Every morning, Rev. Yuki Sugahara of the Oregon Buddhist Temple
produces a live video about Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. He has done this
every day since the end of March 2020. He has talked about the Letters of
Rennyo (Gobunsho), the Jodo Wasan, and (at the time I am writing this),
the Koso Wasan.
On Sept. 13, he talked about the seven calamities mentioned in the
Lotus Sutra. These calamities are: fire, water, evil demons, weapons,
ghosts, imprisonment, and thieves and bandits. Shinran Shonin makes
reference to Master Saicho’s lesson on dealing with the seven calamities
and how this helped to promote the Nembutsu path in Japan.
In this column and in next month’s column, I talk about the five
calamities of 2020 and how the BCA handled them.
1. The Pandemic
The biggest story of 2020 was the novel coronavirus that causes
COVID-19. A virus that originated in Wuhan, China, spread throughout
the entire world. BCA temples had to close and could not conduct in-
person services. Major fundraisers had to be canceled. Dharma
Schools could not continue.
And yet, BCA ministers and minister’s assistants began to put their
services on the internet. Now, the online world could access Dharma talks.
Ministers, like Rev. Sugahara, found followers who lived in other countries
or continents. Our Jodo Shinshu teachings made a home on the internet.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism could be accessed on a smartphone. Virtual
services and Dharma School classes began. If anything, this helped to
spread the Jodo Shinshu teachings throughout the country.
2. The Recession
Due to the novel coronavirus, many businesses had to shut down.
People lost their jobs. The worldwide economy came to a stop. Airlines,
cruise ships, and railroads no longer had passengers.
And yet, temples began to hold virtual fundraisers. Some temples
raised more than $200,000 this way. Virtual Obon celebrations took place.
Temples raised money and donated businesses that supported the temple
fundraisers in the past.
The Endowment Foundation saw its holdings take huge earning losses
in March and April. And then, the stock market took off and almost all the
losses were replaced with gains that put people and funds in a better
position than what was the case at the start of the year.
3. The Natural Disasters
In the late summer of 2020, there were wildfires in Washington, Oregon,
and California. I had to evacuate my home and spent two days at my local
temple. Floods, hurricanes, and tropical storms hit the Southeastern
United States. Some Southeast Asian countries also had to deal with
And yet, the BCA Social Welfare Committee changed the criteria for
awarding grants to communities that were in need of funds. The funds
were used to help with basic human needs, like food and shelter. The
Social Welfare Committee made a grant to help fire victims.
The Social Welfare Committee has made a lot of changes in the way they
award grants. Temples that hold fundraisers for the community can get
matching funds. The Social Welfare Committee also put together a loan
program for temples who were having difficulty paying their bills.
The Social Welfare Committee is now looking to work with the Hawaiian
kyodan (and possibly the Canadian kyodan) to try to make a larger impact
on human suffering around the world. Your Thanksgiving offering helps to
allow the Social Welfare Committee make these grants. This is how the