The unlikely combination of a Dharma message and its topic — the megapopular Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei “Shotime” Ohtani — has taken off with a life of its own, much like one of Ohtani’s legendary home runs at Angels Stadium in Anaheim.
Rev. Dr. Mutsumi Wondra, in her virtual Sept. 26 Dharma message to the Orange County Buddhist Church Sangha, spoke on the topic of “Shohei Mandala: Repeated Practice Becomes a Good Habit.”
That Dharma message caught the attention of the OCBC and Vista Sanghas — and resonated with Los Angeles Times writer Gabriel San Román, who quoted and referred extensively to Rev. Dr. Wondra’s message in his Sunday, Oct. 3, Times story, “For Japanese Americans in Orange County, Shohei Ohtani is already their MVP.”
The MVP reference to Ohtani has to do with his exceptional 2021 season with the Angels. The designated hitter-pitcher-outfielder wrapped up the year by hitting 46 home runs and driving in 100 runs. And, what’s more, he has a 9-2 record as pitcher, with 156 strikeouts in 130 innings pitched — a hitting and pitching feat with echoes of only one other legendary hitter and pitcher, Babe Ruth, in the early 1900s.
Ohtani is considered the odds-on favorite as Major League Baseball’s Most Valuable Player, which will be announced in November.
It was Ohtani’s use of a personal growth technique called the Harada Method in Japan to achieve his goals that caught the attention of Rev. Dr. Wondra. The method was created by Takashi Harada, a former teacher in Japan who also taught it to Hiroshi Sasaki, Ohtani’s high school baseball coach — and who passed it onto the young player.
Ohtani, who grew up in Iwate prefecture in Japan, wanted to be the No. 1 draft pick in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. After consulting with Sasaki, Ohtani devised a strategy on how to improve himself both as an athlete and as a person.
And Ohtani ended up reaching his goal — he was selected No. 1 by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2012, when he was a teenager.
Rev. Dr. Wondra became intrigued by the superstar’s feats when she heard and read that he regularly picks up trash at Angels Stadium in Anaheim and in the dugout. Cultivating clean habits is one of Ohtani’s many listed goals.
“I found Shohei’s Dream Matrix (the Harada Method), composed in the concept of a Buddhist mandala,” Rev. Dr. Wondra said, noting two major mandala designs — the Diamond Realm mandala that shows the Buddha’s wisdom and the Garbhadhatu mandala that shows the Buddha’s compassion.
“I connected the popular Ohtani Dream Matrix with the concept of a Buddhist mandala,” Rev. Dr. Wondra said. “Ohtani is popular among everyone, including young and old. His continued good acts toward his final goal bring us a positive and healthy idea. The process toward a big goal can be broken down into small goals and be worked on a daily basis. His repeated practices make for a good habit, and his dream finally came true.”
Rev. Dr. Wondra’s message also elaborated on cleanliness and picking up trash — she explained the annual OCBC temple cleanup. “Cleaning up with using a broom or vacuum cleaner also means to clean up the clutter in our mind,” she said.
She said the OCBC and Vista Sanghas enjoyed her “Shohei Mandala” message and said she “received many positive comments from them. Some of the OCBC Jr. YBA members became curious and refer to Shohei’s mandala concept to develop their future goals.”
Speaking of good habits, Rev. Dr. Wondra said “it is important to see ourselves in a good environment in order to hear and appreciate the Buddha-Dharma. Shin mindful meditation is the initial step to calm ourselves for deep listening. Attending the Sunday service, either in person if possible or virtual, is another practice, which people can make a good habit.”