Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
Reverend or Shaku
As some of you know I have requested that, if you want to address with a title, that you do so with the word “Shaku.”
I understand why the title, “Reverend” is and was used as a title for Shin ministers, especially after WW II, in an effort to make Jodoshinshu Buddhism appear less foreign to the general population. A practical move in light of the lingering prejudice after the war.
For me though, today, it is a question of definitions and I speak solely for myself here.
Reverend means, one who is to be “revered,” while Shaku, a Sanskrit word, means, “disciple of Buddha”. You might recognize the word from your Buddhist name if you have received one.
While my ego would dearly love to be “revered” and be “highly respected”,
I know that I am not worthy of such a title, this is not false modesty, this is fact.
I feel that such a title fosters separation between myself and the rest of the Sangha, as if I were someone special, I am not. I am, as Shinran put it, a dogyo or dobo, a fellow traveler on the Shinshu path. I am travelling with all of you as part of the Sangha.
I am not trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill here. I am not trying to start a movement or anything, nor do I think of myself as a monk, I am a Shin Buddhist priest.
Any respect I am afforded by anyone, I expect to earn, and not receive it just because I wear a black robe and wagesa. As far as any other ministers are concerned, I shall address them in whichever form they are addressed.
I hope this clarifies why I chose, Shaku.
In Gassho, Art Kaufmann
2020 Minister Messages
Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
Openness is the second part of this year’s motto, the first was generosity. What do we mean by openness? I guess it could mean openness to new experiences. Here a Lihue Hongwanji Mission we are trying out a new form of Board of Directors after years and years of the previous form we had. We did not have to but it seems to have its benefits in size and efficiency, so we decided to try it.
The old style Board consisted of about 25 people yet they were open enough to try this new form. Of course there are folks who might say “if it aint broke, don’t fix it. I have seen that attitude in some pretty surprising places.
Openness can also refer to learning new things. When I was studying Aikido my instructor was very wise about how he introduced it. He knew that many of us new students had practiced other arts, sometimes for years, but he asked us to leave all of that knowledge outside the dojo before we came in. In other words he wanted us to nurture an “open mind”, a form of openness to learning this unfamiliar art so as not to create confusion. We later learned just what an important principle an open mind was in the art of Aikido. To be able to accept what comes to us as martial artists or human beings.
My teacher thinks that if the principles that guide the learning of a martial art are not applicable to everyday life, it was not worth studying, a remarkable thought!
Openness can also be shown in the adoption of new ideas. There is a committee that is working of possible changes to the service order, that could be interesting.
Ms. BJ Soriano of the Big Island heard the people complaining about the old songs we have been singing for years in the temple and she’s been doing something about it by writing new ones and though it takes practice, people are open to learning them.
Many of the sangha are concerned about dwindling members in our temples and express the need for new members. Now this can be a form of openness if it is an inclusive statement, allowing for the entrance of different ethnicities. Some people will say they want new members but what they are really saying is we they want new members like us, (ie Japanese Americans). This attitude can be understood on some level, but if you look at the Buddha’s teaching, regardless of what country any particular country they were developed in, you can see that the teaching Shakyamuni Buddha left behind were universal, for all of us. The Buddha’s Dharma deals with the suffering of all humankind, not just Indian, or Chinese, or Korean or Japanese suffering, but of all human suffering.
I guess, generally speaking I am talking about openness to change, in all its forms.
To do this we all have to step beyond the influence of the Three Poisons of Greed, Anger and Ignorance. Let us all strive to do so so that we may develop openness in our hearts and minds.
Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
We recently had a meeting of the Commission of Buddhist Education and the topic of generosity came up. When we think of generosity we usually think in terms of donation of some kind, maybe money or something physical. We were thinking in terms of those kinds of things that do not cost or involve money. Each of us was encouraged to write down a few things that were acts of generosity.
