March 14, 2018
Joint statement by Honpa
Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii's
Office of the Bishop and Committee on Social Concerns on
Gun Violence and Mass Shootings
We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, their families, and the entire school community. As senseless gun violence continues to claim thousands of lives annually in the United States and cause untold grief and suffering, we are moved to contribute perspectives on this critical issue as Buddhists and as followers of the Jodo Shinshu faith tradition.
We begin by acknowledging our necessarily limited and imperfect understanding. Like any institution or individual in a position to address gun violence even indirectly, we need guidance. In Buddhism, we seek guidance from the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (our extended community of fellow travelers). We hereby share some of the guidance we find for addressing the issue of gun violence and offer some recommended actions.
Causes and conditions. The Buddha taught that everything that exists and occurs arises from prior causes and conditions. Acts of gun violence arise out of complex sets of causes and conditions rather than from some inexplicable evil. This concept gives hope that with right understanding and action, we can affect causes and conditions in ways that will reduce gun violence.
We are encouraged by the commitment and initiative of young students across the country who are insisting that our government institutions address the crisis of gun violence. Their actions are already creating conditions more favorable to enacting sensible and responsible restrictions. May they find the guidance and strength they need to maintain poise, eloquence, and determination in pursuit of change.
Right understanding. The Noble Eightfold Path is the Buddha's prescription for liberation from suffering, and right understanding is one of the eight components. We must seek to understand why the epidemic of gun violence in the United States is occurring. To this end, we support lifting restrictions that prevent the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence. We urge Congress to provide funding for the CDC to do this work.
The Middle Path. A related Buddhist teaching that is likewise helpful to consideration of gun violence and how our society might respond is the Middle Path. This is a path that avoids extremes, allowing a dispassionate vantage point from which to better observe opposing sides and grow our understanding. Between extremes of absolute control and absolute freedom lies a middle path of practical reality.
A convincing case may be made that the United States has strayed from the middle path when it comes to guns, veering to an extreme of permissiveness. We support pursuing corrective measures by our elected representatives and other officials to restore balance. Among such measures may be reenacting a ban on assault rifles, raising the age minimums for gun purchases, strengthening background checks, and removing loopholes that allow gun sellers and buyers to bypass checks. Gun laws in the state of Hawaii provide good examples in some areas.
While sensible gun regulations are a key element of addressing gun violence in this country and should be pursued immediately, addressing root causes is fundamental to achieving lasting peace in our communities.
Amida Buddha's Wisdom and Compassion & Actions and Thoughts. The roots of our actions are in our thoughts. If our minds are consumed with thoughts and feelings of alienation, rejection, anger, and misguided notions of gender and power, our actions may be antisocial and possibly violent. Conversely, if our minds are awakened to the oneness of existence and the all embracing Wisdom and Compassion of Amida Buddha, our mental orientation is one of gratitude, appreciation, acceptance, and helping. In this case, there is less chance of violent thoughts taking root and being expressed in actions.
Interconnectedness. Buddhism teaches that we are all connected to each other through a vast web of connections. This means that each one of us can help to bring about peace through our thoughts, words, and actions wherever we may be — for example, our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods. It is up to us to observe where the societal net is fraying and where individuals may perceive that their connection has been lost. In these cases, we can reach out to those who are suffering. Through our smile, kind words, deep listening, and/or counsel, we can help manifest the compassion that embraces them.
Deep self-reflection and deeper insight. Let us all try to connect with people who are feeling rejected, ignored, or bullied. Let us all reflect upon our attachment to the "rightness" of our views and seek to understand other points of view. Let us all help each other adjust to change in a constantly changing world. Let us all strive to strengthen our society by better balancing freedom with responsibility. Guided by deeper insight, let us all improve our communities.
Gomonshu Kojun Ohtani is the spiritual head of our Jodo Shinshu tradition. On the final day of a series of services in 2017 marking his accession to the role, the new Gomonshu said, "The sense of security of being embraced in the Buddha’s compassion becomes the support in our daily life and empowers us to become actively engaged in society." It is in this spirit that we offer this statement on gun violence.
