Nowadays I am so grateful to have more and more opportunities to join in the online lectures and services broadcasted from Japan. Before this Pandemic, we needed to be physically there at a certain place and at a certain time in order to attend these lectures. We needed an expensive air ticket and lots of time just to go there. So we ministers in Hawaii rarely had this opportunity to take lectures while ministers in Japan have many chances to participate in the workshops and lectures. It is amazing we can now easily join in the online lectures and they are mostly free!
It is true these online events made us busier, but I appreciate these opportunities, thanks to technology, especially chanting “Namu Amida Butsu” together with Dharma friends all over the world. Because January was the month when Honen Shonin passed away, I was able to join in the special Nenbutsu retreat called “Betsuji Nenbutsu” four times which were sponsored by different organizations.
Usually, one hour passes very slowly while chanting Nenbutsu because it is such a simple repetition of “Namu Amida Butsu.” If you are having fun time, one hour is nothing. It passes in no time. On the other hand, reciting “Namu Amida Butsu” for one hour is something. Sometimes people misunderstand and blame reciting “Namu Amida Butsu” is so boring. But if you can experience Nenbutsu for a long time beyond feeling boring, there is time you can feel oneness with Amida Buddha in addition to the merit of the birth in the Pure Land. That’s why I always chant Namu Amida Butsu for longer periods of time.
But when I participated in the Zoom Nenbutsu recently, I felt one hour passed so quickly. Wow, is it already one hour? Later I watched the video at YouTube after the service.
“Oh, my goodness!” I saw myself dozing off while chanting. No wonder time passed incredibly fast. But as I looked at myself, I knew somehow I was continuing to chant Namu Amida Butsu.
This reminded me of a famous episode of the Essay called “Tsurezuregusa” or “Essays in Idleness.” It is one of the best known medieval collections of essays written by a Buddhist monk, Yoshida Kenko (1283-1352)
Among 243 short passages, the author wrote about an interesting episode of our founder, Honen Shonin in the 39th passage. This is what the author learned, based on the question and answer between Master Honen and one of his students:
"One day, somebody asked Honen Shonin, “While reciting Namu Amida Butsu, I sometimes doze off. This may be very lazy. What will you suggest, Master?” Honen Shonin simply answered, “Just recite Nenbusu when you wake up. That’s it.” What a precious teaching! Honen Shonin also said “It is for sure you can be born in the Pure Land if you surely think it's possible. It is not sure about the birth in the Pure Land if you are not sure about it.” This is also very valuable.
Then Honen Shonin continued, “Even if you may have doubt, (don’t worry!) yet you can attain Ojo by reciting Namu Amida Butsu.” Again, this is also very precious!" (from Tsurezuregusa, the 39 Dan or passage)
What a great episode and essay! I love this essay not because I dozed off while chanting Nenbutsu lately but because of the great teachings of Honen Shonin were introduced in shorter words. It is very clear “Nenbutsu” is top priority for Honen Shonin. “Nenbutsu first and foremost” is his essential teaching because it gives us all chance of Ojo or the birth in the Pure Land equally without exception.
This episode tells us it doesn’t matter whether you are lazy or not. It doesn’t even matter whether you believe it or not. But whether we chant “Namu Amida Butsu” or not is nothing but an issue. In a sense, I understand Honen Shonin is telling us “Just do it!” for the sake of all the people. "It" is of course Nenbutsu, to recite "Namu Amida Butsu." What a great short message!
Akemashite Omedeto gozaimasu!
This is a Japanese way to say “Happy New Year” but what it really means is quite different from English expression “Happy New Year” that is to wish you to have a Happy New Year. Because this is a good wish in the future, you can say “Happy New Year!” before the new year comes. On the other hand, “Akemashite Omedeto” is a word of celebration that New Year has come after daybreak.
“Akemashite” literally means “it has brighten up” and “Omedeto (gozaimasu)” means “congratulations.” Nowadays we understand a day starts with midnight but in old days, a brand-new day starts with sunrise. Therefore, you cannot say “Akemashite Omedeto” before the new year comes.
Another interesting opinion about this expression is, “Akemashite Omedeto” was originally to celebrate birthday for everyone since New Year Day had been birthday for all in Japan. This old way of counting age is called “Kazoe-doshi” and in this way, everyone added one year to their age on New Year Day, starting from one year old when you are born.
This kind of difference can be seen on many occasions even in the common greeting in the morning. Here we say “Good morning” but Japanese say “Ohayo (gozaimasu).” Many people think they are the same meaning, but meanings are actually different.
Just like “Happy New Year”, “Good morning” is a word to wish you to have a good time in the morning. On the other hand, “Ohayo” literally means “Early” and “Ohayo” is just a word talking about “now it’s early.”
I think Japanese tend to celebrate “this present
moment”, whereas Americans tend to express wishing for the future. I remember when we were planning to have the First birthday party for my son, our dear older members advised us not to have a party before the birthday. This was because quite a number of babies could not survive to one year old in old days. So, I knew it would be meaningful to make sure we wait until his birthday and do the big celebration of the first birthday with appreciation.
Then you may have a question that why you are encouraged to have a memorial service before the memorial date? This is one of the most frequently asked questions from our members. We are often asked, when should the family have a memorial service for their beloved one. According to our understanding of birthday, you cannot hold it before the memorial date but the truth is you are encouraged to do it before the day comes.
