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BCA to Urge Holding Future Kyoshi at JSC

Describing it as a successful historic event, Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada said the BCA will again urge the Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto, Japan, to have the Kyoshi Kyoshu certification program at the Jodo Shinshu Center.


“We’re going to continue to push this with the Hongwanji,” Rev. Harada told the BCA National Board at its Dec. 3 meeting. “We feel it can be done more effectively in the United States. I think all the participants were very grateful that it was being held in the United States. And, so when this comes up again for the next Kyoshi for foreigners, we’re going to continue to request Hongwanji that we have it here.”


The Kyoshi Kyoshu program, a rigorous 10-day session, was the final step for ministerial aspirants to become full-fledged Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha ministers. It was held from Aug. 21-30 at the JSC in Berkeley, California, and marked the first time such training occurred outside of Japan. The next Kyoshi Kyoshu has been scheduled to take place in 2024.


During the Kyoshi Kyoshu, 11 candidates spent nearly 18 hours every day learning from instructors and practicing chanting, rituals and how to hold a variety of services. They were tested on their knowledge. In early October, the Hongwanji announced all of the candidates had been approved as Kyoshi ministers.


There are three levels of ordination concerning Jodo Shinshu ministers. The first level of ordination, called Tokudo, “should take place in Japan,” Rev. Harada said.


“That experience of receiving Tokudo at the Hongwanji directly from the Gomonshu is an important experience, so we’re not going to pursue that, but we are going to pursue Kyoshi over here,” Rev. Harada said. The Hongwanji-ha has scheduled the next Tokudo in 2023.


The second level of ordination is called Kyoshi, and the third level is called Kaikyoshi, an overseas minister on behalf of the Hongwanji, which is earned after serving a year in the BCA.


From that group of 11 Kyoshi candidates — nine ministers from the BCA — two have joined as full-time ministers. Rev. Todd Tsuchiya is serving at the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago, Illinois, and Rev. Cynthia Yasaki is serving at the White River Buddhist Temple in Auburn, Washington.


“We hope to have, in the future, a few more in that group that will become full-time ministers,” Rev. Harada said.


Rev. Harada called the Kyoshi Kyoshu program “truly a team effort,” and singled out several people for their efforts.


“I’d like to especially thank Rev. (Kiyonobu) Kuwahara, who really worked on this for well over a year to bring the Kyoshi to the Jodo Shinshu Center and his dialogue and conversation with communications with the Hongwanji was instrumental,” Rev. Harada said. Rev. Kuwahara runs the Jodo Shinshu International Office (JSIO) and is Supervising Minister for the Berkeley Buddhist Temple and the Buddhist Temple of Marin.


Rev. Harada also cited the contributions from chanting and liturgy specialists such as Seattle Betsuin Rinban Rev. Katsuya Kusunoki and Tacoma Buddhist Temple Resident Minister Rev. Tadao Koyama who worked with the instructor from Japan, Rev. Gentoku Nishioki.


He also thanked the head chef, Rev. Michael Endo, and his assistants, BCA staff members Judy Kono, Bob Matsueda and Pam Matsuoka, who prepared three meals a day for 10 days under strict and isolating COVID-19 protocols.


On another topic, Rev. Harada commended BCA temples and churches for resuming in-person services while dealing with the uncertainty conditions associated with COVID-19 cases. “I know that everyone’s still struggling with getting people back in person, trying to grow our Sanghas and our membership,” he said.


“I commend everyone’s efforts for reopening, doing fundraisers again,” he continued. “This will continue to be a challenge. We have to continue to move forward, bring people, bring our Sangha back, and have in-person gatherings as safely as we can and to share the Dharma with new people, either in-person or virtually.”


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