In mid-February, BCA President Terri Omori led the BCA delegation to the Hawaiian island of Oahu for the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii’s (HHMH) 111th Giseikai (Legislative Day).
Omori’s husband, Ford Omori, of the Vista Buddhist Temple, and I completed the BCA delegation to the Giseikai, which is similar to the BCA’s National Council Meeting (NCM).
Although Terri Omori participated in the 2022 Giseikai, this was HHMH’s return to an in-person meeting. Despite being an important business meeting, we encountered the “Aloha Spirit” with every encounter during this event.
“Aloha Spirit” can be defined as being in the presence of and sharing the essence of life — teaching us lessons of peace, kindness, compassion and responsibility to future generations.
Led by Bishop Rev. Eric Matsumoto and HHMH President Dr. Warren Tamamoto, the HHMH has ensured the intertwining of Amida’s compassion with the “Aloha Spirit” throughout its Sangha.
We experienced many of the same concerns within the HHMH as we do in the BCA. Declining membership, small temple challenges, youth participation, technology, improving the ministers’ and temple internet environment, protecting our environment, and standardized minister compensation and benefits are a few of the shared concerns.
Just as within the BCA, each challenge is met with positive energy, creativity, and diligence. By numbers and square miles, the HHMH may be smaller than the BCA, but its dedication to preserving the spread of the Dharma is just as strong.
We may have met these incredible members by the chance of circumstances, but their “Aloha Spirit” will forever keep us connected.
Terri Omori was consulted by various individuals time and time again, curious to learn of the BCA approach to a challenge as well as her valued perspective on a topic.
On the topic of membership and propagation, the HHMH committee led by John Toguchi has created a beautiful brochure that introduces who the HHMH is and also Shin Buddhism to the community. The committee plans to have this ready for all temples before the summer bon dance season.
As Toguchi eloquently wrote in his report, “Buddhist values are timeless and provide one with the tools to cope with the complexities of life. Sharing and exemplifying these values are ways we reach outward.”
In addition to the meetings, retired Sacramento Betsuin Revs. Bob and Patti Oshita presented their thoughts during a rap session along with thoughts by former HHMH President Pieper Toyama. Both provided different aspects of how to truly be a Dharma-centered leader. They shared tips on what is attractive to newcomers as well as how to create a strong long-lasting bridge to retain and expand our Sangha.
In 2022, the BCA Social Welfare Committee joined with the HHMH Committee on Social Concerns to present “Our Interdependent Lives: Food Waste and Sustainability.” We touched upon efforts by the Sanghas to protect and preserve our fragile environment. (“BCA, HHMH Team Up on Food Waste, Sustainability Project,” October 2022, Wheel of Dharma)
The HHMH has an entire committee, the Green Hongwanji Committee, dedicated to formulating a plan to organize, educate, take action and develop leaders to help promote and improve the general welfare of the environment in which we live. The committee report included a thought-provoking survey through which temples can assess their level of “green.” This committee is another example of interdependence as Karen Akahoshi and the San Diego EchoSangha were noted as contributors.
Just like the BCA, technology has become prominent in the post-pandemic era, opening up many new avenues to explore. From temple-level internet to the hiring of a social media and information technology coordinator, this is an echo of pathways we have all taken as a result of the pandemic and subsequent temple closures.
Terri Omori was a source of information as we have crossed many of the roads the HHMH is currently facing. Both the HHMH and BCA leaders have realized the younger generations do not necessarily turn to the print or TV broadcast media. Their initial point of encounter is through social media. We are fortunate to have Alex Tsukahara on the BCA staff as well as the TOSC subcommittee under the BCA Communications Committee, which has done wonders in developing the BCA website and reaching out through social media to connect with younger members.
But all was not just work. We had a wonderful dinner hosted by Bishop Rev. Eric Matsumoto, where we were able to interact with HHMH leaders and incoming Bishop Rev. Tatsuya Aoki and Laura Sugimoto of the Canada Kyodan.
The closing banquet was a luncheon during which we were treated to learning about the “2023 Living Treasures of Hawaii,” in which the HHMH honors individuals who have truly invoked the “Aloha Spirit” through their contributions to society. Finally, we enjoyed the closing performance of “Peace on Your Wings,” a musical to honor Sadako Sasaki in memory of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This troupe plans a tour to Los Angeles and Hiroshima later this year.
This trip to the Giseikai expanded our Sangha family. We renewed friendships with BCA members who now reside in Hawaii, met those whom we had only encountered in a Zoom square and met a plethora of wonderful new Ohana.
Though our challenges may seem insurmountable at times, by working together within the BCA, across the ocean with the HHMH, or north with our Canadian Kyodan friends, nothing is impossible if we just keep that “Aloha Spirit” close to our hearts.