Why? I think there are at least two reasons. First, to observe a memorial service days after the date sounds like being rude for our beloved one. It sounds like we have forgotten the date when we do it after the date of passing. Another reason is our unpredictable life. Since life is always feeling that nothing is certain, there is no guarantee that we could observe a memorial day. In order to avoid unpredictable happenings, it may be better not to wait for the memorial date but do it before the date. In this way, we are assured that the memorial day for our deceased loved one will be observed and not late.
Our founder of Jodo Shu, Honen Shonin (1133-1212) left a short poem.
With “(Namu) Amida Butsu” ten times, I go to sleep after this recitation, since it may be an eternal sleep.
Honen Shonin was always mindful of death and realized he could die any time, especially before sleeping. Thus, he ends his day with Namu Amida Butsu since it might be impossible to wake up in the morning. However, thanks to his chanting of “Namu Amida Butsu” he was always peaceful and calm and no doubt about birth in the Pure Land after death.
As we welcome this new year, let us all realize life is unpredictable and therefore treasure and celebrate this moment with appreciation. And let us all recite Namu Amida Butsu always so that we keep receiving blessings and protection by Amida Buddha.
Namu Amida Butsu
Bishop Kosen Ishikawa
Minister's Message (August 30)
Aloha members and friends,
I hope this finds you well. I've been quarantined after coming back from Oahu since August 24 and all services will be conducted via internet for the time being. I'm sorry for your inconvenience but I'll keep uploading various videos including LIVE Sunday Service so that you won't get bored.
Now I'm working on a Virtual Toro Nagashi or Online floating lantern ceremony which will be broadcasted on Monday, September 7th at 6:00pm. I'll dedicate virtual lanterns on behalf of our members and friends who have participated in our Toro Nagashi before. No entry, no registration and no donation are necessary. I don't know how far back I could go and how names I could pick up but I'll try to pray for as many people as possible. If you have somebody to be included in the lanterns, please feel free to email me or send a message.
Although we decided to discontinue our traditional Toro Nagashi for good at Kukuiula Boat Harbor, this may be great start of new tradition. Please be safe and be well. I hope you could participate in our LIVE Sunday Service today at 10:30 am. Namu Amida Butsu.
Minister's Message (June 16)
Aloha Members and Friends,
Thank you very for your support to our temple during this pandemic. I also thank you for your patience and understanding for the closure of our temple and our limited services. We restarted in-person Sunday Service by following the official orders and guidelines. Although what we can do for you is still limited, we try to do our best for you and for the community.
Last month, Governor Ige presented us the road map toward reopening Hawai’i. Although nothing is certain about this pandemic yet, it was at least good to know Hawai’i Businesses and activities were reopened slowly and steadily with care. Then I noticed an unusual word “New Normal” which imply something that was abnormal before, become commonplace.
Needless to say, we all wish to be back to normal life, and we wish to leave this abnormal life as soon as possible. But no matter how we miss life before this pandemic, no matter what we complain or what we hope, this hard reality won’t be changed. It is through the actions that we can change our reality in the future.
I believe one of the right actions during this time is to follow the orders such as safer-at-home order, social distancing, wearing face covering, washing hands often, avoiding large groups and so on. Our Governor reiterated that Hawai’i continues to do great because most people are accepting personal responsibility toward the orders. He even assured that recent increase in cases was expected under the road map toward the new normal.
I remember TSA security screening at the airport before 9/11 incident, was easy, simple and quick. Everybody was allowed to go inside the terminal in order to send off or welcome our guests and families at the boarding gate. But 9/11 changed this normal forever. The screening became very strict and more time and restrictions were required for air traveling. Then non-passengers cannot access to the boarding gate anymore. All of a sudden, we were all forced to experience new normal which was unusual before. I recalled strict screenings at the airport was like a burden and I didn’t like it. But it was also true that I was so accustomed to the new normal without knowing it.
Fortunately, we human beings have ability to get used to the new situation and passing time makes us forget what we didn’t like. So we don’t need to worry about this new normal in the future. And we should not stick to the old normal because old normal were not always good. Now is the time to build up better new normal with positive thoughts. I’m more than confident that Buddhist teachings will help us greatly to get over this difficult time.
One of the positive feedbacks I received from our members, was my online Services. Because of this pandemic, I was able to know some of you and have new connections with them through the internet. Also I’m grateful that I had some chances to conduct memorial services to our members from Kauai. I will continue to provide online services and Buddhist teachings through my YouTube, SNS, and www.koloajodo.com.
Last, but not least, I pray for your good health and safety. And “Namu Amida Butsu” to you and to your beloved ones.
Kosen Ishikawa, Bishop
Minister's Message (May 9, 2020)
Dear Members and Friends of Jodo Mission,
Thank you very much for your support and understanding during this difficult time of pandemic. As Governor Ige commended people in Hawaii, we have done good job so far by following the strict emergency rules such as staying-at-home order. Though I feel sorry for many people who have been victims of this pandemic, the spread of Covid-19 has now become slow down and Hawaii is getting ready to be safer place. More Hawaii businesses were permitted to reopen on May 7 (*Oahu & Maui on May 15th) by the latest “Safer-at-home” proclamation by the Governor. However our temple, so-called “place of worship” is not allowed to reopen yet and we need to be patient for some more time.
