To our overseas Higashi Honganji districts and all of you, I extend my New Year’s greetings for year 2022. I also express my deep appreciation for your understanding and continued support of our Sangha.
Last October, I was appointed Chief Administrator of Higashi Honganji. I’m originally from a temple in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture. In the 1960s, my father was resident minister of Berkeley Higashi Honganji temple in California, where I spent the early years of my childhood.
At that time, first generation (issei) Japanese immigrants were active at the temple. They’d gather to talk about and appreciate their ancestral lineage in Japan. Members of each family would come together at the temple to attend Sunday services. My father gave Dharma talks in English, then would speak usually on the same topic in Japanese. Afterwards, attendees separated by different age groups to learn the Japanese language, as well as teachings of Shinran Shōnin. They were a close-knit community that shared an appreciation of Japanese culture while learning Buddhist teachings and traditions.
I truly owe what I am today to the support and guidance of temple members both in the United States and Japan. Because of those experiences, I’m reminded of the importance of “walking the Buddhist path together with fellow seekers.”
As you may have heard, Bishop Hiroshi Tajima, the former Chief Administrator and my immediate predecessor, passed away in September 2021.
Bishop Tajima devoted himself to our denomination despite unprecedented problems caused by the pandemic. He was a leader who pursued a vision of a strong future of our denomination. It’s regrettable he suddenly passed away during his term of office. I express my sincerest appreciation for his tremendous contributions to our denomination, in addition to my deep condolences on his passing. Keeping Bishop Tajima’s wishes in mind, I will abide by his cabinet’s directions and follow administrative policies they have developed.
For now, there seems no end in sight to the coronavirus pandemic, which wreaked havoc on the world the past two years. After peaking last summer, the situation seems to have moderated in Japan. However, I’ve heard our overseas districts continue to struggle with a dire situation. Since last year, holding temple events online without in-person attendance has become the norm. In fact, our entire denomination has been challenged to devise more effective ways of sharing Shinran Shonin’s teaching.
In such difficult circumstances, I’m convinced it’s even more crucial to revive a nenbutsu sangha where with mutual respect we rediscover each other as “spiritual friends.”
On this occasion, I hope we may awaken together our deepest wish to live together as a sangha in accordance with Tathāgatha’s Original Vow.
In conclusion, I ask for your continued support as we begin the New Year. Thank you.
Bishop Kigoshi is Chief Administrator of Higashi Honganji in Kyoto, Japan