Messages from the Bishop & BCA President

Two Ways to Support the BCA

By Rev. Kodo Umezu, BCA Bishop and Rick Stambul, BCA President

We deeply appreciate the Dana that the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), and the Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS) has received from so many of you during the past year. Donations from people like yourselves demonstrate that members who sacrifice to support our noble mission of sharing the Wishes of the Buddha with all people can help to meaningfully spread the dharma in America.

We now appeal to every member for your support. We are writing this message together to reach out to you with one voice to express our gratitude and to reintroduce our two fundraising efforts, namely, the Dana Program and the 1000 x $1000 x 4 Program.

The Dana Program initiated by the BCA Joint Development Committee in the fall of 2015, the Dana Program is designed to consolidate and replace all other fundraising projects. It is intended to help all BCA temples by creating those conditions necessary to promote the dharma.

The BCA Endowment Foundation mails out a Dana Program request letter once a year in response to which you can donate any amount using your credit card. Simply go to our home page at buddhistchurchesofamerica.org, scroll down to “Dana Program,” and click. You may then designate the full amount of your donation to BCA and you may choose to share a portion of your offering with any one of our 60 BCA temples.

We have raised approximately $360,000 including $31,000 for our temples. We need your help to continue our work. Kindly consider forming a small committee to promote the Dana Program and help us to spread the dharma by ensuring BCA’s future operations as well as also supporting our local temples.

The 1000 x $1000 x 4 Program. This is a grassroots fundraising effort initiated by Rev. Marvin Harada. He suggested that if 1,000 people donated $1,000 a year for four years we could repay all the funds that we borrowed to build the Jodo Shinshu Center. Since this was never an official BCA fund raising project, we did not promote it as we should have. Even so, more than 55 people stepped forward and have contributed a total of about $185,000. If 950 more sangha members and friends will join them, we could be completely free of debt for the Jodo Shinshu Center building. We now proudly announce that the 1000 x $1000 x 4 Program is an “official” BCA fund raising project and we ask every one of you to join us.

Continuous Fundraising Effort

The BCA is a non-profit, volunteer religious organization. Consequently, we must rely on the kindness of our members and our friends in order to operate. Reflecting on our history, we should recall that our pioneer members courageously stepped forward to carry on the responsibility of preserving and propagating our Jodo Shinshu teachings. We are hopeful that you will match the commitment and sacrifice of Shin Buddhist members over the last century and exhibit our respect and gratitude to them by supporting that vision.

Namo Amida Butsu

 

Bishop’s Message

Welcome, and thank you for visiting our website. It is not by accident that you are reading this message. It is, in fact, due to your past karmic conditions.

Nothing happens without a cause or causes and conditions. You may be here because of family influences, a school assignment, or casual Internet surfing. Regardless of the reason, your visit is appreciated and it may even change your life.

I invite you, if possible, to visit a temple or church close to where you live and feel the warmth of the Buddhist Congregation called the sangha.

Let us find the true meaning of our lives through learning the Dharma taught by the Buddha and successive teachers. I assure you; their words of wisdom will inspire you and give a new dimension to your life.

Once again, thank you very much for your visit.

Yours Truly in the Dharma,

Reverend Kodo Umezu, Bishop
Buddhist Churches of America

 
Our True Leader is the Buddha

The outcome of the recent presidential election has created feelings of uncertainty and fear among many people in our community and country. At the same time, it made many people happy and gave them joy and hope for the future.

At a time like this, we need to be reminded of the universal caring heart and mind of Amida Tathagata embracing all people. It takes us to the realm beyond the tribulations of this human world.

The loving heart and mind of the world of Oneness touches us and wishes for all of us to live in peace, overcoming our limited viewpoints. The true guide for all beings, to me, is Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha cares about all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, wealth, social status, etc. Amida Buddha shows compassion especially to those who are suffering. No matter what type of conditions we may be living in, Amida Buddha will always be there. Therefore, in my opinion, Amida Buddha is the true leader for all.

If we do not turn to the Light of Wisdom we will continue to dwell in a world of darkness and live with fear, loneliness, and endless anxiety. Being guided by this Compassionate Light of Wisdom, realizing our afflictions, we do what we can to be good citizens of the world.

Amid all the commotion, let us, together with fellow travelers of this path, pause and hear the words of guidance and encouragement coming from individuals who have been touched by the Buddha’s universal mind and heart. And let us reflect on how our lives and actions can be guided by this Teaching.

“When we reflect on the establishment of the Vow,
We find that the Tathagata, without abandoning sentient beings in pain and affliction,
Has taken the directing of virtue to them as foremost,
Thus fulfilling the mind of great compassion.”

                        (Shinran Shonin, Collected Works of Shinran, p.408)

Reverend Kodo Umezu, Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America


 

As we welcome the year 2019, I wish you a very Happy New Year under the guiding light of Amida Tathagata. Let us continue to listen to the Compassionate Vow of Amida Buddha.

Shinran Shonin truly appreciated the karmic conditions that led him to the Nembutsu teaching. As we reflect on our own life journey, I am sure each of us has a person or people who influenced us to hear the dharma. They might be our parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, friends, ministers, or historical figures. Whoever they might be, let us express our deepest appreciation to ones who have brought us to the teaching.

An organization is like a person. It has its own karmic history. For the Buddhist Churches of America, the Buddhist Women’s Association played a very big role in its growth. Issei and Nisei women were really strong, yet warm hearted. I firmly believe that they were able to live through their difficult lives because of their churches and temples, friends, and the Nembutsu teaching.

2019 will be a very busy year for the BCA. The Buddhist Churches of America Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations will be hosting the 16th World Buddhist Women’s Conference from August 30 to September 1, 2019 in San Francisco. It is entirely appropriate for us to dedicate this year especially to those ladies who have helped all of us, directly or indirectly, to encounter the Nembutsu teaching. Please look at the photos of our Obaachans and reminisce in the past history of our churches and temples. At the same time, let us remember their dedication and contributions.

Arigato Obaachan. Thank You Grandmother!

Gassho,

Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop
Buddhist Churches of America

 

New Year’s Greeting from Gomonshu Kojun Ohtani

At the beginning of this New Year, I would like to extend my warmest greetings to you all.

Last year, Japan was hit by frequent natural disasters like torrential rains, typhoons and earthquakes. Other countries, including Indonesia and the United States, were also visited by devastating earthquakes, tsunamis and major hurricanes. Furthermore, the California wildfires last November turned out to be the deadliest in the state’s history, taking the lives of many, while others continue to be missing, and a great deal of people were forced to evacuate their homes. I would like to convey my deepest condolences to those who lost their lives through the natural disasters and express my sympathy to everyone affected. We must also never forget that armed conflicts and terror attacks as well as severe starvation is making it difficult to live and lives are being lost every day.

In my message entitled, “A Way of Living as a Nembutsu Follower,” which I presented on Oct. 1, 2016, the first day of the Commemoration on the Accession of the Jodo Shinshu Tradition, I have stated, “by trying to live according to the Buddha Dharma, … we can live to the best of our ability, aspiring to live up to the Buddha’s Wish.” In agreement with this proposal, beginning last April, our organization has launched a campaign against poverty under the slogan, “Dana for World Peace — overcoming poverty to nurture our children.”

Unable to part from our self-centered mentality, we are simply foolish beings, incapable of attaining supreme enlightenment through our own strength. It is all through the salvific working of Amida Tathagata that we are enabled to realize our selfishness. Furthermore, because of this self-awareness, with the hope of responding to the Buddha’s boundless compassion even just a little, we are enabled to aspire for everyone’s happiness and make a sincere effort in dealing with the many difficult problems of bitter reality in this world.

In this New Year, as we receive the Dharma and recite the Nembutsu, let us make every effort to acknowledge and cope with the reality we face.

Jan. 1, 2019

OHTANI Kojun

Monshu
Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha

(Translation provided by the Hongwanji International Department)

The Buddha Does Not Discriminate

In midst of recent painful tragedies of violence and counter violence, I would like us to remember Shinran Shonin’s words describing how we are viewed in the eyes of the Buddha of Infinite Compassion and Wisdom. I would like to share these words from the Kyogyoshinsho with you.

“In reflecting on the ocean of great shinjin [the Buddha’s mind and heart], I realize that there is no discrimination between noble and humble or black-robed monks and white-clothed laity, no differentiation between man and woman, old and young.” (Collected Works of Shinran, p. 107)

Although he does not mention anything about racial issues, I can hear Shinran Shonin saying that all people are equal in the eyes of the Buddha. Discrimination comes from our defiled human minds. We live our lives relying on our unenlightened minds, but Shinran Shonin has told us how truly precious we all are in the eyes of the Buddha. He is urging us to live our lives as brothers and sisters regardless of racial differences.

Let us humbly turn to the caring call from the Buddha’s True and Real Realm of Equality. Let us live our lives respecting and caring for each other on a journey to the realm known as the Pure Land.

Namo Amida Butsu

In Gassho (With Palms Together),
Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America

 

Special Message

With deep sorrow, I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the victims, including families and friends, of the latest mass shootings that occurred over the past week in California, Texas and Ohio.

These events have reminded me of the words of Shakyamuni Buddha that describe the condition that we are all living in. He said, “Imagine a country lying in absolute darkness with many living beings blindly rushing around. Naturally they will be frightened and lonely as they run about without recognizing one another.” Just as he described, we are living our lives without knowing the true world because of our lack of wisdom. Out of fear and mistrust caused by the spiritual darkness that we live in, we act foolishly and harm each other.

Shakyamuni Buddha also taught us about Amida Buddha, the manifestation of Absolute Wisdom and Compassion, who is calling to us from the True and Real world, working to help us realize that we are all constantly living in this dark state. Namo Amida Butsu is the Amida Buddha’s compassionate calling that is urging us to redirect ourselves towards the guidance of the Light of the True and Real world, instead of solely relying on ourselves who reside in darkness. By encountering this caring and loving heart from the realm of Nirvana, we are able to overcome our inner fear and anxiety, and realize that we are not alone.

Let us pause and reflect on our activities under the light of Absolute Compassionate Wisdom known as Amida Buddha and wish for the world peace and harmony.

Namo Amida Butsu with Gassho,

Kodo Umezu
Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America

 

Message on the Separation of Parents and Children at the U.S. Border

We all wish to see an immediate end to the cruel separation of children from their parents at the southern border of the United States. We are overwhelmed with feelings of profound sorrow and concern.

Our founder Shinran Shonin was guided by deep self-reflection. Following his example, let us realize that everything that happens in our human society is actually caused by us directly or indirectly. We should recognize the responsibility each of us has in the causes of and solutions to our problems. We sincerely want the suffering caused by inhumane actions to stop and for all of us live harmoniously and peacefully.

As Buddhists, we should strive to create a world of kindness to all beings by listening to the Compassionate Call from the World of Nirvana, the realm in which there is no separation between self and other; the True and Real Home for all.

Rev. Kodo Umezu
Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America

 

Comment Regarding the Humanitarian Crisis at the U.S. Border

Americans have always taken great pride in considering our country a humanitarian nation. Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States, commenting on the state of affairs at our nation’s borders, reminds all of us that “these images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and non-citizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

I agree.

This is a humanitarian crisis that cannot be watched in silence. It is unacceptable to witness the utter lack of compassion, and the inhumanity of separating children from their parents. Horrific events occur when people lose their sense of humanity.

The Buddhist Churches of America is the oldest and largest Buddhist organization in the west. When people seeking refuge in the United States are automatically criminalized and their innocent children are traumatized, there is a humanitarian imperative to speak out as Shin Buddhists, and as human beings.

Richard A. Stambul
President, Buddhist Churches of America

 

Message on the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar

The world news on the escalation of violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar is raising questions among people, especially non-Buddhists. Myanmar is a Buddhist-majority country. In the last three weeks since August 25 of this year, over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape military violence described by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing and described by others as genocide.

No matter what this violence might be called, we deeply deplore the killings, torture, burning of villages and other actions against humanity occurring in Myanmar.

What we are witnessing is not an isolated occurrence in our history. Similar events have been happening throughout the history of humankind. We cannot take ourselves out of this picture. We, lacking true wisdom, have been repeating our foolish actions over and over, generation after generation. Without realizing it, I, too, must be doing similar things to others in different ways. When I see and hear of this type of human crisis, I truly, truly understand why Dharmakara Bodhisattva had to establish the Primal Vow for all beings in order to free us from afflictions, pain, and suffering.

We do need to take some actions to stop our harmful behavior, if possible. The first step to doing this is going to the Buddha and listening to the timeless truth of the Primal Vow. The Vow is the dynamic activity of Enlightenment itself trying to reach us. Once we hear and deeply appreciate the Vow, we will be able to live in accord with the compassionate heart of the Buddha, seeing all beings as our brothers and sisters and fellow travelers to the Pure Land.

