Messages from Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
Reverend or Shaku?
Shaku Arthur Kaufmann
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 which-ever form they are addressed.
I hope this clarifies why I chose, Shaku.
In Gassho, Art Kaufmann
The Birth of Siddhartha Gautama
Shaku Art Kaufmann
Happy Buddha day!
On April 7, the temples of the Kauai Buddhists Council had its Buddha Day or Hanamaturi (Flower Festival) service together celebrating the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, the babe who was to become the Shakamuni Buddha (Sage of the Sakya Clan), the World Honored One, and the Fully Awakened One.
There are many beautiful legends and myths surrounding this boy’s birth and it is not my intention to dispel these stories as they exist to emphasize the importance of this event.
I do not think there are any people in the world who do not celebrate the coming of a new born child. We, who have had children in our lives, do not have to go too far to understand what King Suddhodanna and Queen Maya must have felt when they realized, that after a considerable amount of time, the Queen finally became pregnant.
One does not have to be a King or Queen to know the joy, apprehension, wonder of waiting to receive their first born.
Although the legends would make us assume that everyone involved was completely calm with the idea of having a child, we are talking about two human beings and royalty or not, they would not have been exempt to the cascade of emotions experienced by any couple.
Following their tradition, the Queen was to travel to her parents’ home to give birth, however, as life would have it, she stopped at Lumbini Garden to rest before continuing her journey and that was where the baby was born. The legends would have us believe that the birth was painless. That is the way it happens ladies, right? I am sure that the father was not at all concerned when he received the word of his wife having given birth somewhere between the palace and his in-laws home, right?
I remember awaiting the birth of my first born, Lorraine, and if I am not mistaken, I was pretty much in another world and it was not me who was doing all the work, that as my wife, Jeanne Lorraine was born in an Air Force hospital back in 1961 when there was no attended births permitted.
Siddhartha’s birth happened about 2600 years ago, what do you think the infant mortality rate was?
Now, imagine how shocked the Queen was when the baby stood up, walked seven paces and proclaimed himself the World Honored One?
Myths and legends have their place in emphasizing the importance of events throughout the course of history and certainly, the birth of the boy who was to become Buddha was one of those events.
Did you know that they named the boy “Siddhartha” which means< “Every Wish Fulfilled”. A truly joyous name and I think any of us can relate to that joy on the birth of our babies.
When Queen Maya returned to the palace, a sage named Asita was summoned to prophesy
about the future life of the child. Asita was a homeless monk who lived in the hills surrounding the palace and had seen a special aura over the palace grounds and went to investigate when he was invited in.
Asita told the family that the boy would either become the greatest Shakyan King ever and save his clan or, he would become a Buddha and save the world.
As Asita was leaving the palace, tears welled up in his eyes and gently rolled down his aged cheeks. When asked why he wept, he said, I weep because I shall long enough to see a living Buddha.
As we look upon the birth of the one who would be Buddha, we can also look upon that of our own births and that of our children and grandchildren with new eyes.
Siddhartha’s birth was to bring the knowledge of our potential as human beings, the true potential of all life even for those of us who cannot take up the robe and bowl of a monk or nun.
Happy Buddha day!
The Unfolding Of Life
Shaku Art Kaufmann
“There is nothing more real than this truth of life. The fragile nature of human life underlies both the young and old, and therefore we must, one and all, turn to the teachings of the Buddha and awaken to the ultimate source of life”.
This passage comes from the letter “White Ashes” written by Rennyo Shonin, the 8th Abbott of our school of Buddhism. I use this letter in one of my memorial services and of course at funerals. As I was writing that talk, I had to look at each paragraph and reflected on what I thought Rennyo might have been trying to say in relationship to the whole letter.
As I looked at this particular paragraph, this was my reflection.
Here Rennyo tells us that given the reality of our situation in this life, we should rely on the teachings of the Buddha and use those teachings as guide to help us through this ever-changing existence. When we use the Buddha’s teachings as a guide, we can come to live in a “dynamic harmony” with life, responding to it as it unfolds before us instead of trying to control or force life to do what we want it to.
Now, I know most folks think that “White Ashes” deals with death, but, the more I read this letter, the more I feel it would be more accurate to say that, in part, it deals with the unfolding of life. As Shakyamuni Buddha revealed in his teachings, life is constant is a process of on-going change or impermanence. To deny this or refuse to accept this reality results in the creation of suffering for us.
In this particular paragraph Rennyo says “fragile nature of human life underlying both young and old”. This is not something that is open to debate. It would be a waste of time because our life experience reflects the truth of that statement whether we choose to accept it or not. Of course most of us would all like to be able to live forever; however, the causes and conditions surrounding a person’s life will not always allow that person to live out what we would consider a full life span of 80 years or so.
The fact of this reality then makes Amida Buddha’s compassionate vow all the more important to us who seek to take refuge in it.
This life is full of things to worry about. Often times these worries distract us to the point that we do not live our lives to their fullest extent and precious time is lost. If we can acquire a right view of the true nature of life, including its impermanence, the results can be more freedom to live this life more fully.
