Message from Rev. Kakei Nakagawa, Rinban
(as printed in the March, 2016 newsletter)
A Spirit of D?na
Kowenji was a Buddhist priest and the head of a leading J?do Shinsh? temple in the western region of Japan. He was so popular that soon, he had no room for all his disciples. When Ohuchi Yoshihiro, a rich warlord of Yamaguchi heard about this, he decided to give five hundred ingots of gold to the temple. Lord Ohuchi thought that with this money, new buildings could be built.
One day, Lord Ohuchi made a trip to the temple by ship and took the gold ingots with him. When he reached the temple, he asked to see Kowenji, the head priest.
When Kowenji came to meet him, Lord Ohuchi explained the reason for his visit and brought out the five hundred gold ingots. Kowenji listened and said, “Alright, I will take it”.
Lord Ohuchi delivered the boxes containing the gold to Kowenji’s disciples. However, he did not hand them over with a happy smile. He frowned; he was not happy with the way Kowenji accepted the gift. He wanted Kowenji to thank him more or at least, be more grateful. After all, Lord Ohuchi had just delivered over what would be worth tens of millions of dollars in our world today. He was so unhappy about this, he said, “In these boxes are five hundred ingots of gold.” But to this, Kowenji simply answered, “You told me that before.” Lord Ohuchi spoke again, “Even though I am a lord of eight countries, no matter how rich I may be, this is a lot of money.” Kowenji then asked, “Do you want me to thank you for it?” “You should,” answered Lord Ohuchi. But Kowenji said in reply, “Why should I, the giver should be thankful.”
The point of the story is: When we as faithful followers give our time and money to the sangha, we should be grateful for the opportunity to give. For only through giving can we spiritually grow, only through giving can we realize and practice the true and real Buddha-dharma.
Personally, after I was assigned to BCA, I always heard the following words; “Thank you sensei for your service” when I received an envelope after the service. If you would say, “Thank you sensei for accepting my D?na”, these words will make you and your minister more humble and more dharma-oriented in the future. It is my suggestion.
Hmm… Buddhism is so educational and still too unique and real.
Message from Rev. Matthew Hamasaki
(as printed in the March, 2016 newsletter)
Last month I wrote about Shinran’s teacher, Honen Shonin. He we instrumental in influencing Shinran’s life and thought and thus had a great impact before Jodo Shinshu even existed as an entity. It took a great deal more effort of countless others following the death of Shinran to not only establish a central location, but to propagate and spread the teaching to the extent that it is today. Throughout the history of Jodo Shinshu there are many important people, and I would like to write a little bit about one of them this month: Rennyo Shonin.
Rennyo was the Eighth Head Priest of the Head Temple and a descendant of Shinran. He is known as “the second founder of Jodo Shinshu” for his contribution to the development and expansion of Jodo Shinshu. His most recognized work is his letters which he used as a form of propagation which he would send to different parts of Japan where they would be read aloud to the followers in that village. Rennyo figured out how to give sermons remotely before radios, TV, or YouTube! On top of having a mind for propagation, he was also very deeply devout and insightful. He was known for saying things that were wise and because of that, his disciples created a record of things that they heard him say. They number many, and I have picked out one:
“When Rennyo Shonin spotted a scrap of paper on the corridor, he said, ‘How dare you waste something that is given by the Buddha!’ So saying, he held it up with his both hands with a bow of gratitude. Since he considered everything, down to a piece of paper, to be the Buddha’s gift, Rennyo never wasted anything. So said (his son and) former head priest (Jitsunyo).”
Oftentimes we hear the Japanese expression “mottai nai” telling us not to be wasteful when we have a little bit of food left on our plate, and so we are familiar with the idea that wasting is bad. Even our recycling bins command us to think twice about throwing something out, lest it be used to create something in another form. However, Rennyo takes this to another level in realizing that everything we receive is a gift from the boundless compassion that surrounds us and to waste anything would be like throwing a present into the trash can.
There are many ways this lesson can be interpreted. For myself, I don’t think that Rennyo was saying that trying to save the world’s resources (although I’m also not saying that he wouldn’t be for the conservation of rainforests). I think the point of such a thought is to fundamentally change our view of the world in realizing that everything is not there just there for our use and amusement as we please, but rather that everything, even down to scrap of paper, is something that should be respected and cherished.
