Please help to keep yourself and others safe during this time of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Bishop Matsumoto has sent out memos concerning Coronavirus. They are included below.
As Bishop Matsumoto says, "Be diligent, observant, careful, thoughtful, considerate and do not panic."
Please also check Honpa Hongwanji website for additional information.
A further reflection on our troubled nation from a Jodo Shinshu perspective
Today, further reflecting on the situation of racial discrimination and law enforcement in our nation which continue to, in some instances, involve violent acts and most tragically the continued loss of human life, may we go to the Buddha-Dharma for guidance. In Jodo Shinshu (or Shin Buddhism), the 18th Vow of Bodhisattva Dharmakara/Amida Buddha is the Primal Vow which unconditionally promises Supreme Enlightenment. But, currently, my thoughts also dwell on the significance of the 3rd Vow: “If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be the color of genuine gold, may I not attain the perfect Enlightenment.” Several of Bodhisattva Dharmakara’s 48 vows address the stark reality of samsara with suffering and inequality that is born from anger, greed and ignorance.
In Buddhism, the approach and goal is the advancement of each unenlightened being through a transformation of each person’s heart and mind culminating in the attainment of supreme enlightenment. In the case of a total and immediate transformation, the person becomes enlightened like Prince Siddhartha did to become Sakyamuni Buddha. In the case of a “spiritually foolish being” (bonbu) like myself, total positive transformation awaits at some future point. However, illuminated by Amida Buddha’s Light, there results a new awareness of oneself and the awareness of a Wisdom and Compassion which unconditionally embraces — the Buddha’s aspiration for the peace and happiness of all sentient beings.
On one hand, knowing that Amida Buddha’s Compassion reaches out to all nurtures within oneself the understanding that all life can be happy and at peace — thus, I can identify with those who are suffering/hurting as victims of ignorance facing inequality and discrimination. On the other hand, the Light of Wisdom allows me to relate even to those who are manifesting unwholesome actions by making me understand that if conditions were different, I might find myself in their shoes and unable to see life differently and how my actions were causing harm.
If we continue to see ourselves only in the polarity of exclusive opposites, we will remain divided and it will be difficult to come to resolution. There is a saying, that the wise seek neither victory nor defeat. This is an opportunity for both personal and societal transformation through critical self-reflection and compassionate action. Buddhist teachings have always addressed suffering and inequality, from the rejection of the caste system in India, to occupational discrimination in Japan, to support of LGBTQ rights in the United States, etc.
Today, we, the people, including the Buddhist Sangha in communities across our nation and the world, are particularly addressing the suffering of Black people. Black Lives Matter! As we bring about changes to the external conditions of our society with new laws, policies, procedures and reform, it is essential that we also address the deep causes of suffering which arise from ignorance and its manifestations, including arrogance, pride, self-centeredness and fear. Let me emphasize that it is the inner transformation of each of us that will result in true harmony and the lasting positive change that we seek. Each of us must change for a true transformation of our society, nation and world. We need a transformative revolution of our hearts and minds. This is how we will dismantle systemic racism and uplift those who have been left at the margins of our society for too long. As a Buddhist saying reminds us, “Human beings tend to move in the direction of their thoughts.”
However, it is indeed challenging to bring about the kind of awareness and change that we are speaking about on our own especially in this Last Dharma Age. Hence, the Pure Land Tradition speaks of Amida Buddha’s Light of Wisdom and Compassion which illuminates, nurtures and embraces. For a “spiritually foolish being” like myself, my ultimate transformation takes place at the end of my finite life with birth in the Pure Land of Enlightenment made possible by the Buddha’s Compassionate 18th Vow. Guidance and insight can be derived, however, on how I should try to live each day even in my unenlightened state of being by the Pure Land of Amida Buddha. Let me state clearly the intent is not to create the Pure Land on Earth, but we can gain a vision of what we should aspire to now and forever. The 3rd Vow addresses our tendency to discriminate based on skin color — racism — thus vows that all in the Pure Land will be of the same precious golden color. The color gold is not to be taken literally and is not implying that other colors are of lesser importance. Instead, the significance of gold is that almost universally it is appreciated and valued throughout the world as being very precious. I fully realize that this “spiritually foolish being,” Eric, is unable to live perfectly, but the Vows provide me with guidance on how I should try to live, that is, without discriminating, and in ways that help secure respect and equality for all. The Buddha-Dharma provides guidance, insight and encouragement.
As Shinran Shonin said in one of his letters, “One must seek to cast off the evil of this world and to cease doing wretched deeds; is what it means to reject the world and to live the nembutsu.” Let us deeply self-reflect and, while lamenting our imperfections and deeply appreciating Great Compassion which unconditionally embraces, gratefully respond by trying to live in a way that one and all — but especially the disadvantaged and those who have been denied fair access to happiness without fear, equal benefits and opportunities, and freedom — can live fulfilled lives.
In recognizing that “Black Lives Matter,” may we address the real enemies of anger, greed and ignorance (the root causes of suffering and inequality) and peacefully and thoughtfully transform the conditions which perpetuate suffering, inequality and the use of excessive force against the marginalized and minorities. Again, in grateful response to All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion, let us find ways we can contribute to be(com)ing a more peaceful, equitable, and harmonious world. Let us each ask ourselves “What can I do?”
