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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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.

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At the Edge of Sorrow

Reiko Ikehara Nelson first encountered the Shinshu teachings when her father passed away more than two decades ago, but it wasn’t until much later that they made any sense.

At his funeral, she heard a reading of “White Ashes,” a letter written 600 years ago by Honganji abbot Rennyo Shonin that is traditionally read at funeral services. Rennyo wrote about impermanence, how a person may have a healthy face in the morning, but suddenly may die and become “white ashes” (cremated) in the evening. The service was held at the Los Angeles Higashi Honganji Betsuin temple.

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