About a decade ago, when Koloa Jodo Mission temple was under renovation as a centennial project, I had a chance to climb up at the very top-roof. The roof was very high and steep but had great views. I enjoyed taking photos of unusual sceneries from the roof. When I came down, Mr. Hattori, the master carpenter from Japan, taught me something very interesting. He asked me, “Aren’t you frightened to be such a high place?” I replied, “Yes, I was very scary.”
Then he told me, “I’m glad to hear you felt scary. You will not be falling down as long as you don’t forget the feeling of scary. The one who apt to fall down is usually the guy who has no fear at all.”
This reminded me a short episode which was written by Yoshida Kenko about 700 years ago. He was a Buddhist monk but was famous as an essayist. His collection of essays called “Tsurezure-gusa” has been very popular book in Japan. The title of this episode is “A Famous Tree Climber” in Tsurezure-gusa.
Once upon a time, there lived a famous man called “Master of Tree Climber.” When he ordered his men climb high to the tree to trim some branches, he said nothing to them while they were working at dangerous position on the tree.
It was when they came down to the lower position, he finally warned his men, “Pay attention! Be careful about getting down” while it didn’t look dangerous at all. Then, the author Yoshida Kenko who was watching this, asked the master” Why did you
give them warning in such a safe position? I thought they could jump easily.” Then master replied,
“Good question! I didn’t say anything when they were working at high and dangerous position because they knew they had to be careful. But mistakes or failures always happen when people think it’s Ok and safe.”
The author continued to make comments, “Though he may not be a noble man, but I thought he was telling the same truth that ancient saints left to us.”
The reason why I share this story with you is because now is the time we need to be extra careful about Covid-19. As Hawaii is getting back to be safer, we need to realize the feeling of security could be the greatest enemy. So, let us all continue to do our part such as washing hands well and frequently, wearing cloth covering at the required places, having social distancing and avoid any social gatherings of more than 10 people and so on.
Last but not least, please feel free to let us know if you need spiritual assistance and help. I am here to serve you. And I continue to pray for your good health and safety.
Kosen Ishikawa, Bishop
Minister's Message (April 13, 2020)
Dear members and friends of Jodo Mission,
First, let me pray for your good health and safety during the toughest time of this pandemic. Also, I’d like to express my sympathy to those who are victims of the Covid-19 with Namu Amida Butsu.
It’s been a month since the National Emergency was declared by President Trump. During this time, many orders were issued by the State and Counties and their guidelines were also often updated in short periods. Indeed, I’ve never seen declarations of orders so often and never experienced such a rapid changing situation. This reminded me of a Chinese/Japanese saying “Chorei-bokai” which literally means “Order issued in the morning was changed in the evening.”
This saying has connotation of unstable condition and is usually used for bad politics. “Chorei-bokai” indicates law or order should not be changed easily. Especially “speedy changed” order is bad since we all expect law or order to be unchanged. How can we trust constant changing law? This is the traditional understanding of this saying.
However, this time I deeply realized “Chorei-bokai” or constant changing guidelines should be better for this outbreak of the Covid-19 because we know so little about this virus. In order to keep up with new facts and this changing situation, updated guidelines are actually important and necessary.
In the beginning of the outbreak, CDC clearly stated face mask would not be effective for this Covid-19 but now completely changed its guideline to recommend everyone to wear the mask. They found out wearing mask is much better than nothing. If they stick to the old policy, this outbreak could be much worse. Constant update is actually very helpful as reality always changes.
Our Buddhist teachings exist in order to respond to this reality, too. Buddhism teaches us nothing is permanent, and everything is constantly changing. What is important in this changing nature, is to live together in this current moment of reality. We should not stick to the past nor the future but to live in this moment. By fully realizing this moment, we can forget about the regret in the past and worry in the future. Reciting Namu Amida Butsu is one of the best ways to realize this moment.
Let us all take the time to say Namu Amida Butsu mindfully now, so that we can easily know this moment is so precious and so peaceful. At the same time, reciting Namu Amida Butsu will surely take us to the Pure Land called “Jodo” when the time comes. Please be assured Amida Buddha is always with us whenever we say Namu Amida Butsu.
Kosen Ishikawa, Bishop
Minister's Message (March 19, 2020)
Dear Members and Friends of Koloa Jodo Mission,
First of all, I’d like to pray for those who have become victims of the coronavirus and recite Namu Amida Butsu. Also I am sorry for all those who had received severe impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.
As you know, National Emergency was declared by the US President and we have entered an unknown zone of the Pandemic. French President Emmanuel Macron also declared the country to be “at war” and “the enemy is invisible but it’s surely there. It requires our general mobilization.” This global crisis is rapidly and widely spreading at each moment and Hawaii has now 26 positive cases across the state as of today.
However this is the time we should be calm down and be strong with our faith in Amida Buddha. It is known that our stress weakens our immune system and calm mind through the practice of Nenbutsu and meditation help a lot to strengthen us especially during the time of difficulties. I know we can win this war with coronavirus. But in order to end this crisis as soon as possible, we all need to work together by doing what we can do our part. Doing our part is not a big deal but a simple action such as washing hands often, maintaining social distancing, avoiding shaking hands, touching eyes, nose and mouth and so. It is also important for us, especially the elderly, to stay home and not to go out unnecessary.
After consulting with our members, I’d like to let you know our decisions as follows;
The pace of updating information on the virus is so breathtaking, we need to pay constant attention by checking the local news, official orders, CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) websites that provide updated information as it becomes available in addition to the updated guidelines. Our top priority is your safety. Let us all use our best judgment to protect ourselves.
