Jodo Shinshu Revolution

By Rev. Ken Yamada

When I first studied Jōdo Shinshū Buddhism, it really made no sense. A mythical buddha Amida supposedly embraced me with infinite compassion, assuring me of birth in the Pure Land when I die. I joked it was all “Buddha crazy talk.”

Years later, after experiencing suffering that life inevitably brings, Jodo Shinshu began to speak to me. My Higashi Honganji teachers related the teachings to life experiences, thought processes, perceptions, and emotions, guided by Shinran’s writings. Words and concepts were analyzed for their deeper and sometimes symbolic meaning. It all began to make sense.

For hundreds of years, Shinshu was transmitted and believed the way I first heard. How did these teachings transform so that contemporary people like me could understand? Kiyozawa Manshi (1863-1903) gets much credit—he’s considered the first modern thinker of Jōdo Shinshu. Continue reading “Jodo Shinshu Revolution”

Reaching Beyond Temples to Teach Buddhism

Rev. Shoukei Matsumoto is a different kind of Jodo Shinshu priest. He’s more entrepreneur than traditional minister and he’s trying new ways of reaching beyond temple members.

Among his many activities, he started a company, Interbeing, aimed at bringing Buddhist teachings to business people. He earned a Master of Business Administration degree and developed lessons to help priests better run their temples. He organizes spontaneous meet-ups with young people in various cities to discuss life issues. He started a temple café and created a Buddhist website called He’s written several books, including the popular “A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind,” which was translated into 18 languages. Continue reading “Reaching Beyond Temples to Teach Buddhism”

Amida, Save Me!

By Rev. Ken Yamada

Jodo Shinshu uses words such as “salvation” and “save” which make me uneasy. They give Pure Land Buddhism the appearance of a Christian-like religion with Amida Buddha as savior.

Yet, Jodo Shinshu’s founder Shinran Shonin used these terms. In the Tannisho, he says:

As for me, I simply accept and entrust myself to what my revered teacher told me, “Just say the nembutsu and be saved by Amida”; nothing else is involved.

Continue reading “Amida, Save Me!”

Nembutsu Now, Not Off to the Side

Rev. Paul Imahara

By Rev. Patti Nakai

(ed. note: After retiring as a civil engineer, Rev. Paul Imahara committed himself to studying Jodo Shinshu and following the Nenbutsu path. He eventually became ordained as a Higashi Honganji minister and helped at various temples in the North America District, especially Newport Beach. He also held services and study sessions for seniors, and after moving to Las Vegas, Nevada, he continued helping others follow the dharma. Even as his health declined, he remained active. Rev. Imahara passed away last Sunday.)


 For most of us, death is in the hypothetical future. “Whether it be today, whether it be tomorrow; whether I go before others or others go before me,” as we recite from Rennyo’s “Letter on the White Ashes” (hakkotsu no ofumi). I wanted to visit Rev. Paul Imahara in Las Vegas to hear from someone for whom death is in the very near future. Continue reading “Nembutsu Now, Not Off to the Side”