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FDSTL Conference Draws Nearly 100 at MVBT

Coast District Dharma School Teachers’ League Hosts First In-Person Meeting Since Pandemic


 

The flowers were all a’bloom at Mountain View Buddhist Temple as nearly 100 participants gathered for the 2024 Federation of Dharma School Teachers’ Leagues (FDSTL) Conference that was hosted by the Coast District Dharma School Teachers’ League on April 27.


It was the first fully in-person conference since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a great reminder of the power of meeting and engaging with one another in creating community.


The conference theme was “Nurturing Shinran’s Seeds,” a recognition that Dharma School teachers carry forward the rich legacy of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism even as they bring a newfound realization of the Dharma and appreciation for the Nembutsu to new generations of young Buddhists. 


The conference was focused on highlighting perhaps lesser-known figures in Jodo Shinshu’s history — those whose life stories are only briefly touched upon in Dharma School lessons, but whose words and actions have had a profound and remarkable impact upon how we perceive, appreciate, and live the Nembutsu in our own daily lives.


Dr. Paula Arai, the Eshinni and Kakushinni Professor of Women and Buddhist Studies at the Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS), shared her path to learning about Jodo Shinshu as the keynote speaker.


She reminded the attendees of the important contributions of Eshinni and Kakushinni, Shinran Shonin’s wife and daughter, respectively. From their sincere belief in the Amida Buddha’s 18th Primal Vow, Eshinni and Kakushinni not only memorialized Shinran Shonin’s teachings and created the foundation of the Jodo Shinshu sect, but provided a place for women in Japanese Buddhism and Amida’s Pure Land. 


Dr. Arai also emphasized the importance of recognizing and celebrating the “hidden gems" who enjoy working in the background that we have not yet fully acknowledged publicly. To have Dharma School students seek them out and listen intently to their stories is a way that their wisdom can be transmitted across generations. As a powerful example, she then played a song that Larry Long created with fourth graders in honor of Helen Tsuchiya from the Twin Cities Buddhist Sangha.


The conference workshops built upon Dr. Arai’s keynote and also included Lady Takeko Kujo, who lived several hundred years later and founded the Buddhist Women’s Association (originally known as the “Fujinkai”) and immersed herself in social and societal concerns, including the foundation of Asoka Hospital, founding of the Kyoto Womens’ College and the reconstruction of Tsukiji Hongwanji in Tokyo after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Each workshop built upon each other, from providing more information on the lives of these three ladies of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, to identifying with their lives and their struggles, and then collaborating in groups on lesson plans that could then be taken back to each Dharma School.


The conference concluded with a special presentation of Great-Grandfather’s Drum and a “talk story” with Kay Fukumoto from Maui, Hawaiʻi. Fukumoto is one of the founders of Maui Taiko, a group that preserves the Fukushima Ondo tradition on Maui, and more broadly, across the United States. The film traces Fukumoto’s family heritage and celebrates Japanese American culture and history in Hawaiʻi. Fukumoto also expressed the importance of sharing stories and passing knowledge from generation to generation.


As part of the FDSTL general meeting, San Mateo Buddhist Temple Resident Minister Rev. Henry Adams installed the following members of the 2024-2026 cabinet:


President — Darlene Bagshaw, Northern District

Vice President for Education — Mas Nishimura, Coast District

Vice President for Administration — Avis Honda, Southern District

Secretary — Helen Takanabe, Southern District

Treasurer — June Kondo, Southern District

Director for Media Communications — Brent Izutsu, Coast District

President Emeritus — Koichi Sayano, Southern District 


The Federation of Dharma School Teachers’ Leagues also recognized and gratefully acknowledges the following teachers for their many years of dedication and support in nurturing and spreading the Dharma for our future generations: 


Bishop’s 10-Year Teaching Award


Charlie Bagshaw

Jennifer Toguri

Matt Tokeshi-Nitta

Karen Yamamoto


FDSTL Recognition for 25 Years of Teaching


Julia Ueda


A heartfelt thank you goes to the Mountain View Buddhist Temple and San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin sanghas for their many contributions in supporting the conference. And finally, おつかれさまでした and mahalo nui loa for a job well done to the small but mighty conference planning committee:


Rinban Rev. Gerald Sakamoto

Rev. Etsuko Mikame

Rev, Yushi Mukojima

John Arima

Patricia Kaneda

Mae Kawamoto

Bob Matsumoto

Masahiko Nishimura

Sharon Tsukahara


Brent Izutsu is Chair of the 2024 FDSTL Conference Planning Committee and President of the Coast District Dharma School Teachers’ League.

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Organizing a meeting of the Coast District Buddhist Dharma School teachers' union helps to convey and connect more in creating community. And collaborate in groups to develop lesson plans that can then be brought back to each Dharma School. geometry dash subzero

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