2019 New Year’s message from Bishop Eric Matsumoto

Bishop Eric Matsumoto in ministerial vestments

Aloha Kakou and Happy New Year! “NAMO AMIDA BUTSU”

Our Theme & Slogan for 2019 is Embrace Change: Transformation (Walk in Peace). It is our last year with the theme of “Embrace Change.” Have you noticed a change in yourself? Have you noticed a change in our organization (Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii/Hawaii Kyodan)? Have you noticed a change in the world?

Indeed, these are complex and challenging questions to answer. Perhaps an answer we can all agree upon is “Not enough.” Yes, how difficult it is to change for the better because my ego continues to get in the way. An important aspect of “Walking in Peace” is to become aware of my limited self, but rest assured that there is hope. A great hope, the encouragement of Namo Amida Butsu, The-Buddha’s-Name-That-Calls (Myogo) and The-Buddha’s-Name-Which-I-Call (Nembutsu). Amida Buddha fully understands the plight of this spiritually foolish “I” full of imperfections and thus reaches out, unconditionally, vowing never to forsake with the promise of attaining the Perfect Peace of Nirvana with birth in the Pure Land of Enlightenment (at the end of this finite life). However, the journey of “Walking in Peace” begins from the moment when True Entrusting occurs.

A Foremost Scholar of Jodo Shinshu the late Rev. Jitsuen Kakehashi explains “The “turning of the heart” means forsaking the human-centered way of thinking and placing the teaching of the Tathagata at the center of our thought. Being saved means that with the Dharma-centered values, a new view of life is established in ourselves.” “In our daily life, we are liable to be dictated by self-centered thoughts, but in the mind of Nembutsu practicers who are saddened and pained by this reality, there is a recurring transformation in which with the heart and mind of the Tathagata’s great wisdom and great compassion, we come to look back at our own thoughts and behaviors.” “…we come to reflect on our self-centered thoughts, reject our blind passions and make efforts to see things and live our lives in a way that can be approved by the Tathagata.”

As I have often emphasized, the life of a Shin Buddhist is one of responding in gratitude to the unprecedented and unparalleled Wisdom and Compassion of Namo Amida Butsu by reciting the Nembutsu in awareness, joy and gratitude that I am embraced just as I am with all my limitations and we try to live our life guided by the Dharma in grateful response to Unconditional Compassion until our life culminates (at death) with our entering the Pure Land of Perfect Peace and Happiness at which time the ultimate transformation to Perfect Buddhahood occurs. Or, more simply, out of gratitude, as The Golden Chain of Love shares “I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts, to say pure and beautiful words and to do pure and beautiful deeds knowing that on what I do now depends not only my happiness or unhappiness, but also that of others. May every link in Amida Buddha’s Golden of Love be bright and strong and may we all attain Perfect Peace.”

In 2019, embraced, nurtured and inspired by the Buddha’s 12 Lights, may we be encouraged to contribute towards a more peaceful, compassionate and harmonious world until we enter the “Land of Immeasurable Light” and the “Land of All-Knowing Wisdom” only to find “my” enlightened Great Self returning (from Pure Land of Peace) to aid others in their quest for the Perfect Peace of Nirvana. Namo Amida Butsu (Entrusting in All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion).

In Gassho/Anjali,
Eric T. Matsumoto
Bishop of Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii