A message from Rev. Jeffrey D. Soga which appears in the book, “The Taste of the Nembutsu,” published in 2016 by the HHMH State Ministers’ Association. The book is a collection of dharma messages by each of the active ministers.
To extend the reach of the dharma within these messages, we will publish one per week on our website.
Rev. Jeffrey D. Soga
In that land of happiness, every single being is born transformed from the pure lotus of Amida Tathagata’s perfect enlightenment, for they are the same in practicing the Nembutsu and follow no other way. This extends even to this world, so that all Nembutsu practicers within the four seas are brothers and sisters.
(A Collection of Passages Revealing The True Realization of the Pure Land Way)
Hello, everyone. On February 14, 2007 Valentine’s Day, I went to the district court in Honolulu to take my oath of naturalization to become a citizen of the United States. This is the second birth in my life — as a new person in America — so I changed my name to Jeffrey Daien Soga. I’d like to you to call me Reverend Jeff.
Although, my name and my nationality have been changed on documents and many people have congratulated me, I have not changed at all.
I studied the meaning of national holidays and human rights through U.S. history for the interview, so I gained some knowledge of the United States. For example, in the early 17th century the Pilgrims looked for freedom of religion. They sailed on the Mayflower from England and landed near what is now the state of Massachusetts. Since then, many immigrants have come to America. All looked for the freedom and equal human rights in the new country. However, they had to struggle and suffered with discrimination and prejudices. They tried to improve themselves, but discrimination and prejudices still exist.
No matter how much knowledge I gained, and my nationality has been changed on the document, I still am Daien Soga who was born in the countryside of Hiroshima, Japan, and raised with the Japanese culture and history, and am still living on Maui.
In the airplane returning to Maui from Honolulu after the oath ceremony, I could see a beautiful sunset. At that moment when a beautiful orange color covered the ocean, the white clouds and the island, I thought there is no border, no prejudice, no discrimination, and there was nothing but equality and peace in the illumination of the beautiful sunset. But struggles still exist because people are self-centered, impatient, and intolerant.
As I was contemplating, a sentence of Shinran Shonin filled my mind. The sentence, quoted at the beginning of the article, is from Shinran Shonin’s book. The sentence is quoted from the passages of the Masters: Vasubandhu and T’an-luan. Vasubandhu Bodhisattva in India, great master T’an-luan in China, and Shinran Shonin in Japan praise Amida Buddha’s Compassionate Vow and also people who utter the Nembutsu, “Namo Amida Butsu” with the thought of going to Amida Buddha’s Pure Land. The people who listen to the meaning of Amida Buddha’s Vow and think about being born in Amida Buddha’s Pure Land are all brothers and sisters. All are like the four oceans that are connected. There are no borders, discrimination, or prejudice.
Amida Buddha’s Great Compassion embraces all equally beyond good and evil, male and female, young and old, no matter who you are or what nationality you are. We should remember the Pure Land, look at ourselves and follow the Amida Buddha’s teachings and practice respecting and helping each other, praising and finding peace together.
If all people of the world have such wisdom and awakening and respect for each other, our sad deeds of the war will disappear. Let’s recite the Onembutsu while thinking of Amida Buddha’s great compassion. In Gassho