Namo Amida Butsu
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii is the umbrella organization for Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in the islands. Our mission is to share the living Teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism so that all beings may enjoy lives of harmony, peace, and gratitude.
Statement by Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Office of the Bishop and Committee on Social Concerns on President Trump’s Executive Order on Refugees and Immigration
On January 27, 2017, the Office of the President of the United States of America issued an executive order that severely restricts immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The order also suspends all refugee admission to the United States for 120 days and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii expresses its concern that such action, temporary or otherwise, appears to ban a class of people based on religion and/or nationality and is not consistent with the values upon which the United States of America is founded. Such action which applies in a blanket manner to those of the Muslim Tradition raises fear that history is repeating itself. Many people of our own Buddhist religious tradition, because of the ethnicity and nationality of a large portion of our members, experienced discrimination and incarceration following an executive order during WW II.
While we understand the importance of reducing terroristic threats through stricter screening procedures for entry into the United States, our government should not isolate and target entire groups based on religion, ethnicity, and/or nationality. It is the belief of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii that our own security as a nation is inextricably linked with the security of peoples around the world. Our policies should help relieve the suffering of all people, including those of Muslim-majority countries.
Guided by Wisdom and Compassion, may we as individuals, communities, and a nation refrain from actions that cause divisiveness and instead act in ways that lead to peace, harmony, and safety for all peoples.
Let us consider...
As we witness what is unfolding in our Nation after the 2016 Elections, there is room for concern as emotions and feelings run high, but let us have faith in ourselves as residents of America and also as humanity.
For me, the wise counsel of Prince Shotoku comes to mind. Prince Shotoku lived in a period of uncertainty and needed to unite various factions so that the country could be unified, better organized and prosper. He mentioned some guiding principles which are still important for us, today, to consider. As Article 1 in his 17-Article Constitution, he emphasized the value of harmony in society with the words “Harmony is to be valued.” He sought harmony and collaboration among the various individuals and factions that were divided and wanted them to work together towards a common goal, a unified nation. Prince Shotoku realized how we, many times, each tend to emphasize and focus on our own viewpoints and disregard that of others to the point of not even lending an ear. He realized that if we each continue to do this we would get nowhere as no discussion could even begin. The Prince was very astute and sensitive to the fact that, too often, we are driven by our egos and also our emotions and feelings like anger, fear, doubt and arrogance. Thus, in Article 10, he shares his wisdom when he says,
Let us cease from wrath and refrain from angry looks. Nor let us be resentful when others differ from us. For all people have hearts and each heart has its own leanings. Their right is our wrong, and our right is their wrong. We are not unquestionably sages, nor are they unquestionably fools. Both of us are simply ordinary people. How can any person lay down a rule by which to distinguish right from wrong? For we are all, one with another, wise and foolish, like a ring which has no end. From A Guide to Japanese Buddhism-BuddhaNet www.buddhanet.net/nippon/nippon_partIII.html
He sincerely revered The Three Treasures of Buddhism which also speaks of the middle way in which we avoid extremes. As the Historic Buddha shared if the strings of a lute are too tight it will break, on the other hand, if the strings are too loose the lute will not produce its music. What is needed are mutual respect, balance, trust, participation and collaboration and adherence to the virtue of non-violence by all of us. Moreover, we should see the value of interdependence by realizing that we are all interrelated and interconnected as Indra’s Net, beautifully and profoundly, shares. It is a fact that we affect each other locally, nationally, internationally and even galactically through our thoughts, words and actions and how we approach a matter is just as important as the goal or objective. The intent of this message is not to dissuade people to express their thoughts through peaceful rallies and methods. As we face our challenges (to alleviate suffering and promote peace, happiness and people’s welfare) as a Nation, this message is suggesting that we must consider ways, approaches and outcomes which emphasize the oneness and equality of life with all its diversity, foster mutual respect and harmony amongst all, and will nurture unity in our Nation and the World from today and into the future. In Hawaii, I believe, the Spirit of Aloha will guide us in our endeavors. As a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, I say, may we (all) be guided and inspired by an All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion.