May we all be safe and secure as we work together overcoming the coronavirus. May the light of Amida Buddha be with you. Namu Amida Butsu
Bishop Kosen Ishikawa
Minister's Message (September 23, 2019)
A roman saying “A rolling stone gathers no moss” has been well-known over the past centuries. It was used and quoted in many countries and was also translated into Japanese. The meaning of this saying is very simple however depending on the countries, the meaning of this saying can be quite different.
In Japan, for most Japanese, moss is a symbol of natural beauty especially found in the Japanese garden. The dark green of the moss in the garden gives us strong impression of the depth of the beauty and Japanese garden without moss cannot be good. And because moss can be increasing a lot, it also represents fortune. Therefore, a rolling stone which brings no moss is regarded as something bad. An example of rolling stone can be “to change jobs” and moving. If you are changing jobs a lot or moving places in Japan, you will be told “a rolling stone gathers no moss” which means you won’t get fortune. So traditionally Japanese people don’t move places from here to there. Also they try not to change jobs.
On the other hand, here in the united states, “moss” is usually understood as “unnecessary thing” or “something dirty.” Therefore a rolling stone which brings no moss is actually very good. Especially because USA consists of so many immigrants from so many foreign countries and also development of the West was made by moving, “moving” is considered to be great. Also changing jobs in the US, is quite common to seek for the better life.
Is moving good or bad? I’ve been thinking this question because I’ve been here on Kauai for 20 years while many other Buddhist ministers moved to serve other temples in the past 20 years.
Good thing about staying here for a long time is definitely a bond with our members, friends and community. I feel Kauai is my hometown and members are Ohana or family. At the same time, I believe I’ve gotten their trust. In a sense, to stay one place for a longer time makes it possible to deepen the relationship. Also no-moving saves money and energy. Staying in one place is very stable but there are of course bad things about no-moving for a long time. At the same time, Just like American understanding of “A rolling stone gathers no moss” there are also good things about moving. That’s why other Buddhist schools move ministers from time to time. Moving costs much more but ministers get more stimulations and become motivated by moving. And members are maybe also happier to have a different minister every certain years.
I haven’t had an answer yet whether I should continue my life here or move but at least I decided to challenge to seek for a change when I was nominated to be next Bishop of Hawaii Council of Jodo Missions. Fortunately, officers and members of Jodo Mission are very supportive and flexible. Their kind words made me accept a nomination and will serve as a Bishop of Hawaii Council of Jodo Missions for the next two years. I will be going back and forth to Oahu for the time being.
Honestly speaking, I wished Rev. Koji Ezaki to continue to be Bishop since he has done excellent jobs for Hawaii Jodo shu including 125th Anniversary Celebration after Bishop Narashiba’s passing. This was the most sad and difficult time in the history of Hawaii Jodo Shu but Rev. Ezaki fulfilled unfinished projects which Bishop Narashiba wanted to do. Since my first arrival at Jodo Mission in 1997, Rev. Ezaki has been such a hard working minister and I’ve learned a lot from him. I asked him to be Bishop again and again but his thinking was rigid because of Mrs. Ezaki’s health.
As I take new position, I’d like to express my deepest appreciation to all the past Bishops, ministers and members for everything they have done for Jodo Shu. Without them all, I wouldn’t be what I am today.
Last but not least, I have a favor to ask you. Please continue to call me “Sensei” or “Kosen” or whatever you currently call me. Please try not to call me “Bishop.” I’m a newly elected Bishop but “Bishop Ishikawa” sounds very strange! Anyway, your continued support will be greatly appreciated.
Minister's Message (September 1, 2019)
Aloha members and friends,
First of all, thank you very much for your support to our temple. Especially I’d like to express my extra big MAHALO to those who have helped our O-bon festival events. I hope you had some good rest after Toro Nagashi.
Okagesama de, I had some good refreshing time of travelling, sightseeing, Bon dancing and helping my family temple in Japan. This actually became one of the busiest trips I’ve ever had but I was very thankful I was able to help my parents and enjoy visiting here and there.
This time, I was able to trip to Niigata city which hosted a big Matsuri festival with 15,000 dancers, Aizu-Wakamatsu City in Fukushima and Nagano city to participate in Bon Dance at Zenkoji Temple. I also participated in Bon dance at Kanda Shrine, Tokyo and very local Bon dance held in my hometown, Joetsu. Some of my experiences in Japan were shared via YouTube and Facebook, so if you are interested in my holoholo-experience in Japan, please check it. It is too bad I didn't have pictures when I was working in Japan but just like here, I did help miscellaneous things such as cleaning, shopping, offering flowers and memorial services at temple, graveyard, and members houses.
However there was one job I gave up doing. That was watering flower. According to my mother, she does watering once a day in the morning. It takes about one hour. So she told me it would be helpful if I could do for her during busier morning of Bon. On the first day, she gave me instruction about the location of the flower and how much water they need. I did by myself with no problem on the next day. However, on the third day, when I went to the front side of the parsonage, I saw a green rope moved by itself. I wondered what happened and tried to take a look at it closer.
I screamed with all my strength. It was a snake, probably a common snake called “Aodaisho.” I’m sure the snake was also frightened to hear my scream. I ran away at the same time, the snake ran away quickly but after that I couldn’t continue watering because snake was one of a few things I ‘ve been so scared of. Honestly speaking, I am so chicken about snake and I cannot even touch a toy snake. That’s why my children sometimes tease me. So one of the very best things in Hawaii is actually the fact that Hawaii has no snake! Anyway, after encountering with a snake, I couldn’t continue watering flower. Later I was so relieved to see raining outside.
