Legend of the Devil Mask

Devil mask at Higashi Honganji Yoshizaki Betsuin temple, Japan

By Rev. Ken Yamada

When visiting Japan last Spring for the 800th Anniversary of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism’s founding and Shinran Shonin’s 850th Birthday, our tour group traveled to an historic site on the Japan Sea coast made famous by Rennyo Shonin.

Considered the “Second Founder of Jodo Shinshu,” Rennyo revitalized the Honganji temple and sangha, attracting legions of followers. In Yoshizaki (present-day Fukui Prefecture), he built a temple atop a hill that quickly became a lively and important religious and social hub of activity.

A large part of Rennyo’s appeal was his focus on women. Not only did they face discrimination in male dominated society, women also faced a kind of spiritual discrimination. Viewed as weak and vulnerable, ancient Buddhist teachings spoke of the near impossibility of their religious salvation. Continue reading “Legend of the Devil Mask”

Delusion of Name and Form

Wheel of Life

By Rev. Ken Yamada

In today’s social media world, image is everything. Becoming an influencer, garnering “likes” and followers, evoking vibes of  “Cool,” “Young,” “Rebel,” “Rich,” “Happy.”

Is it really? Or just illusion? What makes such images appealing to us?

The Buddha contemplated this phenomenon more than two millennium ago and called it,  “name and form” (Sanskrit: nāma-rūpa). In other words, our minds attach names to objects (and vice versa), giving what we see real existence. Consequently, desires arise, and along with them, passions. Continue reading “Delusion of Name and Form”

Donation Boxes at Temples

By Rev. Kensho Goto

Under the Founder’s Hall Gate at Higashi Honganji’s mother temple in Kyoto sits a large wooden box. Such boxes, which seem to contain money, sit near the two main temples, at the foot of each hall’s front steps, and elsewhere on the temple grounds. They are “donation boxes.”

People who come to worship put donations in these boxes and gently place their hands together in gassho, a prayer like position. Giving “alms” is a common practice in Christianity and other religions, but what does it mean for Shin Buddhists? Continue reading “Donation Boxes at Temples”

Pandemic Reveals Our Loneliness

By Rev. Noriaki Fujimori

Feeling lonely? I think the emergence of COVID-19 cut off our gatherings and made our loneliness more apparent. I too became aware of my loneliness and its restrictions. For many elderly, their sense of loneliness was magnified when no one could visit them.

Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, people gather more freely just like before. However, I’m concerned that feelings of loneliness will re-emerge even as we return to normal. Continue reading “Pandemic Reveals Our Loneliness”