Since we are all different, we do this in many different ways. Some people will study and read the teachings of our school. Fortunately we have many fine books written about the True Pure Land School as well as wonderful reflections on the teachings. Some folks will do it by attending services on Sunday and participating in the temple activities. Some people may acquire this right view just by reciting the Nembutsu in gratitude and attending the seminars by visiting lecturers.
Most likely though, it will be any number of differing activities or combinations of these activities as fits the needs of each person that will help to bring them to a better understanding or right view of this life.
Common to all these methods will be the reciting of the Name, Namoamidabutsu. Buddha, to contain the essence of his compassionate 18th Vow, created the Nembutsu for us. It is in this name that we find the wisdom/compassion of Amida, his Vow and the saving activity of Buddha. As we recite the Nembutsu, we express the deepest gratitude we are capable of for everything the Buddha has accomplished on our behalf.
Shaku Art Kaufmann
Over these past few months I have been witness to the dedication of the Lihue Hongwanji Mission’s Sangha. They, themselves, would not make so much of what I have seen so I am going to toot my horn for them.
This past year the Bishop of Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, Eric Matsumoto Sensei, has been encouraging the Ministers to stress the importance of the Sangha, or the community of Buddhists that are at each of our temples. I initially did and do this by reminding them, that we, the Sangha are an important part reflected in the three Treasure of Buddha Dharma and Sangha.
In the beginning, some 2600 years ago, the Sangha consisted of the Monks, and later Nuns who were direct disciples of the Shakyamuni Buddha in India. The Buddha, himself, later broadened the definition of Sangha to include the many devout lay followers, who lived a non-monastic life, but who strived to follow Buddha’s teachings to the best of their abilities.
Thus, in our True Pureland or Hongwanji school of Buddhism, the Sangha refers to both lay and clerical members of a temple; at least it does for me.
Nothing gets done in any temple setting without the participation of the Sangha. Weather it is done by an affiliate organization or just some folks setting up some tables and chairs.
Getting back to the Lihue Sangha, as I said, over these past few months the Sangha had been preparing for the Bazaar we had on the 23rd of February, which I hope you got to attend. Initially a committee was formed consisting of various Sangha members representing some of the affiliate organizations such as the Lihue Buddhist Women’s Association, the Hosha or volunteer set up and cleaning crews and maintenance crew, Kitchen volunteers etc.
First, the nature of the bazaar was discussed. What would be offered? Would it be like any other bazaar offering inexpensive articles or perhaps higher end items? Would there be food offered and if so, which foods and how much and who would prepare them? Food preparation and preservation was discussed with an eye to food handling certification requirements. Design of the floor plan, entrances, table arrangements, cashiers, exit(s). Customer flow and direction were discussed. Advertising, what kind of advertising, when where and how? Permits, banners, parking, week after week, meeting after meeting, these topics and questions, were discussed by the committee.
The closer they came to the date, the more the bazaar took shape and form. Committee members, other Sangha members and their families and friends of the temple came to donate items or contributed time and effort towards the final product which was entitled the “Asian Blend Bazaar” which is happening as I write this article. Although the Sangha has had other bazaars, they were not afraid to change the format as necessary and adapt to those changes, to try new things and to rely on its own experience. This Asian Blend Bazaar is a product of the dedication, strength and effort of the Sangha and friends of the Lihue Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii.
Aloha and Mahalo.
Shaku Art Kaufmann
As you no doubt know we have six major services each and almost every year. You may wonder, why after all many of you have been attending services for years. Why do we have these six services every year?
When we look at our modern lives it may sometimes seem as like a kaleidoscope.
I am referring to a toy I had as a child. It was a cardboard tube, gaily colored with a viewing hole on one end and inside the other end was a mirror and pieces of paper, I assume, and as the tube was rotated the design would constantly change and be reflected in the mirror. It is, more or less, a perfect metaphor for our lives. That being the case, we have to pay attention and deal with what is happening.
In the Canadian rock song, American Woman, there is a line that goes, “flashing lights can hypnotize, dazzle someone else’s eye”. This refers to the constant flow of information, most of which is not needed.
While there are many things that we must deal with in our lives, there are also many distractions trying to catch our eyes and minds such as are found in an almost constant flow of advertising in the many forms of media we have.
Even on the computer nowadays you cannot go to a site without part of the screen being taken over with advertising, not to mention our e-mail. It is said that the strongest form of influence is visual for most folks. That is why the TV can seem to hypnotize us as we watch.
So with all these distractions how long can we remember what is taught by our senseis’ in our temples on Sundays? Last I heard our attention span was getting shorter and shorter, maybe a half an hour or less. Has anyone heard what our attention span is now?
How important are the teachings of the Buddha to you? Remember what is being offered in them.
As human beings, we have to be reminded, to help us to focus on what is truly important for our lives. We have to be reminded about what has been done for us. We have to be reminded what our goal is in our True Pureland School, Shinjin, the mind of complete confidence in which there is no doubt as to our future.
This week I heard a rendition of an African American spiritual of whose chorus goes, “Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.” We Buddhist can use that encouragement, that reminder on our path to the Buddha’s Pureland.
Messages from Rev. Takahashi