Namo Amida Butsu & Happy New Year!
As we begin the New Year, let me express my warmest Aloha and Best Wishes to you for a meaningful and peaceful New Year. The new year 2016 is significant in that it is the beginning of “The Commemoration of the Accession of the Jodo Shinshu Tradition” by our 25th Spiritual Leader His Eminence Kojun Ohtani whose vision is outlined in the Proclamation/Letter he issued in June 2014 with the words “The nembutsu teaching that is based on Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow remains unchanged, regardless of the changing times and society. However, the methods for transmitting and sharing it needs to evolve and adapt according to social changes. Now is the time for our Hongwanji institution to utilize our collective wisdom and knowledge for considering approaches to convey the Buddha Dharma to our contemporaries today.”
In Hawaii, our theme and slogan for 2016 reads “…we create a new vision which will plan for the future, and create engagement with our members and the community.” As I reflected, I thought of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara. The Bodhisattva Dharmakara had an aspiration. A new vision, if you will. According to Shinran Shonin, it was a shift from Self Power to Other Power or the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment through the (Buddha’s) Other Power of Great Compassion. This new vision was expressed by the 48 Vows, in particular the 18th Vow, and the Pure Land of Enlightenment to which one and all are welcome. Now that the vision was clear, it had to be made real and known to others. Thus, as we know, the Bodhisattva Dharmakara endeavored to become Amida Buddha or Namo Amida Butsu, an All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion, to share the message of the Nembutsu Teachings. Amida Buddha created engagement with all sentient beings by sending forth the various Buddhas, like Shakyamuni Buddha, to share the message of Great Unconditional Compassion. As we become aware of this Great Compassion, finding ourselves embraced by it, with great joy we join the countless Buddhas of the Universe in praise of the wondrous vision of Bodhisattva Dharmakara/Amida Buddha. His Eminence encourages “jishin kyo ninshin” or to “secure our own entrusting heart to the Dharma, guiding others to the same path.”
In a similar fashion, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii must embrace the vision to transform into a 21st Century internationally minded spiritual organization. A Kyodan which is more in sync with today’s world and times so that it can better meet the needs of all members and the society-at-large, and interactively with innovation, offer the message of Amida Buddha’s All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion to all people, all life, and all existence. For this purpose, various Hawaii Kyodan Committees have been challenged with various tasks to bring about a transformation, but the greatest shift or change which must take place, first and foremost, is the one that occurs in each of our minds.
As Jodo Shin Buddhists, let us respond to Amida Buddha’s Unconditional Compassion by reciting the Nembutsu of Awareness, Joy, and Gratitude, and also endeavor in gratitude to foster a more peaceful and harmonious world beginning with my own self and our own Kyodan/Sangha. Our limitations as bonbu are evident, but may we aspire to be that Kyodan/Sangha that the Dharma describes, and makes the Buddha smile in acknowledgement of our efforts to try to be better. Again, in response to Buddha’s benevolence, I, together with our State President Mr. Pieper Toyama, humbly ask for your support and cooperation. May we all go to the Buddha Dharma for guidance! Entrusting in the Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Infinite Light.
Bishop Eric Matsumoto
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii