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Hybrid SD Buddhist Conference Draws Over 230

The hybrid 2022 Southern District Buddhist Conference, hosted June 25 by Orange County Buddhist Church, drew more than 230 participants and marked a memorable and joyous return to the temple.

What’s significant about the event is that about 150 individuals gathered in person in the OCBC Hondo to hear former Bishop Rev. Kodo Umezu. The conference began with a Bishop memorial service recognizing the past 14 Bishops (Kantoku/Socho) of the BCA.

In his talk, Rev. Umezu jokingly said that Shinran Shonin talked about “gyakushu” — conducting one’s own memorial service — and suggested that we could add his name to the memorial list with a “coming soon” in parenthesis. This emphasized Rev. Umezu’s point about how valuable, precious, and wonderful life is.

Although masks were required in the Hondo, the smell of burning incense, hearing the sutra chanting and Nembutsu, the kansho, and seeing in person fellow Sangha members, made the return to the temple memorable and exciting.

The service was quickly followed by a Dharmathon for the Japanese-speaking audience in the Social Hall led by Revs. Koho Takata, Ryuta Furumoto, and Hibiki Murakami. The English-speaking audience remained in the Hondo and was treated to Rev. Kodo Umezu’s presentation.

Rev. Umezu recalled his groundbreaking talk in 2011 before the United Nations at the U.N. Vesak celebration commemorating the 2,600 year of Buddha’s enlightenment. Rev. Umezu appeared at the request of Bishop Rev. Koshin Ogui, who had already committed to the World BWA Conference in Kyoto, Japan, at the time.

The theme of the U.N.’s Vesak celebration was “Peace, Harmony, Co-Existence,” an issue of importance for the world and for religious leaders.

Rev. Umezu recalled, in his U.N. speech, saying that he shared “my humble appreciation for the Buddha-Dharma through our Pure Land tradition.”

He looked around the OCBC Hondo and asked, “Do you know Buddha’s wish or ‘hongan’? Do we know that a bad person doesn’t exist?”

Rev. Umezu asked the audience to think about how we think and answer simple to complex questions that show that what we “like” and “dislike” creates conflict, discord and disharmony. He said that “each of us are unknowingly letting the ‘I’ control our behavior.”

Rev. Umezu’s wife, Janet Umezu, read a translated portion from the “Teaching of Buddha.” The selection talks about fellowship and the need to have sympathy for each other because we cannot know each other without sympathy. Once we develop trust in each other, we are able to have co-existence. Buddha appeared to share wisdom and compassion with everyone. First, we must see ourselves and accept ourselves, know our neighbors, and accept our neighbors to further our understanding.

According to the translation, the Buddha’s wisdom gives us teachings, which become our Light, so we can see and be awakened. We are often lost and we need to seek refuge in Buddha for guidance. Sharing wisdom is compassion, is what Buddha provides to everyone.

Rev. Umezu said that Buddha’s compassion is based on a universal truth that results in “no harm found in Dharma,” and suggested that harm is eliminated by the Dharma.

The hotel where the Umezus were staying during the conference was at the Cerritos Towne Center, and there is a building that has a dome in the shape of the Atomic Bomb Dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It reminded Rev. Umezu of the peace bell in Hiroshima.

The peace bell is rung every Aug. 6 at the memorial service that commemorates the atomic bomb blast of Hiroshima on that date in 1945. At the bottom of the bell is an inscription of Socrates’ aphorism, “Know Thyself,” in Greek, and in Sanskrit, verses three and five of the “Juseige.”

Rev. Umezu pointed out that few people are aware of this inscription of the “Juseige” at the bottom of the peace bell, but he said this is for everyone to be enlightened to the greater wisdom and compassion, which he said results in “Peace, Harmony, and Co-Existence.”

After a short break, the Japanese-speaking audience returned to the Hondo to hear Rev. Umezu’s talk.

The English-speaking audience moved to the Social Hall and heard a presentation on “The Spirit of Diversity in American Jodo Shinshu” by OCBC’s Rev. Ellen Crane, Janis Hirohama, Michael Li, and Marcia Taborga.

Michiko Inanaga of OCBC, BCA Development Chair, gave a presentation of the Dharma Forward campaign and how to make contributions to a vision for the future of Jodo Shinshu in America.

In her talk, BCA President Terri Omori of the Vista Buddhist Temple stressed involvement and support for the BCA.

Lynn Black, OCBC BWA President and SDBWA Chair, presented awards of 25 years of service to Dharma School teachers Judy Hopfield of Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, and Teri Whited of OCBC.

SD BWA grant recipients were also disclosed for 2022 by Laura Yamamoto.

The closing service was conducted with a Dharma message by Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada.

On behalf of the SD Council and OCBC, we thank everyone for participating in the SD Buddhist Conference.

Special acknowledgements to OCBC, Rev. Dr. Mutsumi Wondra, Rev. Jon Turner, SD Kyokucho, Rev. Koho Takata and to Rev. Kodo Umezu and Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada, and all the SD Ministers.

The 2023 SD Buddhist Conference will be held on Oct. 14, 2023. Titled, “Nembutsu Gratitude,” the 2023 conference will be hosted by Oxnard and Pasadena temples.

Meanwhile, all are invited to join the SD Tri-Temple Seminar on Oct. 1 on “Shin Buddhism in the Digital Age.” The speaker will be Rev. Hibiki Murakami of the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. The seminar will be hosted by the Orange County Buddhist Church.

Rick Oishi was the Southern District Buddhist Conference Chair, and the SD Council Chair.



Sep 05, 2022

Special thanks to OCBC, Rev. Dr. Mutsumi Wondra, Rev. Jon Turner, SD Kyokucho, Rev. Koho Takata, Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada, and all the SD Ministers. snow rider 3d


Aug 29, 2022

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