Another surprising event in Japan was hot weather. On August 14th, Joetsu had the highest recorded temperature of 104F or 40.3C this year. No wonder it was hot from the early morning. I felt like outside was heated by heater. Later It became a big news in Japan and found out the lowest temperature on that day was 86F or 30C. So almost all Bon Dances I participated in Japan had more break-time every 30 or 40 minutes because of the heat. It was very impressive they encouraged participants to take both rest and water from time to time.
Fortunately, on that day, I was mostly in an air-conditioned car to visit members’ houses and almost all rooms which I officiated services had air conditioners, it was not bad. After coming back to Kauai, I noticed temperature was lower here but because of no air conditioner here, I felt much hotter here than Japan.
What I realized is “No place is perfect. Every place has both good things and bad things about living.” I’m now happy to be back to Kauai to continue my life with no snake at all around me!
For the time being, we won’t have any fundraiser but please remember we will have the following special services and events.
September 15 Higan Service at Kapaa Jodo 10:00am
September 20-22 HCJM Kyoku Meeting at Jodo Mission
September 26 7:00pm Nenbutsu Practice at Koloa Jodo
September 29 Calligraphy Class at Koloa Jodo
October 6 Honpa Hongwanji's 130th Anniversary Celebration at West Kauai Hongwanji
October 20 10:30 am Sunday Service at Koloa Jodo
October 27 10:30 am Calligraphy Class at Koloa Jodo
November 10 10:00 am Ojuya Service at Kapaa
November 17 10:30 am Ojuya Service at Koloa Jodo
November 24 10:30 am Calligraphy Class at Koloa Jodo
December 8 9:30 am KBC Bodhi Day Service at Kapaa Jodo
Once again, thank you very much for your continued support.
Minister's Message (June 29, 2019)
When Mahelona Hospital hosted Bon Dance last month, I happened to receive a question from someone sitting next to me. Apparently he was a non-Japanese guy. He told me, “Dancers look so serious” and continued to ask me, “Why don’t they smile?”
This is actually kind of frequent question I receive from time to time since I first participated in Bon Dancing on Kauai back in 2000. My answer had been very simple until I participated in Bon Dance in Japan. “It’s because they try not to make mistakes for many songs. Yes, for people who just started Bon Dancing, 18 songs and 18 different dancing must be too many. They never intend not to show their smiles. Rather they simply cannot afford showing their smile since they are so busy dancing with making efforts of no mistakes. I thought this was good enough answer but I found a true meaning of no-smile. Of course, nowadays, we have many experienced dancers who are always smiling but there are always new dancers coming into the circle. They sometimes look seriously.
During the past 8 years, I was so glad I had opportunities to help O-Bon services at my father’s temple in Niigata every August. Not like Hawaii, many temples in Japan don’t host Bon Dance and there was a tendency that less and less communities are hosting Bon Dancing. In my hometown area, sponsor of Bon Dancing is combined towns community and they usually hold it in the late August. Last time I took part in this community event was over 30 years ago and I still don’t have a chance to attend it. But I have participated in Bon Dancing in Tokyo and Yokohama sponsored by cities and shrines during the past years.
The first impression of Bon Dance in Japan after my many years of my absence was a huge Yagura on which some Bon Dance instructors can dance there. Also they placed a big Taiko on the top of Yagura so that everybody can see Taiko drumming. Another remarkable difference was, Bon Dance in Japan didn’t provide chairs and benches for the audience but they just provided Yagura and open space. As you know, on the other hand, all Bon Dance host temples here provide chairs or benches for the people who come to Bon Dance. But almost no benches and no chairs are placed in Bon Dance in Japan. I thought about reasons why they don’t provide chairs.
The reason was simple. I got it just by watching dancers. In the beginning, there was not many dancers dancing around the Yagura but gradually it got more dancers and dancing ring became bigger and bigger. If they placed chairs or benches, I’m sure there was not enough room for dances to dance. I understood “having no chairs” was very important for dancers. “No chairs” made it possible for more dancers to dance in the very flexible dancing ring. And another important concept of Bon Dance in Japan is “Bon Dance is not “an entertainment show.” Because it’s not a show, they don’t need to provide chairs to the audience. The main job for the sponsor of Bon Dance is to provide Yagura and open space. That’s it. Yes, Bon Dance is held in order for people to dance. It’s not held in order for people to watch Bon Dance.
Also Bon Dance is not a message to deliver to the people while Hula is an important language to transmit various messages or stories to the people. For Hula, smiles are very important because hula is, after all, for the people to watch. But again, Bon Dance is originally not a show but for dancers to enjoy dancing. So it is supposed to be unnecessary for dancers to show their smiles to the audience simply because Bon Dancing is not for the audience. So if you don’t see smiles from dancers, please understand they are not dancing for you but for themselves and for their ancestors. Also please feel free to join in dancing if possible. Or even if you cannot dancing, please feel enjoyment of “dancing”……after all, Bon Dance is for you to enjoy.
It is my sincerest wish that we can provide good Bon Dance to all people and all spirits. Everyone, please have a safe and happy Bon dance!
