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GBC’s Winter Pacific Seminar Features Rev. Dr. Ken Tanaka

His Talk on ‘Buddhism and War’ Focuses on How Shin Buddhists Can Cope with Conflicts Around World


“Buddhism and War: How We Can Face Up to It as Shin Buddhists” was the topic for this year’s Winter Pacific Seminar (WPS) on Jan. 27 at the Gardena Buddhist Church.

Rev. Dr. Ken Tanaka, Professor Emeritus of Musashino University in Tokyo and former Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of IBS, served as the keynote speaker in both English and Japanese.


Rev. Dr. Tanaka stated that war is a major issue in regions throughout the world. His lecture focused on how Jodo Shinshu Buddhists can cope with the situation.


Many of the references Rev. Dr. Tanaka used for his presentation came from his book “Jewels: An Introduction to American Buddhism for Youths, Scouts and the Young at Heart.”


Rev. Dr. Tanaka began his lecture by saying that Buddhism is a “first-person” religion that must be “lived” in our daily lives and not just “learned.” Thus, not “bukkyō” (Buddhist teachings), but “butsudō” (Buddhist path).


Rev. Dr. Tanaka elaborated on the death of a former Dharma School student from the Mountain View Buddhist Temple who died in the Vietnam War; family experiences during World War II with the mass incarceration camp experience; and the potential threat of nuclear war today.


Three main points of his talk focused on the following points: 1) Buddhists seek to promote peace and avoid war; 2) Recognizing at times that humans are unable to fully live up to the above mentioned ideal; 3) Nevertheless, Buddhists are moved religiously to do what we can to seek peace and avoid war in the Saha world — a world which is full of suffering.


In describing how Buddhists value peace and avoid hatred that can lead to war, he mentioned the first of the Five Precepts or the Ten Wholesome Acts (in the Six Paramitas): “I shall refrain from taking the life of a living being.” 


For other values of peace, Rev. Dr. Tanaka referenced statements from Shinran, Honen Shonin and Ceylon’s J.R. Jayawardene speech at the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951.  


He also discussed current situations around the world, including wars in the Middle East, Ukraine and the threat from North Korea and how Buddhists are faced with such challenges.


Rev. Dr. Tanaka spoke about the intriguing story of Rev. Sehrii Trylis, a Ukrainian Buddhist priest who served in the Ukraine military for 11 months. 


“We must fight a war to realize peace,” he quoted Rev. Trylis.


Rev. Trylis, in a recent interview with Rev. Dr. Tanaka, described the difficulty with conflict of being a Buddhist priest and serving as a Ukrainian soldier. A YouTube recording of the interview can be found at https://youtu.be/OgBm6czDxGU 


The WPS began with Rev. Koho Takata, Resident Minister of the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple, welcoming both in-person and online participants to the seminar.


Following the chanting of the “Juseige,” which was led by Rev. John Iwohara, Resident Minister of the Gardena Buddhist Church, Rev. Takata introduced Center for Buddhist Education (CBE) Director Rev. Jerry Hirano, who provided a welcome greeting and an introduction of Rev. Dr. Tanaka.


“Our current situation seems so crazy and it is affecting our young people today,” Rev. Hirano said.


Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada, who was not able to attend the seminar, provided a recorded video Dharma message.


“May the Buddha-Dharma spread, and may there be peace on earth,” said Rev. Harada, quoting from Shinran Shonin.


After Rev. Dr. Tanaka addressed the English-speaking group, he provided his message to the Japanese-speaking audience.


A selection of ministers served as panelists to provide their views, based on the theme, both in English and Japanese. 


Rev. Iwohara, Rev. Jon Turner (Orange County Buddhist Church) and Rev. Kory Quon (Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple) shared the Dharma in English while Rev. Dr. Mutsumi Wondra (Orange County Buddhist Church) and Rev. Ryuta Furumoto (Senshin Buddhist Temple) shared the Dharma in Japanese.


Rev. Gregory Gibbs (Pasadena Buddhist Temple) served as moderator for the English session.


At the conclusion of the seminar, the in-person attendees gathered in the social hall for a bento lunch to welcome Rev. Dr. Tanaka and to rekindle friendships.


The seminar was hosted by the BCA Center for Buddhist Education, Southern District Ministers Association, Southern District Council of the BCA, Institute of Buddhist Studies, and Jodo Shinshu International Office. 


There were 107 registered delegates who participated in the hybrid seminar in-person or virtually on Zoom.


Gardena Buddhist Church announced that a recorded video of the seminar was in the process of being edited and would be available for viewing at a later date.


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