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Elyse Fujii of Stockton Is 2023 Nitta Scholarship Recipient

The BCA’s Federation of Dharma School Teachers’ League (FDSTL) has awarded the 2023 Fred and Helen Nitta Scholarship to Ms. Elyse Fujii from the Buddhist Church of Stockton.


Fred and Helen Nitta established the scholarship in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary, and the FDSTL has since been able to award scholarships to our outstanding young Buddhists. Fred Nitta was an avid supporter of the Watsonville temple youth who actively participated in temple and district activities.


Ms. Elyse Fujii has spent her life as a part of the Sangha of the Buddhist Church of Stockton. After learning about the Gardena Buddhist Church’s Ichi-Mi efforts addressing LGBTQ+ issues in the BCA from Rev. Candice Shibata, Elyse became interested in the encompassing compassion and inclusion of the Buddhist teachings.


“The Golden Chain” is her favorite recitation as it embodies the concept of bringing everyone together in a positive realm. Through these teachings, Elyse wholeheartedly embraces her community through her amazing level of both temple and community service.


Not only is Elyse an exceptional volunteer, but she is also an accomplished academic student, receiving Lifetime CSF, the San Joaquin County Pinnacle Award and Seal of Biliteracy.


Through her keen ability to combine academic prowess and genuine interest in the Buddhist teachings, Elyse expressed her understanding of the LGBTQ+ community in a Buddhist context.


“Sexual identity and orientation have historically been heavily scrutinized topics affecting numerous aspects of society, ranging from politics to religion, that has only now, in current times, become accepted and integrated within the world,” Elyse wrote. “Even today, acceptance and rights are haphazardly thrown around with regulations against transgender individuals like those in the U.S. state of Florida, which are aimed at discounting the identity of citizens of all ages in favor of political and personal beliefs.”


She stated the “rights and freedoms for the LGBTQ have only just been instituted in the past 20 years, and while commonly understood as law, they are still new in that they have yet to be as integrated in society as the freedom of speech. Even then, with these laws and legal understandings of the rights of the LGBTQ, those within this community are being persecuted in countries with laws against the LGBTQ and even in those with laws protecting the LGBTQ.”


Elyse said “a big contributor to this relentless hatred is in part fueled by religion and culture, both of which are supposed to bring people together, but are instead regularly used to influence political and social movements against the LGBTQ and to spread misinformation and defamation against them.


“Buddhism is, therefore, unique in that its religious practices do not place an emphasis on the virtues of sexual identity or orientation, but rather the nature of these relationships and person themself when validating those within the LGBTQ community,” she said.


“Focusing solely on the core Buddhist principles, such as the five precepts, there is only one mention of anything relating to relationships and sexuality,” she continued. “As a result, any relationships and identities that are solely derived from this value are valid and permitted so long as harm does not befall any individual involved, including relationships regarding the LGBTQ and sexual identities.”


She noted additional Buddhist practices also put a focus on equality, treating all people and beings with the same basic respect everyone deserves.


“Under Buddhist principles, the LGBTQ community is not scrutinized or denied their identity; they are considered like everyone else, a being that is entitled to the same rights as other beings,” Elyse said.


“While Buddhism does not cover every situation that may arise for a person regarding sexuality or sexual identity, Buddhist teachings relay that everyone deserves to exist and have the same rights as one another. Buddhism, at its core, welcomes all types of people from all walks of life, disregarding judgment based on looks, race, or sexual identity and orientation,” she said.


The FDSTL wishes Ms. Elyse Fujii success in all her endeavors as she embarks on her studies at the University of California, Davis. Elyse plans to pursue a degree in medicine leading to her career choice as a forensic pathologist.


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