Minister's Message (June 10, 2019)
Namu Amida Butsu and Happy 125th Anniversary of Hawaii Jodo Shu! I’d like to congratulate to all the ministers, members and supporters for their achievements of Hawaii Jodo Shu today. Especially, I’m so thankful to all the past ministers and members since my current happiness has deeply rooted to their dedication and hard working. They left not only temple buildings but also our source of happiness such as faith, virtues and cultures we can truly rely on now and in the future.
Of course, we cannot be happy without reservation if we are mindful of our problems and some difficulties we’re facing today. But I cannot be either pessimistic about future because our Buddhist teachings make sense and could attract more people internationally. So it’s now completely up to us whether our temple can continue to exist or not.
Right after the commemorative service in the columbarium room at Betsuin, I had a chance to see some familiar names of the people who took good care of me when I was working at Betsuin from 1997 to 1999. I was a single and late 20s yrs old. To be honest with you, I felt ashamed to realize that I had forgotten them until I saw their names. But at the same time, I was so glad that I didn’t forget their kindness and dedication. Naturally I recalled their faces and memories…..I truly appreciated I had a chance to pray for them with Namu Amida Butsu there.
This 125th anniversary celebration gave me a great chance to reflect both history of Hawaii Jodo and my past 22 years of serving Hawaii Jodo shu. I was able to refresh myself to continue my missionary for more years in the future. Once again, Namu Amida Butsu and Mahalo nui loa to all the members and ministers of Hawaii Jodo shu in the past and present. I owe you what I am now today.
Namu Amida Butsu with Gassho,
Minister's Message (April 2019)
Last month, a Japanese baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki retired after playing 28 seasons combined in both Japanese Professional Baseball and the American Major Leagues. This became one of the biggest news this year in Japan and special TV programs on Ichiro were broadcasted through TV and Internet.
I read and watched many news on Ichiro but the interview right after his retirement game was quite interesting. One of the questions was on Ichiro’s age 45 which is actually amazing as for a baseball player. Ichiro, however, had a strong belief that he would be an active player until at least the age 50. It is said he even made a promise that he won’t retired until he turns 50.
During the interview, Ichiro admitted he was unable to fulfill the promise, but that without it, he would not have been able to come this far. Then he continued, “a promise expressed by words may be one of the good ways to get closer to the goal.”
What Ichiro said reminded me of the best teaching by our founder Honen Shonin.
Master Honen said, “One who plans to jump over a moat ten feet wide must make every effort to jump fifteen feet.”
We tend to hesitate to talk about dream or goal which seemed to be hard to achieve, but if we can keep having higher goal, we can always get closer to the goal. This is just like an English saying, “shoot for star” or “shoot for moon.” By shooting star, which is far above the sky, even though it won’t reach the star, but by having higher goal, it could reach the higher place. I remember Dr. Shinya Yamanaka mentioned this saying, too, in the interview when he received a Novel prize.
Ichiro, Dr. Yamanaka, and Master Honen are completely different persons of the different fields and different ages. However truly significant teaching from those who are called “Master” can be always shared with us beyond time and place.
Minister's Message (September 2018)
Dear members and friends of Koloa Jodo Mission
Aloha! First of all, I thank you very much for your help, kindness, and support during our 2018 O-Bon festivals. After Toro Nagashi sponsored by Koloa Jodo Mission, I was able to take my vacation to help O-Bon services at my family temple in Niigata and visited Bon Dances in Tokyo. As you know, because school was already started in August here in Hawaii, I couldn’t take my kids and wife to Japan. So I felt guilty to spend my vacation by myself but when my parents thanked me a lot for my help, my feeling of guilty was reduced.
In my home town Joetsu, O-Bon is observed from August 13 to 15 and special service is observed on August 18th every year. During O-bon, people visit their graves in the temple’s cemetery. Some people visit several temples in a day if they have many relatives. Usually my family temple has hundreds of visitors on the first day. And my job on the first day was to officiate grave memorial services for the members who requested. I usually do over 20 services in a day but this year, luckily or unluckily, thunder storm brought heavy rain in the afternoon. This was good because rain cooled down the temperature and I took more rest on the first day. On the 2nd and 3rd day, I drive to visit members houses to have O-bon services at their family altars. This is known as “Tanagyo” or “Bon Mairi” in Japanese. I’m sorry I couldn’t do this house visitation here on Kauai for years but this Tanagyo is still common and core event of O-bon in Japan.
My father, my brother and I separately visited house to house this year. Because we didn’t want my father to drive far, we took in charge of visiting houses in the country side. My assignment of visitation was 15 houses, but I drove more miles this year. This is customary done over many years and believe it or not, notice of visitation was never sent from the temple. Every year, our members just expect our visitations according to the previous year’s schedule which has been same over years.
This Bon visitation is my joy of helping O-Bon since members prepare their homemade pickles and sweets as refreshments after the service. All houses I visited gave me nice treats with both cucumber and eggplants pickles. They were so delicious as I wished I could bring them back to Kauai. Because it’s been a long time ever since I visited hoses with my father when I was a kid, they always give me the warmest welcome and enjoy talk-story with this once-a-year visitation.
On my last day at my family temple, I helped Segaki Service. This year my brother-in-law who was recently elected as a Senator of Niigata Prefectural Assembly presented music concert before the service. My niece played the violin accompanied by the piano by my sister. My brother-in-law played the oboe and made an impressive speech and explanation of the songs they played.
