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Dharma Talk – June 2023


You might know that I left Toronto for several days to guide JSBTC members in Japan. We attended a service for Shinran Shonin 850th birthday and 800th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Jodo Shinshu Tradition in Kyoto.

My physical body was very tired during that tour. But ,when I saw that the Canadian members were enjoying attending the special occasion Buddhist service, my mental health recovered well. I was very happy to see them reciting Nembutsu with other countries’ Buddhist members.

Can you imagine that over 1000 people recited Nembutsu together in the Nishi-Hongwanji’s Hondo? I felt that their individual Nembutsu became one. It was as if each wave overlapped and became one. It was truly a tsunami of Nembutsu.

We often try to learn about the teachings of Buddha and Shinran Shonin through a Dharma talk. However, I realized once again that such experiences are beyond words and can only be felt through rituals.

After the special occasion service, many of us joined the 17th World Buddhist Women’s Convention for 2 days. Over 2,400 people attending the convention. We exchanged omiyage with each other all of who were from other countries; performed our country’s odori or song, studied Jodo Shinshu’s doctrine and history, and listened to keynote speakers’ speeches.

The keynote speakers spoke about how they encountered Jodo Shinshu tradition and how Jodo Shinshu had affected their lives.

Our Nembutsu is one. There is no distinction between your Nembutsu and others. But, I realized that even though our Nembutsu ,which is the same as others, many of us have our own meaning and different opportunities to encounter the Nembutsu teaching.

We call it “HOU-EN (法縁).” HOU means Dharma, and EN means condition and connection. Dharma is one, but the conditions to meet the teachings of Nembutsu are different.

One of the keynote speakers from Brazil spoke about her history. Her father was born as the eldest son of a Buddhist temple in Japan. After graduating from a Buddhist university, he married her mother and moved to Brazil in 1933. Brazil, where her parents immigrated, was a completely different country from their own country in every aspect, including culture, language, social customs, and climate. Moreover, both of them had to register as farmers even though they had no experience in farming.

Her father was invited to Japanese gatherings as a Buddhist minister to share the Dharma as well as observe Buddhist memorial services for those who had entered Nirvana due to sickness and overwork. He helped many people and they respected him.

However, on November 11 in 1941, only one and a half years later, he went to the Pure Land suddenly due to heart attack. He was still 39 years old.

Her mother was 29 years old at the time, pregnant, and she was born five months later in April so she was not able to meet her father in this world.

Nine years later, Komyoji temple was officially founded in 1950. The Temple is located in the northeast part of Sao Paulo. The temple is believed to be the first Buddhist temple in Brazil.

Rev. Ito was assigned as a Buddhist minister. He worked with the community to manage the temple. She said that Rev. Ito was like a grandfather to her. She embraced his love and absorbed the Buddhist teachings from him.

When she was 17 years old, she fell ill. She was unconscious for many days. Fortunately, she was strong enough to survive this critical condition, however, she had to continue receiving treatment for more than six months for it.

After fully recovering, through the assistance and support of the local community, she was given a job at the Japanese Language School of the temple.

She said that to be honest, she never thought she would be able to get married after suffering from a serious illness. However, when she was 25 years old, she met her husband who was a Kaikyoshi minister at the Sao Paulo Buddhist temple. They were fortunate to have four children.

A Kaikyoshi minister is assigned to a temple under the order of the bishop. Her husband also served at several different temples. Whenever they were moved to a new place, they organized a Japanese language school as well as a Sunday School at the temple to share the Buddhist teaching with the children.

She said thankfully, their second son had also become a Kaikyoshi minister. He is now a Bishop of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples in South America.

In conclusion, she said, “I’m very fortunate to be guided by the Nembutsu teachings that were transmitted to us by our parents and others. Thanks to this great opportunity to encounter the Amida Buddha, I am now able to be grateful for any situation, even if it’s not a happy one. As I cherish the remaining days of my life reciting the Nembutsu, I am grateful for everything to be able to share the Buddha Dharma with others.”

I was moved when I listened to her speech. She lost her father before she was born, suffered from a serious illness, and was not rich in life. To others, her life might seem sad and full of anxiety.

However, through Buddhism, she has found a pur-pose and a reason for living. When she thinks about it, even the unfortunate experience for others was an irreplaceable HOU-EN(法縁), Dharma connection with Jodo Shinshu tradition for her.

I believe that this HOU-EN will never run out, and it will continue to guide her on the Buddhist path.

Her speech let us know that many of us have our own meaningful and different opportunities to encounter the Nembutsu teaching, but there is not distinction between my Nembutsu and others because our Nembutsu is one. And we must never forget that this Dharma connection came from our founder, Shinran.

Thank you.

The convention is held once every 4 years. The next convention will be held in 2027 in Hawaii. Even though the name is call “women’s convention,” it’s gender less. If you would like to join the convention, please let us know.

In Gassho

Rev. Yoshimichi OUCHI