Let us pause and ponder the intent of the Vow established for all beings, and let us live our lives with the Buddha’s eyes and let us hope that all people will hear the Primal Vow.

Namo Amida Butsu

Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop
Buddhist Churches of America

 

Our Response to Hurricane Harvey

On Friday, August 25, a tropical storm which developed into Hurricane Harvey struck the state of Texas, creating major flooding devastation in Houston and threatening to inundate neighboring states, including Louisiana. The tragic loss of life, massive damage to infrastructure, and the destruction of the livelihoods of countless people is tremendous. This may become the worst flood disaster in U.S. history. Our hearts and thoughts go out to everyone who is suffering as a result of this catastrophic natural disaster.

Let us respond to the call for help from the survivors in every way we can. Let us also be aware that tragedies and natural disasters happen repeatedly, all over the world. We are part of the world community and we should remember that our Jodo Shinshu temples and churches must be mindful of people in all areas. I want to encourage you to support these relief efforts and to engage in social welfare efforts in your local community as well, wherever that may be.

In Gassho (with palms together),

Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America

 

Statement on the Killing in Charlottesville, Virginia

On August 12, 2017 at a white supremacist rally, a neo-Nazi drove a car into the people protesting his ideology. He killed a woman and injured 19 other people. It was very deplorable and sad to see this incident in Charlottesville, Virginia. I would like to express my deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims’ families and friends.

The action that we witnessed was caused by anger and hatred deriving from a sad American historical background. We, as American citizens and residents, are experiencing the heavy karmic effects of our past history. We should be reminded of the American doctrine that all people are equal, as we often hear. We should turn to the core values of each individual’s religion or faith to find the way to live harmoniously.

No matter what path we walk, we know that we should not get angry or hate others. We know that we want to love everyone. And at a time like this, we all ask why this happened and how we can stop this type of human behavior.

We, as Buddhists, come to hear the urging voices coming from our teachers in the midst of this world of suffering ¾ this world of samsara. The Buddha is standing with us with tears in its eyes, urging all of us to turn to the Infinite Compassion and Wisdom in order to transcend love and hate. Transcending love and hate does not mean that we eliminate our feelings of love and hate. It means that we recognize and understand that these powerful emotions exist within each of us; they are part of our human condition. We seek to encounter people who feel deep sorrow for our human condition and aspire to attain something worthier.

When we are touched and moved by the Vow of the Buddha to save all beings from suffering with Infinite Wisdom and Compassion directed at us to find the True and Real World beyond our foolish thoughts, we begin to live our lives with humility, understanding, and concern for one another.

Ultimately, we are all within the World of Oneness. Let us start with each individual to help create a better community by hearing the Compassionate Call from the World of True Equality.

Namo Amida Butsu,

Rev. Kodo Umezu
Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America

Ignorance and blind passions abound,
Pervading everywhere like innumerable particles of dust.
Love and hatred arising out of accord and conflict
Are like high peaks and mountain ridges.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 400)

When we reflect on the establishment of the Vow,
We find that the Tathagata, without abandoning sentient beings
in pain and affliction,
Has taken the directing of virtue to them as foremost,
Thus fulfilling the mind of great compassion. (CWS, p.408)

 

Statement on the Executive Order

The Executive Order signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017 has been causing serious concerns and suffering for many people, especially Muslims and immigrants. It has brought back memories of the unlawful mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Even if the intent of the Executive Order is to protect our citizens from terrorist attacks, we strongly oppose any actions that lead to discrimination against certain groups just because of their ethnicity or faith.

We should remind ourselves that all people deserve to be respected and treated equally under the law. Each faith group should encourage and promote peace and harmony based on its beliefs and principles, and help create a better nation that we can be proud of.

Reverend Kodo Umezu, Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America

 

Our True Leader is the Buddha

The outcome of the recent presidential election has created feelings of uncertainty and fear among many people in our community and country. At the same time, it made many people happy and gave them joy and hope for the future.

At a time like this, we need to be reminded of the universal caring heart and mind of Amida Tathagata embracing all people. It takes us to the realm beyond the tribulations of this human world.

The loving heart and mind of the world of Oneness touches us and wishes for all of us to live in peace, overcoming our limited viewpoints. The true guide for all beings, to me, is Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha cares about all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, wealth, social status, etc. Amida Buddha shows compassion especially to those who are suffering. No matter what type of conditions we may be living in, Amida Buddha will always be there. Therefore, in my opinion, Amida Buddha is the true leader for all.

