2021 New Year’s message from Bishop Eric Matsumoto

Bishop Eric Matsumoto in ministerial vestments

Nurtured by Amida Buddha’s Light of Wisdom and Compassion

Our Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Theme & Slogan for 2021 is “Building Healthy Sanghas: Nurturing Empathy and Respect.” It is a timely slogan especially as we begin a new year. When we take a moment to reflect on the situation of our nation and our society with the Coronavirus Pandemic, racial discrimination and even the climatic changes that are occurring on a global scale, it is not hard to see what our world needs is more respect and empathy.

The Larger Sutra provides wise consul “People in the world…should truly respect and love each other, refraining from hatred and envy. They should share things with others, refraining from greed and miserliness. They should always be friendly in speech and expression, refraining from quarrel and dispute.” Unfortunately, it laments, “…people in the world…do not believe that performing good deeds brings good results, or that seeking the Way leads them to attaining it.”

However, all is not lost in that the Great Compassionate Light of Amida Buddha illuminates, nurtures and unconditionally embraces the spiritually foolish being who cannot completely break free from blind passions and attain enlightenment on one’s own. In the Larger Sutra it says “Sentient beings who encounter this light have the three defilements swept away, and they become soft and gentle in body and mind. They leap and dance with joy, and the good mind arises in them. When those suffering pain and travail in the three evil realms see this light, they all find respite and become free of afflictions. After their lives have ended, they will all gain emancipation.” Thus, I believe, the late Jodo Shinshu Scholar Rev. Jitsuen Kakehashi was able to say, “When we look at the world with an ordinary mind, it is distinctly divided into things we love and things we hate, but with the mind of the Tathagata, we are made to know that everyone is equally the Tathagata’s indispensably important child. From that standpoint, we realize that we are all brothers and sisters and fellow human beings. Then slowly but steadily, 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.” In this way, thanks to the Working of Other Power, we begin to slowly live in a new awareness and are assured the attainment of Enlightenment at the end of this finite life with our birth in the Pure Land.

His Eminence Gomonshu Kojun Ohtani says, “By listening to the Primal Vow and how it was established by Amida Tathagata, we are enabled to become conscious of our own ignorance and self-oriented inclinations, and through such awareness, we naturally become gentle in word and deed in our efforts of minimizing our egoistic way of thinking.” “Even though our efforts may pale in comparison to the Buddha’s Compassion, we are at least guided in the proper direction by the Buddha Dharma.” Let us take to heart his words.

To conclude, I would like to share His Eminence’s “Our Pledge.” The original was written in Japanese and his expressed wish was that it be translated by each locale in a way that would resonate with the people of that region. Thus, this is Hawaii’s Version (which can also be sung as it has also been put to music by BJ Soriano). In a few short verses, it captures the essence of a healthy Hongwanji Sangha which recites 4

the Nembutsu in awareness, joy and gratitude of Great Wisdom and Compassion, and emphasizes respect and empathy.

Our Pledge

Reaching out to others,
I will share a smile and gentle words.
Just like the Buddha, who always calls out with Aloha.

Breaking away from my greed, anger and ignorance,
I will try to live in peace and harmony.
Just like the Buddha, who shares tranquility and kindness with all.

Moving forward from self-centeredness,
I will share a life of joy and sorrow with others.
Just like the Buddha, whose caring heart always embraces us.

Realizing that I live because of others,
I will strive to live life to the fullest with an attitude of gratitude.
Just like the Buddha, who promises to embrace us all.

Thank you, Happy New Year and Namo Amida Butsu.

In gassho/anjali,
Eric Matsumoto, Bishop

See Also
2021 New Year’s Greetings from His Eminence Gomonshu Kojun Ohtani
2021 New Year’s Message from President Warren Tamamoto