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
Although the Vernal and Autumnal equinoxes are seen as good times for reflection I think any time can be a good time. If you observe your reactions to things or situations, especially emotional reactions, that is a signal that something needs reflecting on.
The news coverage of the pandemic and its effects on its victims has been graphic and powerful at times.
There was a story about when New York City was in crisis mode and the governor put out a plea to health care workers all over the country who were not engaged in COVID19 work to come to NY and help them past the crisis they were involved in. The response was immediate and health care workers from around the country started going to New York City to help. Initially some of the volunteers went for the pay, which was substantial. One couple said that about the pay but then said when they saw the suffering of their patients, all thoughts of money disappeared.
Seeing this story produced a huge swell of gratitude and brought tears to my eyes. New York City is my home town although I have not lived there for many years I was deeply touched. I did not expect that reaction. So I questioned myself as to what brought it on.
As I thought about it I was so touched that folks from around the country would respond to this emergency in my home town, the town that raised me as much as my parents. A town is more than just buildings; it is the people who live there that make its heart and they were in desperate need of health care people to tend to them and give support to the exhausted workers already there.
Sadly, ignorance worked its way into this beautiful story. When some of these volunteers return to their home the people there doubted or did not want to believe what they had done and seen in New York City.
We can all reflect on appreciation. All through this pandemic situation there have been essential workers and workers manning our food stores, gas stations and many others stores and activities deemed necessary. Some people like the first responders have been risking their lives to provide essential services to COVID-19 patients.
Staff at different medical clinics kept their clinics open to serve us. The many things that we have taken for granted for years must now be appreciated by all of us as we work our way through these times of COVID-19. This includes the wearing of masks and social distancing of the populous, which today, has become a way of life for now. Let’s appreciate and share our Aloha with each other for the only way we will get past this situation will be by working together. Be gentle with each other, no one is enjoying this period.
Mahalo nui loa.
Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
These last few months contained a lot of important remembrances of events that shook the world and one of hope for the future. August was 75th Anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an example of man’s ignorance and inhumanity to man. The people who made the bombs had no idea of what they would do if dropped on a city full of people. Now the images of the effects of those bombs are burned into the earth and our human consciousness in the undying hope that the world will never see them be used again. War, I think, is the worst manifestation of the Three Poisons of Greed, Anger and Ignorance. Look at any conflict in the world, be it personal or international, you will find them there in some form, guarantied. The Tree Poisons are not an entity by themselves, like say the devil. We cannot blame the Poisons for making us do something. The Poisons live within us and we are responsible for how we react to them. First we must acknowledge that the Poisons do exists within us, after we do this, the battle against them is on. We must realize that the Poisons are always looking for a way to influence us and we must become able to recognize and defend against.
September 11, 2001 an event happened that shook the country up to its foundations. The attack on the World Trade Center buildings resulted in the death of some 3000 people and affected countless others. I think that it was the first time since the Civil War that an act of war has been committed on US soil. It seemed to make no sense at all but of course, there were causes and conditions that about. One cause might be the US’s support of the past dictators of their countries who had no restraint in punishing innocent citizens of their country many of whom just disappeared never to be seen again. The US Government knew how these dictators were treating their populous and is held responsible for that support. The US continued supporting the Shah of Iran even after having been removed from office. Saddam Hussein was removed with the help of the US Government, but haw many Iraqi lives were lost before the US involved itself.
One of the ways these dictators held power was with a spy network that ran through out their countries. Criticize; say anything negative about the ruler or government and you could disappear, in a heartbeat. How would you feel if you had to live under such conditions and lost family members even? How would you feel about the countries that openly supported those rulers? Every event has causes and conditions attached to them.
On September 21, we celebrated International Peace Day with the ringing of church and Temple bells throughout the state of Hawaii. Peace is the only thing that will guarantee our survival in this world. Peace is a delicate flower that must start with each of us. As the Buddha showed, we have to learn to be peaceful by growing, nurturing peace within us and sharing peace with others. That is where our constant struggle with the Three Poisons comes in. It is not somebody else’s responsibility to bring peace; it is ours, each of us.
Change, Patience, Gratitude and Reflection
Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
It is difficult to perceive the changing of the seasons. Those of you who have gardens or were born here and have trained your eyes to see the changes might be aware of the changing of the seasons here in Hawaii.
Back in Denver town, most of the trees, except the cotton woods, are imported. The leaves change their colors in in autumn while the pines up in the mountains hold fast as the cold season starts coming. In the mountains there are also Aspen trees. As fall approaches their leaves change to a bright yellow color and quiver in the fall mountain breezes. They are pretty much the only color up in the mountains and look especially bright in contrast to the evergreens. They remind us of the inevitability of change on our planet.
The passage of time is marked by many things of which change is one. I remember as a child how summer seemed to be endless and all of a sudden it was back to school again.
