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In Memoriam: Rev. Hiroshi Jokai Abiko

Over the many years that I have known Abiko Sensei, I never heard him complain about his workload or even show that he was tired or on the verge of being burned out.


He was always upbeat, positive, and energetic, even when he was serving at busy places like the Los Angeles Betsuin. Whenever I saw him, he always had an enthusiastic greeting, “Hey Marv, how you doing?” Or something of that nature. His energy was quite infectious, and even if I myself felt a bit tired or worn out from a busy work schedule, after seeing Abiko Sensei, I would feel energized or uplifted.


It was with that thought in mind that I selected for his Ingo, or honorary title bestowed by the Hongwanji, the following Chinese characters. Rev. Abiko’s Ingo is pronounced “Ho-riki-in.” “Ho 法” — means the Dharma, as in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and the second character, “Riki 力,” means “power, or strength.” “In 院” means “Ingo” or honorary title.


I have translated Rev. Abiko’s Ingo as “The Power of the Dharma.” I think that the source of the energy and enthusiasm that Rev. Abiko exhibited in his life was not from drinking Red Bulls, or from 10 cups of coffee. I think his energy came from the Dharma, and from what the Dharma gave him in his life.


If one receives the Dharma deep within one’s heart and mind, it becomes a lifeforce. It becomes the source of a dynamic and fulfilling life. That kind of power of the Dharma is unlimited. It never runs out. It never gets depleted.


When we met with the family to discuss the details of the service, I asked the family if they wouldn’t mind sharing any kind of memory that they might have of Sensei. I learned some things about Abiko Sensei that I did not know such as the fact that he was quite good at working with wood, and sometimes would make something out of leftover wood from the Obon.


Rev. Abiko’s son, Ryo, said his father also helped him to build his Pinewood Derby car when he was a Cub Scout and that the car was very fast and made it to the regional finals. I guess that like many fathers, Abiko Sensei did most of the work to build that car.


Ryo did mention something that struck me. He said that his father could make something out of nothing. I know he was referring to his woodworking skills and how he could build something with really nothing, meaning only using discarded scrapwood, but I really liked that expression, to make something out of nothing.

I think that expression, “To make something out of nothing” is really a very religious expression if we think about it, especially in our Shin Buddhist tradition.


Although we unenlightened, foolish beings lack virtue or merit on our own, the power of the Dharma transforms we who are nothing into something.


Where there was once a life that lacked meaning, depth, or fulfillment, the Dharma transforms our life into one of unending meaning and fulfillment. Where there was once a hollow and empty heart, the Dharma transforms it into a heart that is overflowing. Where there was once a life of darkness and sadness, the Dharma transforms it into a life filled with light and joy. The power of the Dharma makes something out of nothing, and I think Rev. Abiko exhibited that in his life, through his endless source of energy, cheerfulness, and friendliness.


Now we are the ones who must come to receive that power of the Dharma in our hearts and minds. When we do, the sadness in our hearts will be transformed into a heart of gratitude for having known and had Rev. Hiroshi Abiko in our life.


When we are tired or even depressed, we can think of Sensei and his boundless energy, and the power of the Dharma will bring us strength, even courage. When our life feels empty and in vain, we can allow the power of the Dharma to fill our hearts and minds and transform it into a life of meaning and fulfillment. That is the power of the Dharma as manifested in the life of the late Rev. Hiroshi Jokai Abiko.


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