Let us “Mutually reflect, respect and interact.”
Bishop, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii
“Your suffering is my suffering. Your happiness is my happiness.”
The words above, attributed to the Buddha, are an expression of a central tenet of Buddhist teachings: interdependence. Interdependence means that everything occurs as the result of causes and conditions, and, just as importantly, that anything can change or disappear as causes and conditions change or pass away.
A beautiful metaphor for interdependence is Indra's Net, an image from Hindu mythology used in Buddhist teaching. Indra's Net is a vast web of connections in which each knot in the net is a multifaceted jewel reflecting all other jewels. We are like those jewels: we are who we are only because of everyone and everything else in the web of life. This metaphor helps us understand how we are all connected in both direct and unseen ways, and how, through our own thoughts and actions, we can change the world.
If we have a home, the Buddha's teachings help us realize that, given a different set of causes and conditions, we could easily be homeless. Similarly, we recognize that comforts in our lives are not produced by our effort alone. "What comes to a person comes to him because of a combination of causes and conditions; it can be kept by him only temporarily and, therefore, he must not use it selfishly or for unworthy purposes" (The Teaching of Buddha). In the Buddhist teachings, offering shelter is among the seven kinds of offering that may be practiced even by those who are not wealthy. The seven offerings also include a warm glance, a smile, and kind words — so very applicable to encountering the houseless.
Another central concept in Buddhism is all-embracing compassion. The true compassion of the Buddha asks neither who you are, nor how rich, poor, wise, or ignorant you are. All lives are perfectly accepted as they are, each one precious and irreplaceable.
The value of all lives is illustrated by the story of King Sibi, a Jataka tale about a previous life of the Buddha. One day, King Sibi was walking in the countryside. A pigeon came down to him and pleaded, "A hawk is after me! Please, save my life!" Just then, a hawk flew down and said, "Please, give me the pigeon! Without it I will starve!" The king pondered what to do. To allow the hawk its prey would mean the death of the pigeon; to save the pigeon would mean the death of the hawk. In order to save both lives, the king decided to give his own flesh to the hawk, an amount equal in weight to the pigeon. And so, the king's attendants brought a scale and a knife and the king began to put pieces of his flesh on the scale. But no matter how much he added, the scale would not balance. Only when he climbed on the scale himself did the scale balance. The king realized the truth of life: that all life is precious and of equal value. He became a Buddha and committed himself to saving lives.
A Buddhist perspective on homelessness begins with deepening our understanding of interdependence and interconnectedness, the nondiscriminating and unconditional nature of the Buddha's compassion, and the preciousness of each individual and all life. Whether we picture ourselves as jewels in Indra's Net or links in Buddha's golden chain of love, we understand that our thoughts and actions affect not only our own happiness or unhappiness, but also that of others (The Golden Chain).
We do not walk the Buddhist path alone. We are guided and supported by our fellow travelers on the path. We become the Sangha, the community that follows the Buddha and the Buddha's teachings, or Dharma. By coming together as the Sangha, we are able to manifest the Dharma and embody Buddha’s love and kindness in our lives and in our community, including those experiencing homelessness.
As Buddhists, we strive to see things the way they really are: as the Buddha sees them. To the Buddha, all beings are enlightened, shining and brilliant like diamonds. Through the Buddha’s compassionate working, we are awakened to our own self-centered and judgmental view of others. We begin to understand that our vision of life is filtered through ignorance, indifference, hatred, disharmony, discrimination, inequality, and ego. Seeing as we do through this selfish filter, our eyes turn away from homelessness as if it were somebody else's problem. But, guided by Buddha’s eyes of loving-kindness, our eyes can be opened and transformed into kind and gentle ones, eyes that see the suffering of others, because we know we are part of the cause of that suffering. The actions that naturally flow from this transformation create new causes and conditions that will inevitably change our society and our world.
This statement was prepared on behalf of the Social Concerns Committee, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, by committee members Reverend Satoshi Tomioka (Hawaii Betsuin) and David Atcheson (Hawaii Betsuin).
