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Dharma Talk – July 2024


I am Rev. Kensho Hashimoto, the resident minister of the Toronto Buddhist Church. I hope we can enjoy the teachings of Amida Buddha together.

As this is my first article for the Guiding Light, many of you may not know that I have only just completed my Masters degree at Ryukoku University (the Hongwanji affiliated university in Kyoto, Japan) in March, and been the resident minister at Toronto Buddhist Church since April. So my time as a minister in Canada has been very short. Luckily, the experienced Canadian ministers have been coming to Toronto to give me guidance and help me settle-in to the role of resident minister .

At the end of May, Rev. Grant Ikuta, the resident minister of the Steveston Buddhist Church in BC, came for my training. As many of you may know, Ikuta Sensei was the resident minister at this temple for about 16 years from 1992 to 2008. When he came to Toronto as a minister, he was the same age as I am now.

On the weekend that he was here, the KEIROKAI (Celebration Honouring our Elders) was held. Many people were happy to see him again, which made me feel happy as well. Like him, I would like to build an ideal relationship as a Nembutsu practitioner with all of you, in which each one of us praises the teachings of the Nembutsu, Amida Buddha, together.

During his stay, we went to two Japanese restaurants that he used to visit often in the past. It had been 16 years since Ikuta sensei had worked in Toronto, so one of the restaurants had already been replaced by a new owner. However, he said that the menu and taste of the restaurant had not changed.

The other restaurant is still run by the same owner as it was 16 years ago. As I was looking at the restaurant’s menu, one course, “Chef’s Omakase Course,” caught my eye. I have been to many Japanese restaurants since I arrived in Toronto, but this was the first time I had seen an “omakase course”. Although neither of us ordered the “Omakase Course” that day, we could imagine that a restaurant with an “Omakase Course” had a chef who was confident in their cooking skills.

I hear that “omakase courses” at some of the top restaurants in Japan are amazing. Of course, they use seasonal ingredients such as vegetables and fish purchased that day, but I have also heard that there are places that devise and create original course menus on the spot, just for that customer, based on the customer’s age and the alcohol he or she is drinking.

This is truly the work of an expert. I don’t think there is any place for an amateur like me to interfere with their work. We would simply enjoy the food while being impressed by each and every dish that comes out as a course.

Our relationship with the Amida Buddha can also be described in this way.

“You must simply entrust yourself to Tathagata.”

[Lamp for the Latter Ages ] ( The Collected Works of Shinran 1 P536 )

This is a sentence from a letter written by Shinran Shonin, the founder of Jodo Shinshu. Tathagata in this context refers to Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha established Vows to help me out of my suffering, and by practicing the deeds to fulfill these Vows, became the Buddha who can help all people. So to speak, Amida Buddha is an expert in helping people. However, even though Amida Buddha is the supreme Buddha who helps us as we are, we tend to think a lot of unnecessary things that create doubt.

So what do we entrust to Amida Buddha?

Fundamentally, it is the question of life and death. Buddhism, no matter which sect, teaches the way to transcend the problems of life and death. The reason why it is divided into various teachings is that the way to transcend the problem of life and death is different for each person. The goal is the same, but the process to reach it is different.

To “transcend the problems of life and death” would mean to be able to accept both life and death as something to be grateful for. Buddhism teaches that unless we reach such a world, we will not be able to truly rest and relax.

We, the living, believe that death is the end; death is the end of life. Therefore, people who are only thankful for life cannot be thankful for death. Conversely, those who are only thankful for death have lost hope for life and cannot feel gratitude for it. It is obvious that where either life or death turns into despair for the person, there is not the slightest sense of peace. We will certainly face such inevitable despair.

We entrust Amida Buddha with such problems of despair. This entrusting heart is also brought about by Amida Buddha’s vows. Amida Buddha is asking me with all his heart, ” Please make the recitation of my name the support of your life, and think of your life as a life of birth in the Pure Land, not death.”

To these Vows, we will entrust ourselves with the problems of life and death like that we enjoy the chef’s “omakase course.” For those who receive the recitation of the Nembutsu as the support of life and the meaning of death as birth in the Pure Land, no matter how difficult life may be or what form of death may take, their life will not be in vain. Both life and death will be richly fruitful, and this is what we entrust (“OMAKASE”) ourselves to Amida Buddha, the expert in helping us.

Namo Amida Butsu

Rev. Kensho Hashimoto