fuse, which is the Japanese word for dana, is one of the practices specified in the Six paramitas. That is why the first practice to perform in our Buddhist way of “non-ego,” is that of o-fuse. Further, our Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddha-dharma emphasized the feeling of “gratitude.” A true follower of the Nembutsu is said to live a "life of gratitude." That gratitude is directed towrads all the forces in the universe that made it possible for us to be born, and that sustains our life. In our temples, we express that gratitude through o-fuse, making offereings on both happy and unhappy occasions, to celebrate rites of passage such as coming of age, marriage, and death.

Even the o-saisen that we offer when we attend the regular services at temple has its purpose, which is to develop a spirit of gratitude.

Recently , suggestions have been made within our BCA that in order to broaden the base of our work, we should increase our membership fees and not be so concerned about o-fuse or o-saisen. There is even talk about stopping the practice of giving o-rei, a monetary offering, to the ministers, and including the amount that would normally be given in o-rei to the ministers in the form of an addition to their salary.

Regardless of how much more practical such a system might be, however, and what good might result economically, I believe such a system is not only not very Buddhistic, but completely outside the spiriti of our Jodo Shinshu tradition.

I believe that is such a system is adopted, rather than developing a sense of gratitude and the spirit of o-fuse, our members will demand to receive something in return for their donations. The result will be a cold and calculated determination by our members about what they are getting in return for their money.

I believe that is completely contrary to the spirit of Buddha-dharma, and especially of our Jodo Shinshu tradition.

It is easy to see the good points of other religious traditons but difficult to see the bad. I believe we should not hastily throw away the good points of our tradition based on a superficial observation of what other religions do.

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Salt Lake Buddhist Temple
211 West, 100 South
Salt Lake City UT 84101
(801) 363-4742
Rev. Jerry Hirano
jhirano at slbuddhist.org


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