President’s New Year’s Message
Happy New Year! Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu! Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
I hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and in good spirits as we enter the New Year, 2022. Last year, as I wrote my message, we had reason to hope that the year 2021 would be one in which we would have control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, millions of people in our country (and more around the world) are still unvaccinated and therefore susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Also, the natural world is unpredictable – with new variants of the coronavirus appearing in different areas of the world. We do not know what effect the new variants will have on the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that the vaccines have proven to be very effective at preventing or reducing the chance of developing severe COVID-19 disease. They are also proven to be very safe in all of the trials and young children starting at the age of 5 can now be safely vaccinated. The COVID-19 situation is much better than a year ago at this time and it is very likely that it will continue to get better.
Our theme and slogan for 2022, “Building Healthy Sanghas: Connecting with Others” is particularly appropriate for 2022. Buddhism teaches that everything is interconnected. No one is completely independent of other people or the environment surrounding them. We are connected with and dependent on everything around us, for example the the air that we breathe. As we carefully re-open our temples, letʻs all make an extra effort to connect with our Sangha, especially those we have not seen for a year or two.
The past two years have been difficult for all of our temples. At least one temple (Papaaloa Hongwanji) will close its temple doors permanently in 2022 and consolidate with Honohina Hongwanji. The COVID-19 pandemic was not the only factor in Papaaloa Hongwanjiʻs closure, but it certainly hastened the process. Buddhism teaches us that all things are impermanent, everything changes, and that “the root of suffering is attachment”. However, Shinran reminded us that we are all “bonbu” – foolish beings. We still have attachments. So it is still difficult for us to have many fond memories of a place and time in our past and not feel sadness that it will not be there the next time we visit. We can still be grateful that Papaaloa Hongwanji shared Buddhist values with the Hamakua community for over 100 years and during that time planted the seeds of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in many people, including this writer. Namo Amida Butsu.
As I reflect on our theme, “Building Healthy Sanghas: Connecting with Others”, I start with being grateful that Amida Buddha, through his Teachings, is with me and wants me to be happy. I am grateful that I was introduced to Buddhism by the good fortune of being born to a wonderful family in a little plantation town on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Grateful that Papaaloa Hongwanji was built by the issei and nisei in spite of severe financial hardship. Grateful that Aiea Hongwanji was there for us when Claire and I were looking for a temple for our family. Grateful that I have made a connection with so many of you through our invovement in the Hawaii Sangha. Letʻs continue to nurture these connections.
Warren Tamamoto MD
President, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii