Learning Through YESS Camp

The Taste of the Nembutsu cover image

A message from Rev. Mariko Nishiyama 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.


Learning Through YESS Camp – May 2007

Rev. Mariko Nishiyama

On March 26 to 28, I went to Camp Kokokahi in Kaneohe, Oahu, to participate in “Young Enthusiastic Shinshu Seekers” (YESS) Camp with young students from all over the state.

This year’s theme was “Know Your Roots”. Bishop Okano was one of the speakers. He gave Dharma lectures and led discussions on the lectures. The campers’ opinions on developing family, friendship and community were very stimulating and interesting.

This was the third time for me, but this year was much more enjoyable. The participants of this camp were all teenagers. In the past, I could not understand their language, but now, after living in Hilo for four years, I am able to hear their conversations and understand them. So, although they tired me out with their limitless energy, I enjoyed the fun and community time with them. They learned Jodo Shinshu teachings and exchanged their own ideas as they developed relationships with one another. They frankly expressed their feelings and thoughts about many things.

If all the participants left Camp Kokokahi with the understanding of the importance of making good choices in life and reflecting upon the choices they make, I believe the camp was totally successful.

Camp Chair Reid Ueda stated, “Reflecting upon oneself is important to make the best choices in life. This reflection is about looking at the paths that we have traveled and choices we have made.” He ended his message to the teenage participants by saying, “Make good choices in life, and don’t be hasty. Take your time because these choices you make now can never be taken back.”

I would like to add that these choices will affect you forever. I hope our Hilo Betsuin students take this message to heart and make wise choices. Learning dharma lessons well will be for your own good because your life’s decisions and future will then be grounded in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.

If roots are well grounded and strong, a tree will be strong. Even if one leaves the temple for a while, he or she will always find his or her way back to Jodo Shinshu because of his or her strong roots in the Nembutsu teachings. Many young children come on Sundays because their parents insist. They may join Jr. YBA or Dharma School, and participate in activities because of their friends or parents. But while attending Sunday Family Service, Jr. YBA meetings, Scouting events, 4-H Club activities, or doing Judo or Kendo, our young people are learning Dharma lessons. All of this Dharma knowledge will eventually help to strengthen their roots in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. What is important is for each person to nurture his or her own heart according to the teachings of the Nembutsu. Buddhism will give them the strength to live their lives well in today’s world.

One thing that has greatly impressed me is how quickly our young people grow up. Just a year or two ago they were just children, only interested in playing. Now they are responsible and promising leaders. Now they are the ones looking after the young children. Our parents can be proud of their children. Watching their children grow up, parents may remember their own similar childhood experiences.

Reverend Ryosho Kondo, former Rinban of Hilo Betsuin, spent his ministerial life in Hilo spreading Jodo Shinshu teachings and in the community. His work affects me and my ministry today. I hope to be as open and accepting as Reverend Ryosho Kondo. I also hope to help the youth of our temple become aware of the significance of Buddhism in today’s society.

We have learned many things through generations of Jodo Shinshu practice in Hawaii. We should be eternally grateful to Shinran Shonin for giving us the true teachings of Buddhism which guide our lives in Hawaii. I would like to celebrate Gotan-E for what we are today. Namo Amida Butsu.