Things seem to change a lot quicker as an adult, especially the good times while the bad old times seem to move much slower.
Nowadays, COVID 19 seems to be spreading pretty quickly while a vaccine is taking longer. It will come though. We look forward to that change. Dealing with COVID 19 there is one thing that we will all have to have and that is patience. In an era of instant gratification this is not easy. We are so used to having things move at a fast pace that when we have to slow down and wait for such an important change as a vaccine which cannot be hurried and is so important to the health of everyone, it seems almost painfully slowly process.
This painfully slow process of waiting for a vaccine we might use the time to reflect in gratitude for all months and years of good health we have had. Sure, there may have been some sickness or other but nothing like the corona virus. Not since 1918 have we had such a virus, a virus that resulted in a pandemic.
Our nation has lost over 160,000 lives to this virus to date and the number continues to rise. The whole world is working on a vaccine to control this virus, the whole world, yet another thing to be grateful for. Much more has been done to help us get through this than was done for the patients of the last pandemic while strangely, the federal government back then did very much the same thing our present government is doing, ignoring it.
Reflect and be grateful for the guidance we’ve been given to help us in stopping the spreading of this plague, our first responders working beyond exhaustion to save lives and our essential workers endangering their lives to maintain some degree of normalcy.
Thank you, each and every one of you for doing your part in all of this.
Change will come, be patient, be grateful and reflect. Remember, this is Obon season.
How Are You Doing?
Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
How are you doing? That’s the question we should be asking one another during these difficult and often confusing times. Our attention seems to be being pulled in multiple directions all at once.
Concerning the virus alone there are thoughts on what to do, what to wear, what not to wear, when to wear it, 3 feet or 6 feet distance, not to mention civil rights. Some people are demanding the right to not to take precautions against spreading the virus on civic or religious grounds.
Some people are acting like or making believe that the virus really does not exist while desperately looking for that time in the past when there was no pandemic. It is probably a very human reaction to something like this world-wide pandemic
There are people who are listening to those professionals who are knowledgeable about the course of this pandemic and then there are people who are listening seriously to people who have no knowledge of what they are talking about but try to act as if they are knowledgeable. Very confusing times indeed aren’t they?
The world is demonstrating against systemic racism and the unequal treatment by authority figures that have been documented throughout our history and that of the world. Now the conspiracy theorists are coming out of the wood work seeing conspiracies everywhere. It seems for every movement there is a counter movement.
There have also been some dramatic demonstrations of compassion shown by our first responders, risking their own lives to save others all over the country and the world. Medical professionals from around our country responded to New York’s call for help at the height of their fight against COVID 19 only to return home and have their work questioned as to the reality of the pandemic they had been working against, unbelievable and disgraceful.
In some ways it sounds like parts of our society are in mass denial. First responders working to the point of exhaustion both here and around the world have shown tremendous strength, dedication and compassion during this pandemic.
It is not just the first responders who have shown strength and compassion but ordinary citizens here in Hawaii and on Kauai who do their part to help stem the spreading of the virus by wearing masks, using social distancing or just staying at home.
Our economy has been affected powerfully by what we have had to do in response to this pandemic and we are slowly starting to re-open our communities with the expected result of spreading the virus. Re-opening our communities is a double edged sword, damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
Re-opening our communities, while protecting its members, is the new challenge that will require new approaches. Inter-island and international flights by airlines will have to be done in such a manner as to protect their passengers as well as staff and especially local people in the destinations to which they travel.
All of this happening in and around us is enough to make my head spin.
What are we to do? We may be confused in the light of all of this but we are not helpless. We have our Buddhist values that can help guide us as they did our founder Shinran and Rennyo.
The values of openness, inclusiveness, compassion, patience, gratitude and resilience in the face of strife can guide us through these times. What we have less of is instant gratification and we are going to have to put up with that for a while to come.
Sometimes we may feel alone in this situation but nothing could be farther from the truth. We are all affected by what is happening today, no one is alone really. We all have people we can reach out to, even if we live alone, family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances.
Usually at the end of a memorial service I encourage the family to take some time to “talk story”, reconnect with family and find out how they are doing. That is a gift Hawaiian culture gives to the world. Imagine yourself a stranger in a strange land, even if you are on vacation, it can be a lonely feeling. What if someone comes up to you and starts talking story with you, as we sometimes do with tourists or anyone really. That changes everything. For myself is made me feel very comfortable and welcome and helped me to relax.
This tradition is one of the healthier traditions we have, especially in these times. “Howzit”, how are you doing? Then, you take the time to listen.
There are not too many people alive today that have gone through a pandemic and this pandemic has turned our world upside down hasn’t it? Although this virus can effect anyone, it is our Kupuna who are most vulnerable. How you doing Auntie, Uncle, Tutu, Papa? Talking story can be a vital extension of your compassion giving comfort to another human being during these strange times. You Kupuna can also help by calling your family members and re-assuring them with a few loving words.