Lastly, I share a funny story with you. As soon as my parents saw me, they both told me…..I became too big! They even warned me and said how important to reduce weight. However, at the same time, my mother prepared plenty food for me every meal and said “This is something you cannot eat in Hawaii. Eat hard this and that. “ What a contradiction! I had to tell her “Hey mom. Do you want me to gain weight or lose weight?” Anyway, during my staying home, I didn’t need to cook at all. I didn’t need to dishwash at all and I didn’t need to wash my clothes……What an easy life!!! I enjoyed being a child and I almost forgot I was a father! But please don’t worry….I didn’t forget I was a minister! Now I’m completely back to the normal life and please feel free to let me know if you need help. I’ll be happy if I could serve you better. Gassho
Mr. T says "Make America Great Again." But I think America is already Great. America gave me rights to live and work legally, freedom of speech, and religious liberty. I'm very thankful to America for my source of happiness and therefore I believe America is already great.
On the other hand, what made Mr. T think that America is not great now. Why? I thought about the reason and finally found it out. The reason was quite simple.
My definition of "great" and his definition of "great" are totally
different. For Mr. T, "great" is understood as getting "more money" "more jobs" and "more factories in the US." "Great" is used as a simple meaning of "materially rich." I
agree many people need to be employed and be richer. In this sense, Mr. T is right.
However....if much more factories come to America and hire more people to work, what will happen? Is this the way for the country to be richer? I am not sure the answer.
But at least I know one thing. Prices of products are all going up because companies need to use more money to use workers. Then if they spend more money, eventually they might need to lay off people.
Building walls at border is same thing. If America is charging
more tax for the foreign products, it's not foreign companies to pay tax but American companies need to pay more tax for the imported products. And eventually it comes to customers who buys
the imported products.
"Make America Great Again" sounds great and inspiring. But to be "great" is actually never easy. And we need to have a different goal or direction if existing way doesn't work good.
Our goal is better to make our mother Earth great instead of USA. Through the many wars in the human history, we all know Fascio (nationalism) is out of fashion and globalism is the one we should grow.
Needless to say, no countries can exist without our mother Earth. Also we human being cannot live without our planet. However, vice versa is not true. Without country, Earth can live. Without America, people can exist and we can live without Japan. It is my hope more and more people can aware the importance of globalism and contribute what we can do for our earth.
When I was assignemd to Koloa, there were active Nisei(2nd generation) members. Because they worked so hard, I had almost nothing to do for them and I didn’t have any special talent either, except chanting sutras. All I could do for them was, I thought, maybe dishwashing. So I tried to dish wash many times but they never let me to do. They told me, “Sensei, sit down and relax.” That’s our job.” I cannot forget their kind voices and faces, dedication and kindness.
16 years have passed by here on Kauai. Lately at our New Year’s Party at Koloa, I found myself doing dishwashing very naturally. Nobody told me not to do dishwashing anymore! Rather, I had more things to do and responsibilities. Without knowing it, I’ve become one of hard workers and gotten a talent of making Sushi and Cake. I’m now very proud I am always sharing Sushi to our members, friends, and visitors. And this is all thanks to Jodo Mission, members and friends.
Reflecting upon my past years, I’m so very grateful for knowing Nisei members and some Issei. Their dedications were incredible. Many of them were not young. They could be relaxed more at home. But I saw they spent 100% energy and much time to our temple. Without their sincerity and efforts, I couldn’t become what I am today. It’s sad, one by one, they passed away or got to be older and older. But this fact naturally take over their jobs. At the same time, thanks to the temple which couldn’t pay me enough, I was able to work outside at Sushi bar, movie extra, and a tour guide job. As a result of doing some part time jobs and more temple jobs, I’ve gotten “experiences” that cannot be bought.
Recently, I once enjoyed reading biographies and essays of some successful Japanese business men such as Konosuke Matsushita, Soichiro Honda and Akio Morita. They were so interesting but amount them, I was so touched by words by Mr. Matsushita who founded Panasonic. Mr. Matsushita mentioned three things for his success in making a worldwide famous company when he was asked about a secret of success. He pointed out three things; He made a success; because 1. He was poor, 2. He didn’t go to school, 3. He was physically weak and sickly.
These are all negative factors of the life and he experienced all hardships from his first job when he was 9 year’s old, separating from his mother. However, he understood these negative experiences as positive ones. Because he was poor, he wished to be wealthy. Because he didn’t go to school, he read many books. Because he was sick, he was able to ask people for help naturally. As a result of asking his men to do, many of them became responsible men which made a stronger company.
Of course, “luck” in his life, was very important and he said people cannot do anything about luck. And he believe in “luck.” Indeed, he experienced his father’s bankruptcy, a great depression, and world wars two times. Nevertheless, he believed he was always lucky. That’s, I understand, a very secret of his success.
After thinking about his secrets of success, I thought of plantation workers and their descendants in Hawaii. Many of them were poor and didn't go to school. However, just like Mr. Matsushita overcame the hardship, many people got success because of their hard experiences.
In a sense, we living in Hawai, are all successful people, because of the fact of living in the place where tremendously many people in the world are dreaming to live!!! Though I’m not monetary rich, but I can definitely call myself a successful many who’ve live in so-called “Paradise” for many years.
Last but not least, my sincerest and deepest mahalo to all of your support!!! I’m very happy. And because I’m happy, I wish to share the way to happiness with you. Namu Amida Butsu
How rare and precious our life is.
In order to explain it, Shakyamuni Buddha once used a metaphor, known as "Blind Turtle & Floating Log."
