Charlene Kihara (Hawaii Betsuin), Kerry Kiyohara (Moiliili Hongwanji), and Barbara Brennan (Hawaii Betsuin) recently returned from Japan as Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha priests.
Charlene, Kerry, Barbara, and six candidates from Buddhist Churches of America made up a group traveling to Kyoto in July to pursue the final steps for Tokudo ordination. The candidates trained intensively for ten days with a schedule on most days going from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., including services, classes and testing, cleaning, meals, changing robes, chanting, and practicing rituals.
Two other groups of candidates from Japan received training at the same time, making a total of 33 candidates.
On the ninth day, candidates were presented with their ordination certificates by Gomonshu Kojun Ohtani, the spiritual head of the Jodo Shinshu denomination. Candidates also received a Ki-Gesa (paneled priestly vestment) and a Homyo (Buddhist name). Several more services the following day and presentation of certificates in English completed the program.
Here are brief reflections on Tokudo from Barbra, Charlene, and Kerry:
“The Tokudo experience was one of the pinnacle moments in my life. It was so spiritual and transforming. It was a difficult time for me. This was my first time in Japan, I needed to quickly learn the customs, the dressing and undressing (putting on robes), saho (manners), liturgy and chanting. Although it was so short I learned so much about myself. I learned that even a bonbu like myself could learn and hopefully become a better person.” (Charlene Kihara)
“I am profoundly aware that Tokudo was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that the things I’ve learned will stay with me forever, that the robes and vestments carry tremendous responsibility. Tokudo was a chance to be re-born, to start over, to set a new course in this life. I am not deserving of this great opportunity and yet it comes to me. Namo Amida Butsu!” (Kerry Kiyohara)
“My Tokudo experience at Nishiyama Betsuin was deeply moving, beyond expectation. It was a unique learning environment where all the Senseis and Dharma teachers shared not only their knowledge of Jodo Shinshu teachings and rituals with us but also their personal heartfelt stories. I am grateful for their dedication and commitment to the Teachings which will be cause for reflection throughout the rest of my life as a Jodo Shinshu minister.” (Barbara Brennan)
Congratulations to our newly ordained Jodo Shinshu priests!