On behalf of the 2019 OBON Committee, we send our sincere and deepest appreciation to everyone who helped to make the 2019 OBON a very big success. We all know how much work it is to put an event together, but the success is driven by involvement of the entire board & mostly the Sangha. This year we looked for ways to stream line set up, especially the Yagura and lights.
Two years ago at our Mother temple in Kyoto, Japan, Shaku Sennyo, Kojun Ohtani was installed as the 25th Gomonshu (Abbot) of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji Ha (Nishi Hongwanji). I was fortunate to have attended the ceremony (Dento Hokoku Hoyo) where Shaku Sokunyo (Koshin Otani) and Shaku Sennyo ritually transferred the position and title from father to son. It was a very moving ceremony. At that time, I wondered how Hongwanji would change under this new Gomonshu.
I just returned from a quick five-day trip to Kyoto. Japan as a country is a particular mix of tradition and a very modern high tech culture. Kyoto station is a good example, extremely modern design, yet only a few blocks from Higashi and Nishi Hongwanji. I decided to stay at the Granvia Hotel in Kyoto station because it was very convenient. I ate around the station and went to our Mother temple Hongwanji for services and meetings.
Those who know me well know that I have a rather obsessive personality. I latch on to things and have a hard time letting them go. When I get obsessed with something, I think about it for hours and there are times I wake up early in the morning to try to write my thoughts down or at least put them in some sort of order. Last month I spoke of and wrote about the poet Mary Oliver. I have been reading so many of her poems; I have been obsessed with them. Therefore, this month I am sharing one of her more obviously Buddhist poems about what the Buddha must have thought in his last moments.
This is a poem by Mary Oliver. I had heard of her on National Public Radio (NPR), but had not read any collections of her poems. She died about a month ago, and I read a New Yorker article about her and her poems which really began to resonate within me. After reading of her death on January 17, I became slightly obsessed by her writing. She died at the age of 83, published the first of her over 30 books in 1963, she received the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and the National Book Award in 1992.
Over the past 20 years or more, Rev. Masami Hayashi provided the calligraphy for the New Year Buddhist Thoughts. We all miss him. This year I downloaded a traditional Japanese New Year’s Greeting card. The Japanese basically says “Thank you for all that you have done over the past year. Thank you in advance, for the coming year.” I especially liked the imagery that was on the card, the “Maneki Neko”, “Daruma san” and the cute little boar twins. I thought I would write a story about this card and why these four images are meeting up.
When I returned from my studies in Japan over 30 years ago and became a BCA Kaikyoshi, my grandmother (Bachan) gave me $300.00. She explained to me that she knew ministers don’t get paid very well and she wanted me to buy myself a nice black suit. She explained that all ministers wear black suits and white shirts, and she didn’t want me to buy a cheap shabby looking suit. So I thanked her, accepted the gift and bought a black suit.
Since I was a child, I was fascinated by rainbows. The other day as Carmela and I flew into Seattle we saw an amazing circle rainbow. There was a time when we were driving to the temple in Salt Lake and we saw the entire sky shimmering with rainbow colors, like the surface of a bubble. No matter where or what type of rainbow, the rainbow makes me think of the aspiration of human beings to realize there is more to the world then we see with our eyes alone.
Carmela and I have just finished attending the 19th European Shin Buddhist Conference in Southampton, U.K. I would like to thank Bishop Umezu for asking me to represent him for this conference. This is my second opportunity in attending this conference held every two years in various European cities.
This is one of my favorite scenes from any movie. It’s right up there with Dorothy saying, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” when first arriving in Oz. In this particular scene Neo played by Keanu Reeves is taken to meet with Morpheus, the mysterious leader of a group that has been contacting him over the Internet. This movie, “The Matrix” has often been considered a Buddhist parable about our own search for Truth.
Dear Taylor, Kacie and all the daughters and sons of BCA,
Taylor, the question you asked me the other day, “How does my generation live with all the hate which my government seems to be espousing and the anger my generation and I feel as a result? Does Buddhism have an answer?” That was a great question, Tay, and I have struggled with how to answer you. In many ways, these questions are similar to the questions I had when I was your age, during the civil rights movement of the 60s and 70s.
My first encounter with “Shodo” or “Shu-ji,” Japanese calligraphy was in March, 1937, when I joined the “Shugakudan (Young Study Group) to study Japanese language and culture in Tokyo for two years with 14 teenagers from Colorado and Nebraska. Rev. Kozen Tsunemitsu was the central figure in the educational program. We trained in classrooms at Nichi-bei Home, our dormitory in Nakano-ku under special teachers, including four times per week lessons from judo and kendo masters.
Recently I was asked about the Jodo Shinshu view of salvation: “Is Salvation based upon good works or is it grace?” This is a very important religious question. Not only is this a Jodo Shinshu question, it is a question asked within Christianity and Islam. I am not a religious scholar by any measure, but I have begun this article with three examples of religious verse regarding salvation. Within Jodo Shinshu, I have quoted Tannisho Chapter 1. Without question Jodo Shinshu falls into the category of salvation by grace. There are many Buddhists that don’t like the term “salvation” and will ask, “who/what are we saved from?” The answer is quite simple; “we are saved from ourselves!”
As a result of “Executive Order 9066”, approximately 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were forcibly moved off the West Coast of the United States into concentration camps, mostly to remote areas of the country. Of those 120,000 individuals, roughly two thirds were American citizens. In one of those concentration camps, called “Topaz”, in a desert area near Delta, Utah, near the Nevada border, the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) was formed.