Message from Rev. Alan Sakamoto
(as printed in the March, 2016 newsletter)
“Before I die I want to…”
Recently, I presented a Nirvana Day message, and I would like to share some of the ideas, plus some comments of the “Before I die I want to….” whiteboard.
The other day I read a wonderful passage in the Indian masterpiece, the Mahabharata, where a student asks a teacher, “What is the most wondrous thing in the world.” The teacher replies, “the most wondrous thing in the world is that all around us people can be dying and we don’t realize it can happen to us.”
Many of us know that the only certain thing in our lives is death. We are all going to die. Some of you may find that hard to discuss or think about. Yet, that knowledge that we are dying, as Steve Jobs of Apple fame said, “can be the greatest agent of change” in our lives. How do you live your life with this knowledge?
How we spend our time and days is how we are remembered, and yet, most of us refuse to acknowledge that “being busy” is a decision we make, and that living in the present is much more rewarding than being productive. We seem to live our lives focused on the “doing” and not the “being.”
How shall we use this valuable and limited time that we have? I used to think that I should work and work and work. And then I saw on the freeway a license plate frame on a car that said “he who dies with the most toys wins.” Then it struck me how silly! Once you die, you have just as much or as little as everyone else, and it’s not what you have when you die but how you lived your life that is important. We see this fact as polls report that people with less material goods seem to be happier as a whole than those who are wealthy. Isn’t it funny how we are taught to be frugal with money and our personal property, yet we can’t take it with us?
A New York City EMT has tended to many people in emergencies who were on the brink of dying, and found that those people generally wanted to know, regardless of religion or culture, one of the following: (1) there is a need for forgiveness, (2) there is a need for one to be remembered, and (3) there is a need to know that their life had meaning.
Do you have a need to be forgiven for something you did or didn’t do? Why wait? Now is the time to address those problems and correct them so you don’t have to worry about forgiveness on your deathbed. Also, if you lead your life in the Right way, then perhaps you don’t need to ask for forgiveness, because you have already done your best, and been thankful and grateful to everyone in your life.
Do you have a need to be remembered? Perhaps you have accomplished that thru your children and grandchildren. Or maybe you want to have your named chiseled on a wall someplace. I think that we can all act in ways that others may be influenced and remember us by our example in the way we lead a Buddhist way of life. We can be the example! We can be the greatest example by living a compassionate, caring Buddhist life.
This Buddhist way of life is also one that will provide you with meaning. To have meaning we need to look within our own thoughts and opinions about how we lead our life. This ties direct with the first 2 points. It is hard to live a meaningful life if you are not reasonable in addressing being remembered and forgiving yourself. By acting in a Buddhist way and following the Noble Eightfold Path, then we can say with confidence and assuredly that we live life with meaning.
Did you note that none of these things has anything to do with material goods, cars or money? The important things you do in our lives have nothing to do with money!
So, I’d like to tell you about a lady in New Orleans named, Candy Chang, who painted a blackboard on a wall on a vacant home, and wrote, “Before I die I want to…” This wall has been copied and can be found all over the world. She noted that she is grateful for everything that she has, and how much a struggle it is all to time to be grateful in daily life. What are you grateful for? What’s important for you to accomplish in your life before you die? We prepared a whiteboard with those words, and many wrote their answer in response. Some messages written on the whiteboard, in no particular order, in response to “Before I die I want to…”
Be a better person
See my Dad and Mom together
Learn to always be happy no matter what comes my way.
Go to places I’ve never been and live a fruitful life.
Apologize to all who I have offended.
Write a book.
See the Northern Lights.
See my children and grandchildren happy.
Become fluent in a 2nd language.
Bike a century, hike half dome, get my MPH, visit another country.
See the Hondo built.
To leave the earth a better place than when I came into it.
To live life everyday.
Get married and have (grand) kids
Read all the Harry Potter books
How have/will you answer that question? And the hard part, what will you do to fulfill your response?
I go to the Buddha for guidance.
I go to the Dharma for guidance.
I go to the Sangha for guidance.
Rev. Alan Sakamoto