· The Collected Works of Shinran, Volume II, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, 1997
· Jodo Shinshu: A Guide, Hongwanji International Center, 2004
· The Teaching of Buddha, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, 2005
· "The Golden Chain," Dorothy Hunt
A Humble Request for a Moment of Reflection
Dallas, Orlando, Istanbul, Medina, Paris, Charleston, Oak Creek, San Bernardino and the list goes on and on. Each day, I start by watching the news for a few minutes to see what has happened in the world since I went to bed the previous night. Needless to say, we have many problems and issues which plague us. While mass killings, whether motivated by anger, greed, hatred, racism, self-centeredness, discrimination or any other reason (cause), is only one form of violence(effect) which troubles our world the recent increase in such incidents is a source of concern. It seems no place is safe or immune not even places deemed sacred and holy by many around the world.
As we watch the news on TV, listen to the radio, read the paper or glance at posts on social media, we see so much suffering and needless, in my opinion, killing happening around the globe. But, what can we, what can I do? In my humble view, a first step is to consistently remind ourselves (the whole world) of the value of equality, harmony, non-violence, humility, mutual respect and preciousness of life. To be sure, we are not perfect human beings. We have negative thoughts which at times do surface in hurtful ways, but at the same time may we be guided and inspired by an All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion which encourages us to self-reflect and to try to respond to situations and circumstances in non-violent ways instead of reacting. In Buddhism, we would say let us be guided by the Dharma or Teachings.
As Buddhists, we are familiar with the sayings “Hatred is not overcome by hatred. Hatred is overcome by love,” “Revenge can be overcome by only abandoning revenge.” “The Wise seek neither victory nor defeat.” “May all beings be happy and safe.” Further in the Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra, it says “All people of the world…should respect and love each other and should not hate and envy each other. They should share their possessions with each other, without being greedy, always speak gently, and live harmoniously without hurting each other.” The Great Pure Land Master T’an-luan said, “Because they are the same in practicing the nembutsu…all within the four seas, no matter how distant, are brothers and sisters.” Rennyo Shonin is known to have said, “Since we equally receive the benevolence of the Buddha (Amida), and equally have shinjin, all in the four oceans are brothers and sisters.” In Buddhism, everyone and everything possess or has access to Buddha-nature, the potential to become enlightened, and thus one and all should be equally respected for that potential.
My request, on the next available occasion, be it the next Sunday Service, weekly or monthly service or any temple gathering, may I ask that we, as Jodo Shin Buddhists, please take a moment to reflect on the world including ourselves and the Dharma. As to an exact action, whether it be a Dharma Message by a minister, doing a selected reflective reading appropriate for the purpose, or simply the lightening of a candle in tribute to remember and honor those who died, are directly suffering from an incident and those who acted so courageously to help others, I leave that up to each temple and/or sangha. My last thought is I may not be able to change someone else, but with Amida Buddha’s Light of Wisdom illuminating me (awakening me to my ignorance) and Amida Buddha’s Light of Joy nurturing me (transforming my anger into joy), may I come to some realizations about myself and contribute to harmony and peace in the world in grateful response to Wisdom and Compassion. Namo Amida Butsu.
Sincerely in gassho, Eric Matsumoto, Bishop, July 9, 2016
Official Announcement of New Official Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Website
“Go forth for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good and the happiness of gods and men.” (omit) “Teach the Dharma which is beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle and beautiful at the end. Proclaim both the letter and the spirit of the holy life completely fulfilled and perfectly pure.”
Our new Website and Facebook page is one manifestation of our 2016 Theme and Slogan in which “…we create a new vision which will plan for the future and create engagement with our members and the community.” It is also following the guidance of our new Spiritual Leader Sennyo Gomonshu, His Eminence Kojun Ohtani, who said, “The nembutsu teachings 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.”
Once again, please visit yourself and share our Website www.hongwanjihawaii.com and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Honpa-Hongwanji-Hawaii-528681867268518/ with as many people as possible. As Shinran Shonin said, “May there be peace in the world and may the Buddha’s teaching spread!”
Bishop Eric Matsumoto
July 1, 2016