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Dharma Talk – January 2023

New Year’s Greeting

Happy New Year, everyone! At the beginning of this New Year, I would like to
extend my best regards to you all.

In view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022, as Nembutsu
followers who have deeply inscribed in our hearts and minds Shinran Shonin’s message of
“May there be peace in the world,” we firmly stand against the military infringement of the
other nation’s sovereignty, and also aspire for an immediate return of peace in Ukraine.

Over the last year, COVID-19 continues to be a global pandemic. I would like to offer
my deepest condolences to those who fell victim to the disease and express my sympathies
to those who are undergoing treatment. I would also like to express my respect and sincere
gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and other frontline medical professionals who have been
engaging in the treatment of infected people, as well as all essential workers who have made
it possible for us to continue with our lives.

The pandemic has forced us to learn firsthand that we will continue to be confronted
by unexpected situations even in modern times despite technologies both in science and medical fields being highly developed. Sakyamuni Buddha, who passed on the Dharma to us, made clear that there is no life nor entity in this world that lasts forever. This truth, the principle of impermanence, has never changed even in this time and age approximately 2500 years since his time. Another fact that does not change is our inability to accept this truth as it is, and because of this, we continue struggling.

This is the very reason why, regardless of the pandemic, we can rely on the Jodo Shinshu teaching clarified by Shinran Shonin, which guides us as a spiritual foundation that enables us to move forward even when being overwhelmed with difficulties. A gathering at the temple with Amida Buddha as its center provides a great opportunity to receive the Dharma as well as an occasion in which people can support and reassure one another as fellow practitioners who follow the same teaching.

I hope you will continue to share the teaching within the greater society through various ways and your temple will or continue to serve as a place where people can gather and find comfort in its activities. I humbly ask for your understanding and cooperation in support of your temples. I would like to conclude my new year’s greeting with my heartfelt appreciation to you all.

January 1, 2023



Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-hi

On behalf of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada (JSBTC), I wish to thank all of you for
your support and understanding throughout the past year.

Looking back on 2022, we can reflect on the many changes that have affected our lives in subtle
ways, some for the better and others for the worse. We give gifts to loved ones not truly knowing
what it is they wish to receive. By the same token, we receive whether it is that which we desire or
not. It is not in our control. What is most important as a Shinshu follower is to know that the giving
and receiving are done with a heartfelt sense of appreciation and gratitude

During the first few weeks of the New Year, we greet everyone with a “Happy New Year!” It’s a
wonderful expression that has such a feeling of “freshness.” As we begin a fresh start to the new
year, I would like to suggest a theme of “Healthy Sangha”. Let us continue to nurture and sustain
our sangha in health and wellness.

This past year we have welcomed two fresh and new ministers to the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist
Temples of Canada. Rev. Naoki Hirano was assigned to Kelowna, Vernon, and Kamloops Buddhist temples in interior BC and has now completed his one-year Kaikyoshi (overseas minister) training and has been granted Kaikyoshi status by Nishi Hongwanji our mother temple in Kyoto as of July 1, 2022. Rev. Dr. Roland Ikuta was assigned to the Buddhist Temple of Southern Alberta in Lethbridge as of November 1, 2022 to begin his one-year Kaikysohi training.

To all members and friends of the JSBTC, thank you for your kindness and support throughout the last year. We look forward to another wonderful year together. I would like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy Holiday Season!

In gassho,

Tatsuya Aoki, Bishop, Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada

“Happy New Year”

Around New Year’s, I sometimes listen to Bobby McFerrin’s song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” This is not a New Year’s song, but I like it because when I listen to this song, his singing voice is so gentle and makes me calm and happy.

He sings: “Here’s a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry. Be happy. In every life we have some trouble. But when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy. Don’t worry, be happy now.”

Just like in the song, when we say “Happy New Year,” we are wishing happiness for others.

Today, I would like to share an old, true story from Japan. There was a famous Buddhist minister named Rev. Ikkyu, who lived in Kyoto. When people celebrated New Year’s Day in Kyoto, they went outside dressed in beautiful kimonos and greeted each other with “Happy New Year and happy birthday.” In those times, more than 650 years ago, everyone aged together on New Year’s Day because many did not know their own birthdays.

Rev. Ikkyu also walked around, but he looked very different his robes were dirty and he carried around a human skull. He showed this skull to everyone and asked them if New Year’s Day made them happy. Rev. Ikkyu was a very famous and popular minister, but when they saw him carrying around a skull, people started saying he was getting too old and going crazy.

Rev. Ikkyu visited a mansion and knocked on the door. The owner of the mansion, a landlord, opened the doors and invited him into the house. The landlord was so happy that Rev. Ikkyu came to visit him on New Year’s Day! However, the landlord became upset when he saw Rev. Ikkyu’s dirty robes and the skull. The landlord asked him, “Today is New Year’s Day. Why is your robe so dirty? Why are you showing me this human skull? Please don’t do anything sinister.”

Rev. Ikkyu laughed at the landlord’s reaction. He said, “It is true that New Year’s Day is a happy event. However, New Year’s Day is a day that reminds us that we are getting much older. One day, we will become like this skull. Landlord, you have so much money and you are keeping it all for yourself. You may know you won’t be able to take the money to the Pure Land. You must also know there are families in poverty, just outside the city. Please share your money with the poor to help them.

When we see our family and friends on New Year’s Day, we always say Happy New year to share our happiness.

However, as Rev. Ikkyu said, New Year’s Day is also a day that reminds us that we are getting older. We will become just a skull someday. This is exceptionally difficult to accept, but at the same time, it reminds us of how lucky we are to be able to spend time with others and to see them in the New Year.

In Gassho

Rev. Yoshimichi OUCHI