As a closing reflection, please join me for “Our Pledge” by Gomonshu Kojun Ohtani.
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.
Namo Amida Butsu/Entrusting in All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion
Thank you. In gassho/anjali,
Rev. Eric Matsumoto, Bishop
June 17, 2020
Regarding the photo: 2015 photo: Bishop Matsumoto joins with other community leaders and members in a silent march around the Hawaii State Capitol following the June 17, 2015 murders in Charleston, South Carolina.
Credit: Charles St. Sure
Please share with others. As Shinran Shonin said, “May there be peace in the world and may the Buddha’s teaching spread!”
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Headquarters Updates, 2020
Honpa Hongwanji Headquarters Updates
Messages from Bishop Eric Matsumoto
A Humble Reflection
(following the shootings at the Pittsburgh Synagogue
From the Office of the Bishop
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, Office of the Bishop, would like to express our loving thoughts and condolences to those who are, directly and indirectly, most affected by the tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which took 11 precious lives. At this time, let us avail ourselves to All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion for guidance and comfort.
In the Smaller Sukhavativyuha Sutra, it mentions the Chaotic period of the Five Defilements in which tainted views, rejection of moral laws and the Law of cause-conditions-and-effect and an increase in anger, greed and ignorance arise, to name a few. Once again, we are made to painfully acknowledge that we live in a world in which confusion and chaos abounds and immense suffering prevails as we must confront the tragedy which struck on October 27, 2018. As we deal with the shock, loss and grief, may we seek guidance in the Wisdom of Enlightenment so that we may all understand the oneness of all Life and may we seek assurance in Unconditional Compassion so that we are motivated to non-violent ways and inspired by the saying from the Dhammapada “Hatred is not overcome by hatred. Hatred is overcome by love. This is an ancient truth.”
On November 1, 2018, a special “Prayers for Pittsburgh” was held at Temple Emanu-El Honolulu to which a very diverse cross section of the community gathered to express sympathy and also show support for the Jewish Community. It was a service to honor those who were killed and also a time to comfort to those most affected according the Rabbi Ken Aronowitz. At the Service, prayers to the Divine were offered, the 11 individuals were dearly remembered and a touching Muslim response was also shared. Amidst the sorrow and sadness, there was also encouragement on how to transition from the grief and loss. As part of the Service, “When I Die” by Merrit Malloy was read. In part, it reads “When I die give what’s left of me away…And when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me…Love doesn’t die, people do. So when all that’s left of me is love, Give me away.” I was most touched by it. This reading tries to transform the tragic loss of life and its affect into something which helps to positively transform other people’s lives.
A constant theme throughout the evening was hope. That, one day, there would be peace, harmony and contentment for all people. Despite the challenges we face living in samsara we must not give up. Just as Great Compassion or Love has not given up on us, we must have hope. The source of our hope is Wisdom and Compassion and our endeavor towards a more peaceful and harmonious world is our grateful response to that All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion.
Namo Amida Butsu/Entrusting in the Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Infinite Light.
Eric Matsumoto, Bishop
From the Office of the Bishop,
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii
Statement Against the Separation of Families
June 20, 2018
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
In just a few words, the above, which is found on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, summarizes for many around the world, past, present and future, what America represents, promises, is and should be. As human beings, as people, we all need hope. As a nation, are we going back on our promise to the world? I hope not.
From a Buddhist perspective, both the process and end result are important. The procedure of how matters are handled is as important as the outcome. While the current policies of our nation do not outright deny individuals and families entry into the United States, the procedure must be more compassionate and should not be tearing families apart. The bond between parent(s) and child(ren) is one of the most, if not the most, precious relationships a person can have especially when young. The policy of Zero Tolerance is too extreme. As Americans, I believe, we have pride in that we are a just and fair nation. We may not be perfect, but in our interactions around the globe, we have tried to uphold this standard which is becoming of a world leader.
Our Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition has a long history of valuing human life, seeing the importance of relationships including with the natural environment and emphasizing inclusiveness as evidenced by the Great Vows of Amida (Amitabha-Amitayus) Buddha and writings of Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin, our foremost spiritual leaders.
Although the circumstances may have been a little different, I also draw from the past experiences of a segment of our Buddhist membership who, because of their (Japanese) ethnic and national origins, had to unfairly experience separation from family during the last great world war. There was, and for some still remain, so much pain and trauma from the separation. It is a circumstance that should not be repeated for anyone. Is it not one of our basic understandings in America that the family is the backbone of our nation? We need strong individuals and families being guided by universal values to be a better nation and world.
A quote from the Metta Sutra reads, “May all life be happy. May they be joyous and live in safety. All life, whether weak or strong, in high or middle or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born. May all life be happy. Let none deceive another nor despise any life in any state; Let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another. Even as a mother at the risk of her life watches over and protects her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all life, suffusing love over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit; so let us cultivate an infinite goodwill toward the whole world.”
As such, with this statement, I express my lament and express my ardent wish that we rescind the Zero Tolerance Policy and its ramifications which result in separating families. May we become a more just, fair and compassionate nation.
Eric Matsumoto, Bishop
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii
Photo by US Government (U.S. Customs and Border Control) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. source »
Headquarters Updates, 2018