Power of Sangha

Nobuko Miyoshi has lived in the United States for 14 years. After serving as a minister at Los Angeles Higashi Honganji Betsuin temple, she became the resident minister of West Covina Higashi Honganji temple, which is about 45 kilometers east of Los Angeles.

The West Covina temple does not have its own building, rather it operates out of a community center, called East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center. It’s an active temple where a small number of people from diverse backgrounds come together to hear the Jodo Shinshu teachings.

Rev. Miyoshi grew up in a temple family in Toyama City, Toyama Prefecture, near the Sea of Japan.  Regarding difference between Japan and the United States, she said: “In America, people relate more to religion. Young people often have opportunities togo to church and other religious institutions. There are many different religions here. In this kind of environment, it’s natural to ask, ‘What is Buddhism?’ I think that’s an opportunity for Jodo Shinshu in this country.”

Compared to Japan, where many temples are run by ministers and their families, Higashi Honganji temples are managed by temple members, who volunteer their time. At West Covina, members help organize various events, such as a summer festival and Obon, which is a summer memorial observed with traditional Japanese dancing.

“At the Obon festival, you really feel the power of the Sangha (Buddhist community),” Rev. Miyoshi said. “Every year, when I see temple members working together and feel their enthusiasm, I see their profound aspiration to transmit what they have received from their parents and grandparents to future generations. Working with them and helping them to pass on the Jodo Shinshu teaching is the job of ministers in this country.”

One member, a woman, had been attending a Buddhism study class, was forced to stop going, once her cancer returned. She explained how Jodo Shinshu helped her deal with her illness. “What I heard was really true,” she said. “We don’t have time to wait for the future. It’s important to be alive, so I will live as fully as I can now.”

Rev. Miyoshi said: “Actually, I am truly the one who is taught and supported by the Sangha. Together with our members, I would like to continue to listen to Shinran Shonin’s teachingswherever I go from now on.”

Translated from Japanese. This article first appeared in Higashi Honganji’s “Dobo Shinbun, Living now, the World,” vol. 2, September 2015

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