Yes, Pure Land is Buddhism

By Rev. Patti Nakai

 … my Japanese college buddy Jun…took me to a Pure Land Buddhist temple in Chicago. …I asked the head monk at one point how I should understand the Pure Land pursuit of heavenly paradise and Amitabha (the deification of Buddha) when the original teachings of the Buddha seemed so different.

… Then he offered in a soft voice, “Well, my friend, how does the butterfly understand its movement from one flower to the next?” This was followed by a long silence, and I nodded my head slowly, taking in the morsel of enigmatic deep wisdom. Then my friend Jun rolled his eyes and demanded of the monk, “What the hell does that mean?”

:: p. 168 The Gods Drink Whiskey by Stephen T. Asma (San Francisco: Harper, 2005)

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Humble Appreciation

By Rev. Koen Kikuchi

What is appreciation? What is the meaning of gratitude? How do we show our thanks?

In English, we usually say “thank you” and “I appreciate you” to show our gratitude to someone. On the other hand in Japanese, we say “arigato.” But there are other ways of saying “thank you,” for example, “gomen nasai” (literally “I’m sorry”) and “sumimasen” (literally, “excuse me”).

If I want to make my way through a crowd of people, I say “excuse me.” If I drop something and somebody picks it up for me, I say “thank you.” If I water plants and flowers, and I accidentally spray water on somebody, I say “I’m sorry.” However, in Japanese the word “sumimasen” applies to all these situations. “Sumimasen” express both appreciation and apology. Also, the word implies an attitude of humbleness—putting aside one’s ego and showing respect to others.

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Shin Buddhist Responses to Suffering

By Rev. Patti Nakai

In the face of the suffering of others, whether in large groups of people or as individuals, how do we as Shin Buddhists respond?

Describing relief efforts in eastern Japan devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Otani University president Prof. Yasushi Kigoshi gave two poignant presentations related to his personal involvement. The discussion took place at a March 10, 2018 seminar for Dharma Seeds (lay leaders from the North America district temples) held at the Los Angeles Higashi Honganji Betsuin temple.

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Buddhism and Social Discrimination

By Rev. Ken Yamada

Buddhism often is viewed as a solitary path focused on one’s own spiritual enlightenment, rather than as a means for social change. That’s wrong.

Buddhism always has encouraged people to help others, starting with the Buddha, who famously helped the sick and offered food to the hungry. Jodo Shinshu has a unique history in its relationship with people suffering from leprosy, a debilitating skin disease that results in the loss of limbs and body parts.

So-called lepers suffered not only physically, but also socially, as they were confined against their will, isolated and discriminated against. The modern term for this skin condition is Hansen’s disease.

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Suffering to Compassion

By Rinban Noriaki Ito

Her life was vibrant, bright, sassy, and devoted to helping others. What people didn’t see was the unspeakable horror of war that shaped her life.

Los Angeles Higashi Honganji temple member Florence Shioko Yamada passed away last December, a week before her 88th birthday. Four months earlier, her son and only child Ken passed away.

Florence was born and raised in Los Angeles until age 11, when she and her younger brother were sent to Japan for schooling in Hiroshima, where she lived with her maternal grandparents. World War II began and suddenly Japan and the United States were at war. At the war’s end, on August 6, 1945, Florence’s life changed forever.

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