Posts

HOONKO: Repaying a Debt of Gratitude

Image
“In gratitude to Amida, the Buddha-as-words, I dedicate my whole being to realizing Buddha’s intent. In gratitude to the masters of teachings and the countless good Dharma friends among our ancestors, I dedicate my total efforts to spreading the Nenbutsu.”    Translation of the  Ondokusan  from Shinran Shonin’s Shozomatsu Wasan #59. ( Translation by Rev. Kakei Nakagawa, Rinban of Fresno Betsuin based on Bishop Kenryu Tsuji’s writings) (Shinran Shonin Image from Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple Altar) . January is the month for a major service called “ Hoonko ” which is typically observed on January 16 th in the Nishi Hongwanji tradition.  “ Hoonko ” means “repaying our debt of gratitude”. This is a time for us to reflect on and appreciate the life and teachings of Shinran Shonin, the founder of our Jodo Shinshu tradition. Our debt of gratitude to Shinran Shonin extends to our ancestors who walk together with us on the path of the Buddha Dharma. The Japanese term for this idea of goo

Happy Imperfect New Year

Image
The start of a new year offers us the hope of a new beginning, a fresh start, a clean slate. As we begin the new year, many people make plans to improve their lives through New Year’s resolutions. And it is polite and kind to wish others happiness, prosperity, good health, love, and good fortune in the coming year.   These are great traditions—maintaining hope and offering good will to our neighbors are important. But it’s also important to approach the new year with a sense of humility and realism. Buddhism reminds us that the world of samsara is imperfect and impermanent  and we humans are motivated by self-interest and misguided by limited understanding. The 3 poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance motivate our actions. Given our limited perspective it is easy to set high expectations for the new year and then become discouraged when a goal is not achieved. Remember a year ago when many thought COVID would go away and life would go back to “normal” in 2021! Clearly, we were wrong.  

Seeing is Believing (or is it?)

Image
  With many different winter holidays coming up, I wanted to reflect on how we think about these holidays and our relation to each other. T hese holidays mean different things to different cultures. Here in the U.S. many people look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. But there are lots of other holidays that are celebrated here and around the world. Here are just a few examples: Kwanzaa (Pan-African), Hanukkah (Jewish), Bodhi Day (Buddhist), Las Posadas (Latin America), Boxing Day (Canada), Ōmisoka (Japan), or even Kramer’s favorite, Festivus. Some people here in the U.S. think we should only use the greeting “Merry Christmas”, but “Happy Holidays” could be a more inclusive greeting. It’s all in how you look at it. Different people and cultures have different perspectives and part of our spiritual practice, as Buddhists, is being humble about our own perceptions. At the 74th NW District Buddhist Convention in September, Sensei Koichi Mizushima gave a presentation “Seeing is Believi

Expressing our Gratitude: Four Conversation Starters

Image
One way that we express our gratitude is by placing our hands together in "gassho" as seen here in this picture taken in 1959 when our beautiful gingko tree was planted by the Gomonshu, the leader of our Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition.  Last month we celebrated Eitaikyo, a Japanese Buddhist tradition which expresses our appreciation for those who have gone before us.   This month we celebrate Thanksgiving, a very A merican tra dition which also focuses on gratitude. These two very different occasions are reminders of the value of gratitude across time and culture.   In the spirit of these two holidays, I wanted to share an activity that works with people of all ages and from all religious backgrounds. It just takes a few minutes and it can be a good conversation starter. It involves thinking about and/or discussing these 4 questions that you can reflect on quietly or can be a topic of conversation at your holiday gatherings.   1) Who were all the people—the relatives, the

Northwest District Buddhist Convention and 75th Anniversary of IOBT September 2022

Image
September of 2022 will be here soon and we are trying to gear up for  A BIG EVENT  that combines the 75th Northwest District Convention AND the 75th Anniversary of Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple .  The theme for our event is " Reflecting on the Past; Looking to the Future . "   This is our poster announcing the event.  It has pictures of all our IOBT resident ministers from our first minister in the upper right to our current minister in the upper left.  Can you name them all?!? As we begin the planning stages of this event, we are filled with a sense of uncertainty.  There is so much we don't know about what the world will be like in 2022.  Will the corona virus continue to challenge the safety of large gatherings?  Will our conference need to be virtual, like the Oregon Buddhist Temple's convention was this year?  If we have a face-to-face conference, will the switch to a fall convention schedule (it used to be winter) affect how many volunteers we have, since we re

Masking—Not the Covid Kind

Image
  The first thing that comes to mind for the month of October is Halloween, along with costumes, candy, and masks. It’s fun to walk along the store aisles stocked with Halloween costumes and candy and think about how you’d like to disguise yourself. However, my attention is always on the candy since I’m not much for getting into costume. I say that I don’t like to dress up in costume, but I can say that I have a number of masks that I wear. I’m sure that all of us have occasion to wear a mask or two. The masks I’m talking about are ones that we use in our everyday lives to present various faces to those around us.  Before retirement, I had a teacher mask. That’s the one that my students saw in the classroom.  It was important to remove that mask when I returned home so I wasn’t being a teacher with my spouse. I guess my teacher mask does come in handy during a golf round, though. I talk to my golf ball, saying, “Go, go, go!” or “Sit, sit!” If the ball behaves, then my golf bud

Human Imperfections: Lessons From A Chair

Image
My mother's health hasn't been too great this year.  She's spent a lot of time in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities and, to be honest, it's been a hard year for our family.  In this process we've met hundreds of healthcare providers and I know that each one of them is trying their best to take care of us, but there are a lot of stresses and not everything goes smoothly.  Reflecting on these stresses reminded me of something that happened about 3 years ago. My mother had heart surgery to replace her aortic valve. The  surgery was pretty new and very high tech. The team of about 20 professionals were nothing short of amazing. They were skilled, organized, dedicated, thoughtful, generous, and kind. We really couldn’t have imagined a better group of people to work with and we always felt our mother’s heart was in good hands. (here I am with my mom a few years ago) They were so good that we started to see them as super-human, but one incident reminded us that this