A lot of what is happening is out of our hands but we still have a part to play and it is a very important one so hang in there folks, we’ll get through this together.
Patience and Strength
Shaku Art Kaufmann
We are now in the fifth or sixth week of the shut-down which was necessitated by the Coronavirus and your efforts in dealing with it, the social distancing; staying at home etc. here in Kauai has been, and continues to be, effective in containing this virus and protecting each other.
Now comes the time for patience. While I see other parts of the country opening up I fear an even worse outbreak of this virus. Like little children, I see people longing for their candies and other activities in the face of this pandemic which is not over yet. This would result in a wider spreading of the virus. I, being in the most vulnerable group as many of us are, would not like to see that. After having made so much progress against it, Greed is reasserting itself in our society. The Three Poisons of Greed, Anger and Ignorance are always waiting for an opportunity to emerge and take advantage.
As I said though, this is the time for patience, what kind of patience? Look to your religious teachers. Look at Shinran who dared to continue his teaching activity while in exile. His life situation drastically changed and yet he was patient enough to see it through and continue spreading the Nembutsu teachings. Like Shinran’s exile, our present situation will end or modify so we can return to some sense of normalcy, whatever that will be. Like Shinran’s exile, it did not end after a few weeks’ time, neither will this pandemic. Shinran had to adapt to a whole new set of circumstance, a whole new life style, a whole new survival and with patience and strength, he did so to end of his exile.
Look at Rennyo-sama our esteemed 8th Abbot and his life. Wow, he had to lose his mother due to the difference of status between himself and her. He paid a terrible price over the years for his dedication to the Nembutsu dharma, yet he never gave up despite the formidable opposition and oppression he faced from other schools. Rennyo’s patience and strength brought him success and accomplishment that resulted in him being remembered and venerated to this day.
Siddartha Gautama, who after having left his royal existence to find out why we suffer so, gave six years of his life to finding the answer and when he did find the answer, spent the remainder of his life trying to teach the unteachable dharma he had entered into. Through his abilities as a Buddha he found various ways to teach us to alleviate our sufferings and find Enlightenment. What kind of patience and strength did that take?
Patience and strength is what we need now as the fight against this virus continues. Our healthcare professionals in the forefront of this battle while under-equipped and yet they are asked to risk their lives for us. The very least we can do is be patient and strong until they get the upper hand in this pandemic. Let us employ the same patience and strength shown by our religious heroes. After all, what’s really important, $$ or our lives? Time for a reality check! Namoamidabutsu
Here and Now
I am heartened by the responses of our local government leaders and most of the public during this time of crisis. Bishop Matsumoto has been at the forefront of this situation and has put out three letters concerning preventative measures that can be taken and other information regarding operations.
Our Sangha members and those of other temples are announcing cancellations of our beloved activities such as the Bon Dance Season and our weekly services. This is unavoidable and is being done for the protection of our Sanghas and our communities throughout our beloved home of Hawaii.
It will be necessary to change the way we do things here. It won’t be easy, we are a physical culture but we must find new ways of expressing our Aloha to each other, no less sincerely than we have in the past.
I am confident that you have seen and understand and are using the preventative measures that have been publicized. There is also “social distancing” which is encouraged, a 3 to 6 foot distance between each other. I realize that this will be difficult given the nature of our Hawaiian culture of embracing each other, but for now we must adapt to the realities of this crisis.
How long will it be? No one knows just now, but the situation will change, we just do not know when. The whole world is working on a vaccine to combat the effects of this virus but of course, it will take time to develop such a vaccine.
I have heard that the country of England is offering a reward for any young healthy people to come to England, free of charge, to be injected with the virus in order to develop a vaccine. Young heathy persons have a much higher chance of survival.
There is also news that the number of infected in China at the source of the virus has not grown. This is good news.
There is a myriad of information about the virus and preventative measures to be taken against. This will continue as time goes by and more is learned about the virus but please be cautious as to the source of the information as there has been some unreliable and misinformed information going around.
Rev. Kiyohara over on Maui at Makawao Hongwanji Mission has made available a poster he created on the computer. It shows a rainbow wisteria crest with the words below it that say “Stay calm and say Namoamidabutsu”. This of course is to help prevent panic. As Shin Buddhists it is very good advice. Living in the now, as we strive to do, the virus is a fact of life for all of us today and we shall do what is necessary to protect from, and prevent, the spread of this virus even if it means making changes to our life styles.
In closing I would like to relate something about social distancing said by a world famous chef In the United States who was named the 2018 Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.. His name is Jose’ Andre’s. Mr. Andres has a number of restaurants from which he helped many people in difficult situations such as the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and at other such events. His generosity and compassion is well known. Mr. Andres, given the present situation, has closed his restaurants and is converting them into kitchens in order to be able to feed those in need. He was quoted as saying “In this moment, loving each other means staying away from each other.”
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,