What came of this was some very simple thing we usually take for granted, like a smile or a cheerful greeting. Such a gesture can turn a persons’ day from not so good to better. It is sometimes difficult to tell what kind of day a person in may be having. They may have had a problem with a customer or their boss or with something at home so your smile, maybe some talk story might lift them up a little and neither costs anything.
Someone said, listening. As you know listening is a major practice in Shin Buddhism. There are times when listening can be a very comforting and generous thing to do. It can be done anywhere and if you can empathize a little or put yourself in someone else’s shoes, that would be all the better. When my PTSD about Viet Nam emerged, the VA, at that time, was farming patients out to civilian Psychologists. On my first visit when the doctor asked me what was going on in my life, it was like a dam burst in me. I started motor mouthing to him about what was going on in my life and it was quite a bit. After an hour and a half, I finally to a breather and the doctor then asked me, “How do you feel now?” I felt like a ton of bricks had been removed from my back, I was, for the first time in a long time, completely relaxed. That is what his listening to me did for me, I was amazed. This was in Denver and I realized that I had had anyone to talk to for a long time. Listening can be a beautiful gift to someone, never underestimate that even if it is just talk story. I think that talk story is Hawaii’s gift to the world. A simple act like that can make a person’s day, make them feel welcome and put them at ease.
How about visiting someone in the hospital? When I had had my heart attack and went to Wilcox, everything happened so quickly that I did not even have a chance to call the temple president to tell her what was happening and were I was. By early evening I was on a plane bound for Straub on O’ahu. A couple of days after my operation, I had a visitor, someone I knew from my Hilo days and he brought me a beautiful flowers. I cannot tell you how good it felt to have that visitor come see me. I shall always be grateful for that visit. I am sure that there were others who would have visited me but it all happened so fast that before I knew it I was making a reservation to return to Kauai. I did receive a great many get well wishes though which encouraged me to get better.
I know sometimes the people we visit in hospital may not be conscious or be in a coma. It is said that someone who is in a coma is able to hear the voices around them, so, you can still offer words of encouragement for their recovery.
When I was working at the Hilo Betsuin I remember an incident where I was walking from my residence to my home, deep in thought, when I passed a few members talking story by the social hall. One of the men saw me and said “Hey, come here, why you in such a hurry?” and started talking story with me. I had not realized how stressed I must have looked but when he called me over and talked story, I soon relaxed. It made my day a little easier to go through thanks to him.
There are many, many forms of generosity that do not cost a cent but can have lasting effect on people, think about it.
Happy New Year 2020
Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
Ondogyo, Ondobo Akemashite Omedeto Gosaimasu!
Friends and fellow travelers on the Nembutsu Path, my wife and I along with our family would like to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
Your efforts and dedication to the Lihue Hongwanji Mission over the past year have demonstrated the strength and dedication of our Sangha. The maintenance and improvements made to our temple and its facilities by the Hosha Gang and friends of the temple have, and will, benefit the Lihue Temple as well as the community in which we live. The gifts and support of our BWA, the staff and parents of the Lihue Pre-School have helped to bring the reality of the Buddha’s teachings of interrelations, interdependence into this life we are living for all to see. The further support of our activities of the Ki Aikido Club and the Kendo School are gratefully acknowledged by our Temples’ Membership.
As we enter the year 2020 I have the privilege of being in the second year of being your Resident Minister here at Lihue. I continue to learn and grow in the process of becoming a Minister and, as promised, I have made mistakes but not without learning from them. I hope I have also contributed positively to ways to the life of this Temple.
This New Year will bring both challenges and celebrations to our Sangha as temple facilities are improved and we also acknowledge the 120th Anniversary of the Lihue Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. I humbly ask for your continued guidance and support as we work together to fulfill our goals for this coming year of 2020.
As we live this life of change, let us do so joyously and with Thanksgiving for the gifts of Infinite Wisdom and Boundless Compassion of Amida Buddha and the gift of the Pureland Teachings which support our spiritual lives.
Thank you, Happy New Year and Namuamidabutsu.
Humbly in Gassho,