If we do not turn to the Light of Wisdom we will continue to dwell in a world of darkness and live with fear, loneliness, and endless anxiety. Being guided by this Compassionate Light of Wisdom, realizing our afflictions, we do what we can to be good citizens of the world.

Amid all the commotion, let us, together with fellow travelers of this path, pause and hear the words of guidance and encouragement coming from individuals who have been touched by the Buddha’s universal mind and heart. And let us reflect on how our lives and actions can be guided by this Teaching.

“When we reflect on the establishment of the Vow,
We find that the Tathagata, without abandoning sentient beings in pain and affliction,
Has taken the directing of virtue to them as foremost,
Thus fulfilling the mind of great compassion.”

                        (Shinran Shonin, Collected Works of Shinran, p.408)

Reverend Kodo Umezu, Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America

 

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

In October 2016, many countries in the Caribbean and areas along the southeast coast of the United States as well were devastated by Hurricane Matthew. This disaster has left in its wake a tragedy beyond our comprehension. The enormous loss of life, the damage to infrastructure, and the effect on the livelihoods of the people affected is tremendous. Our hearts and thoughts go out to everyone who is suffering as a result of this tragedy.

As we respond to the call for help from the survivors, we must remember that tragedies and natural disasters happen all the time, all over the world. We should remember that we are part of the world community and our temples and churches should be mindful of people in all areas. I want to encourage you to support not only these relief efforts, but to engage in social welfare efforts in your community as well.

In Gassho,

Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America

 

Response to the Shooting in Orlando, Florida

We are deeply shocked and saddened by the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We wish to express our profound sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.

When we encounter tragic events such as this, we turn to the Buddha for guidance on how to live our lives without hating and harming each other. We recognize that the root of hatred is very difficult to identify. It comes from deep inside of our karmic consciousness. We live our lives based on emotions and feelings of love and hatred. This is the source of our daily actions.

But there is a true and real realm beyond love and hatred. This is the Buddha’s realm; the realm of Enlightenment. Deeply grieving our condition, the Buddha urges us to listen to the Dharma and to hear the words from the world of true equality. Through this realization, we are able to see one another as fellow travelers on a journey to the world of true equality. Regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, and we should live our lives with respect and kindness.

Namo Amida Butsu

In Gassho (With Palms Together),

Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop
Buddhist Churches of America

 

Statement on Kumamoto earthquake

Dear friends, family, and supporters,

“Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan was struck by two devastating 7+ magnitude earthquakes and numerous aftershocks since April 14, 2016.  The Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) extends our thoughts of concern and sincere condolences to those whose lives have been affected by this tragedy.

Immediately following the initial earthquake, the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto initiated relief efforts, started a relief fund, and dispatch relief assistance to the affected areas. A Kumamoto Earthquake Emergency Headquarters at the Hongwanji headquarters in Kyoto, as well as an on-site disaster management office at the Hongwanji’s Kumamoto district office have been established to grasp a better understanding of the situation in the area so that we may be able to provide those affected with the appropriate support both physically and emotionally.

The BCA would like to assist the Hongwanji-ha in their relief efforts for this disaster.  As members of the BCA, you can help victims of this earthquake with a special contribution. All funds collected will be sent to the Hongwanji in Kyoto, Japan to aid in this relief effort.

 

The Harmony of Human Community

Imagine a country lying in absolute darkness with many living beings blindly rushing around. Naturally they will be frightened and lonely as they run about without recognizing one another.

Then let us imagine that suddenly a superior person with a torch appears and everything around becomes bright and clear. The living beings find great relief as they look about, recognize one another, and happily share their companionship.

When the world of human life lies in the darkness of ignorance, those who have no light of wisdom in their minds wander in loneliness and fear. They do not know how to associate with their fellow humans in peaceful harmony, and they are naturally miserable and afraid.

“A superior person with a torch” refers to Buddha assuming human form, and by his wisdom and compassion he illuminates the world. In this light, people find themselves as well as others and are glad to establish human fellowship and harmonious relations.

Thousands of people may live in a community, but it is not one of real fellowship until they know each other and have sympathy for one another. A true community has faith and wisdom that illuminate it. A true community is a place where the people know and trust one another and where there is social harmony; it is harmony that gives life and meaning to every community.

Paraphrased from The Teaching of Buddha, chapter two.