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Northern California District’s Joint Celebration Service Was Beautiful, Moving

As the Northern California Ministers’ Association embarked on planning a districtwide 850th and 800th celebration service to commemorate the establishment of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and Shinran Shonin’s birthday, I became quickly overwhelmed at the task at hand.  


Of course, a gathering such as this had many moving parts and getting lost in all of its details to ensure that everything went smoothly was something that I was guilty of. However, due to the help and support of my ministerial colleagues, the Northern California District Council, and countless temple members, it was a wonderful event that came together beautifully and made me realize why this gathering was so important.    


Our chairperson, Mrs. Sharon Ito Warren, made an impactful statement noting that this celebration occurs every 50 years, which made me realize that I may not be able to witness the next commemorative service. In 50 years, I will be 95 years old if I am fortunate to live that long. Because of this realization, this service reminded me of how fortunate I am to have encountered the Buddha-Dharma through Shinran Shonin’s dedicated efforts.  


This realization and my appreciation grew during the entire service. Each component of this gathering encompassed and seemed to express the deep appreciation of the Dharma from all of the attendees.  


I watched Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada in amazement as he ascended the raiban and offered the dedication of the service, which reminded us of the importance of this gathering. Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto expressed his deep appreciation of Shinran Shonin’s efforts and also reminded us of Venerable Shinran’s own humanness through his own struggles and searching. The voices of the Sangha, as we chanted and sang together, resonated with deep meaning of being in community together and how connected we are as we collectively praised Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin.     


Following the service, I heard many attendees mention how beautiful this musical service was and how they never had an opportunity to chant “Shoshinge” in such a melodic way. Even hearing the gatha, “Shinran Sama,” played on the guitar by Rev. Yuki Sugahara was a very special tribute for us to witness.  


This service was not only beautiful, but it moved me. It moved me in such a way to inspire me and rededicate myself in expanding my knowledge of Shinran Shonin’s life, his deep appreciation for his teachers, and his praise of Amida Buddha’s great Wisdom and Compassion. It moved me to become reinvigorated about sharing the Dharma with others. It moved me to be aware of and witness the Dharma unfolding in my everyday life.     


Namu Amida Butsu


Rev. Shibata is the Northern California Ministers Association (NCMA) Kyokucho.      

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