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Las Vegas Holds Special ‘Shining Lights’ Celebration

City Council Members Proclaim March 9 ‘Las Vegas Buddhist Sangha Day’


Las Vegas Buddhist Sangha held a special inaugural celebration called “Shining Lights” on March 9.


Originally, this fundraiser was conceived by member Dan Lee as an evening of elevated dining and a showcase for our Sangha’s talented friend, vocalist Rita Lim. 


Over the same period that we were developing the event, I was training for Tokudo ministerial ordination and sharing the rewards and difficulties of going through this process in my Dharma messages. Sangha leaders kindly broadened the fundraiser to include a Tokudo celebration.


Four of my newly ordained Tokudo classmates traveled to Las Vegas to attend the event: Rev. Jean-Paul deGuzman (San Fernando) and his wife, Beatrice; Rev. Blake Honda (Fowler); Rev. Devon Matsumoto (Mountain View), his parents, and extended family; and Rev. Stacy Reardon (San Fernando), her husband, Eric, and their two daughters.  


Guests walked into a beautiful scene in the Sangha center that evening: hanging lanterns, tables set for fine dining and decorated with centerpieces, a wisteria photo booth, and a sake tasting station. During the first-hour mixer, we cheerfully connected with friends old and new as we welcomed our guests. 


The program opened with the introduction of City Council members Victoria Seaman and Francis Allen-Palenske, who read a proclamation from the City of Las Vegas that March 9 would be known as “Las Vegas Buddhist Sangha Day.” 


Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada then introduced the Tokudo recipients. 


I asked each of my classmates to share one lighthearted and one meaningful memory of our time in Kyoto for Tokudo, and wow, did they deliver the goods. 


They brought to light such memories as: jokingly chanting funeral Nembutsu over a classmate’s bed when he fell ill; the lovely letter of support our chanting instructor wrote and had translated to English so she could read it to us directly; and other examples of how our spirits were challenged by our conditions and lifted by the guidance we received. 


I loved hearing the laughter and feeling my classmates’ camaraderie extend to our Sangha. 





Following a delicious dinner, Rita Lim serenaded the room with her soulful voice and kind observations as a fellow Buddhist. If the evening lifted off with the Tokudo acknowledgment, it soared on the wings of the music and fellowship we felt listening together. 


The next morning, Rev. Harada led the five Tokudo ministers in the chanting of the Nembutsu Wasan, which are comprised of six poems written by Shinran Shonin, the founder of Jōdo Shinshū. These Wasan poems were part of our daily chanting during Tokudo, and to be together again, chanting these beautiful verses with our Sangha was another highlight of a wonderful weekend. 


The verse I led that morning is as follows:

“The light of wisdom exceeds all measure, 

And every finite living being 

Receives this illumination that is like the dawn, 

So take refuge in Amida Buddha, the true and real light.”


— “Jōdo Wasan 4” from “Collected Works of Shinran,” Page 325

 

“Shining Lights” was an example of the Buddha’s true and real light working through this Sangha and all the people who came together to make this a once-in-a-lifetime event. 


I believe there will be other “Shining Lights” events in our future, but this was the only one that will ever have taken place on March 9, 2024. Events like these are only possible because of all the shining lights among us, working to share the three treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha in all forms, with each other, our friends, and our community. 


When you find yourself in Las Vegas, I hope you will visit our Sangha and share your light with us as well.


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