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