Buddha told Ananda,
" Suppose there is a blind turtle who lives in the bottom of the vast ocean. This turtle has a long life. It comes up to the surface of the sea only once in 100 years."
"Then suppose, there happen to be a log floating in the huge ocean. This log has a hole in the center. The size of hole is as small as a neck of the turtle."
Buddha asked Ananda, "Do you think this blind turtle can get to the hole of the floating log in the vast ocean? Turtle's head should be just in the hole of the floating log"
"It's impossible! It cannot happen, my master!" , replied Ananda.
Then Buddha said, "To be born as a human being is actually much more difficult than the possibility of the blind turtle going inside the hole of the floating log. Life is such a precious."
When I learned this metaphor so many years ago, I honestly thought what an exaggeration! I knew how hard to be born as a human, but I thought it was not so impossible. The turtle is blind. It only comes up to the ocean once in 100 years. Very rare chance. Then the possibility of floating log which has a hole seemed to be very very rare. Just like Ananda, I also thought "It is impossible!"
But as I get to know more and more about the mystery of the universe which was considered to be born about 13,700,000,000 years ago, I knew the possibility of the earth was born such a miracle thing. So was true to the birth of life in this planet. The more I study science, the more I get to know just nothing but mystery!
Now I think the metaphor of the blind turtle seem to be very reasonable. Yes, it is almost impossible. But it happened. I also happened to get "life."
On this special day of March 11, I cannot help but appreciate life, a miracle life. I am so grateful and happy for living here today.
Because I happen to be a very happy rignt now, I feel strongly it's my mission to help others to be happy.
Aloha and have a good day!
March 11, 2015.
Yesterday was another special day for me not because of Super Bowl but thanks to visitors.
It happened last evening. When I was at Poipu shore, I received a phone call from my wife.
" We have a visitor from China. Come back to the temple ASAP!"
To be honest with you, I was actually not happy to hear that.
In the morning, I had a Service. After the service, I made Sushi. In the afternoon, I visited old members with Sushi and "Hawaii Buddhism" which was recently published. Then I had some shopping at Lihue for our temple's New Year's Party.
I thought I did enough today for the temple and I tried to call it a day.
I left for Poipu for my own hobby as soon as I came back here from Lihue around 5:00 p.m.
Then I received a phone call from my wife..."Come back ASAP...in 5 minutes!" I was about to take a picture of humpback whale which I had been waiting for at least a week!
So I told her "It's supposed to be Pau Hana! My fun has just begun." *Pau Hana in Hawaiian means "after work."
But she insisted a minister should be back here to meet and welcome them." She reminded me importance of meeting new people. The answer became very clear when she asked me"which is important, whale or visitor?"
As soon as I met a visiting family from China, I knew her judgment was true. They looked happy to hear me say, "Welcome , Ni Hao and Namo Āmítuó Fó. " Soon after I knew they are Buddhists who believe in Amida Buddha.
They prostrated themselves in front of the Buddha and recited " Namo Āmítuó Fó" for a while. And I recited "Namu Amida Bu" together.
Later I explained that we greatly respect two Pure Land masters, one Chinese and one Japanese, who are Master Shan tao (Zendo in Japanese) and Master Honen. Because my pronunciation of "Shan tao" was not good, they couldn't get it. But when I wrote "善導" on the whiteboard, instantly they got it and told me "善導" as "Shan dao."
While chanting Nenbutsu together, I really appreciated wonderful moments, realizing Amida Buddha is universal.
I am from Japan and they are from China, but in front of Amida Buddha, we are just one of human beings. The Nenbutsu gave me the sense of brotherhood. I felt very close to them. In addition, I realized that we are going to the same destination which is Pure Land called "Jodo" in Japanese.
Currently, the relationship between China and Japan is not good, rather dangerous. However, I saw the light and hope in the future through our experiences of chanting Nenbutsu together.
Every morning around 5:00 a.m., I usually receive an email from our Hawaii Council of Jodo Missions President Mr. Mark Nakamura. His email starts with “Hi Gangs...” and ends with “Aloha and have another Fun Day!” I think some of you are familiar with his emails because he sends them to many of us. Actually, his daily emails are very interesting, just like my sermons (just kidding). He shares funny YouTube videos and some pretty amazing videos. He also sends beautiful photos as well as informative educational information.
What I’d like to introduce at this time is one of the many links of amazing videos he has sent me. The title of the video is called “The Power of Words”. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzgzim5m7oU ) It was a short, but an inspiring message which emphases on the possibility that words can change the world.
The story starts with a blind man sitting beside the road. He has a sign saying, “I’m blind. Please help”. There were very few people who stopped to give him offerings. One day, a young lady was passing by the man and noticed his sign. She retraced her steps, going back to him. She wrote something on the sign. The blind man felt “something” and tried to remember that person by touching the shoes.
After that, a change happened. Many people started to leave offering to him after seeing the sign. More offerings came to him. And again, the lady appeared in front of him.
He recognized her by touching her shoes. He asked the lady, “ What did you do to my sign?” The lady replied, “I wrote the same, but different words”. What was it she had written?
What wrote, “It’s a beautiful day and I cannot see it”. The message ends with a powerful phrases, “Change your words. Change your world.”
Now I’m looking for the magic words that could attract more people to the Temple. What words can they be, I wonder? I will continue to think of the words, and at the same time I will welcome and appreciate your ideas to make our temple better.
Kosen Ishikawa, Koloa Jodo Mission