2019 Honouliuli Bon Service Dharma Message

Bishop Eric Matsumoto delivered a Dharma message at the 3rd Obon Service hosted by Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii at the site of the Honouliuli Internment Camp on August 14, 2019. The camp, located near Waipahu on Oahu, held Japanese Americans and also Italians and Germans during World War II. This camp was the only one on Oahu built for prolonged detention. It opened in 1943 and closed in 1946.

Ministers at site of Honouliuli Internment camp with Bishop Matsumoto speaking

Message by Bishop Eric Matsumoto
Honouliuli National Historic Site
August 14, 2019

As we gather for our 3rd Annual Honouliuli O-Bon Service, I would like to share a Dharma Message focusing on the instrument of the drum, out of respect for the Honouliuli Drum. Needless to say, the drum plays an important role in Buddhism. Since the days of the Historic Buddha Sakyamuni in Ancient India and up to the present, the drum has been employed in various ways with many uses. However, a very prominent function has been to bring awareness or attention (to something). Sometimes, the drum is sounded as a signal or as prelude to announce or signal that something very important is about to begin. At other times, the sound of drum itself symbolically represents the message. Also, just as when we are in the close proximity to a drum or taiko performance we can feel the reverberation of the taiko with our bodies, I hope that we can take to heart the Wisdom and Compassion of the Buddhas, the Enlightened Ones which is aspiring for the peace, happiness and the Enlightened well-being of life, all existence including all peoples of the world.

I hope we can transform the sad and harsh reality of those who were interred here at Honouliuli into something positive and beneficial for all. I use the word “transform” as the aim is not to forget about what happened in the past, but rather to acknowledge the truth of what occurred and recognize the hardships and suffering that happened here, and elsewhere in so many “camps” around our country, and as we do we channel our energies, in non-violent ways, towards making sure that specifically what happened here does not happen again to anyone and any group and, generally, to move society to a higher plateau. To partially quote, Rev. Chishin Hirai, Former Bishop of the Nichiren Mission of Hawaii where the Honouliuli Taiko was discovered, he says ““The internees at Honouliuli endured many hardships. That is why we enjoy our freedom and peace today.” “We should tell people what happened at Honouliuli. We should tell people in the future not to make the same mistake again.” “If we don’t reflect sincerely on the sad parts of our history, there could be internees again…” Honouliuli is not just ruins from the past.” (Let us) “use its tragic story to create a better world. The switch to restart is right here in our minds.”

Today, a point that I would like to emphasize is that the purpose of a Dharma Message has the goal of having us reflect being guided by the Buddha’s Wisdom and Compassion and come to some life-changing realizations which has the potential of transforming myself and the world thus contributing to lasting Enlightened peace and happiness of one and all.

As we lament about the suffering and hardships that took place here at Honouliuli including, if I may, all the mass shootings and acts of violence filled with hate, racism and fear that are occurring in our country, let us take a deeper look at ourselves and the world. Many times, as we look at situations of our life and world, we focus only on the conditions. However, with the Wisdom of Enlightenment to guide us, let us see the need to become aware of the deeper causes of suffering along with the conditions. Any fix by only addressing the conditions will be good only as long as the conditions do not change, but by addressing the cause of suffering we can snip suffering at its root. It is, indeed, most difficult for us humans, people, to look at our own selves. My ego does not want to reveal itself even to its own self. With Enlightened Wisdom to guide, we are able to understand that the true cause of suffering in the world is ignorance and the afflictions which arise from it like arrogance, anger, greed, envy, self-centeredness, fear and so forth. Unless, we address the root cause of ignorance and these afflictions we will continue to be plagued by negatives which in its extreme forms result in so much devastation, destruction and even loss of life which our normal minds cannot even fathom unless one has experienced it or seen it for oneself. Hence, the importance of listening to voices of those who have experienced the worst of humankind.

However, at the same time, we must also hear the voices of those who have attained the highest levels of attainment, Enlightened Wisdom and Compassion, so we have hope, can aspire and begin to walk the path of peace and harmony. Thus, today, regardless of religious affiliation or even if you do not have one, let us also embrace Wisdom and Compassion which aspires for the peace and happiness of not only one, a few, or many, but all life, all existence. May we be guided by an All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion. May the path we walk be illuminated by a Presence which goes beyond our ego as an individual, nation, religion, and even as humankind to realize true interdependence and realize the common wish of all life, all existence to be happy and safe. May the Wisdom and Compassion of Supreme Enlightenment, guide, nurture and inspire us!