Rev. Dr. Yamaoka Spreads Dharma on Social Media — One Line at a Time

After he retired from the Buddhist Church of Oakland in 2008, Rev. Dr. Seigen Haruo Yamaoka’s youngest daughter Stacy urged him to keep socially active — and signed him up on Facebook and Twitter.


He’s been hooked on social media ever since — nearly a decade and almost 4,000 pithy posts ago.


Rev. Dr. Yamaoka shows no sign of stopping with his daily ritual, to the delight of many of his more than 2,000 followers on Facebook. He lists the same brief message each day on Twitter, where his handle is @life_simple.


“It’s what moves me at that particular time,” he said. “It’s something that comes in a moment. It’s whatever I think at that time, or if a word kind of strikes me, I try to put it together, or if an idea comes to mind or a situation that’s happening in the community, I try to put that in somehow.”


“Higan. Cross over to love rather than drowning in hate.”


— Rev. Dr. Seigen Yamaoka (March 21, 2021)



Writing, after all, was Rev. Dr. Yamaoka’s first calling, and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Fresno State in 1956.


But the 1950s were far different times for Japanese Americans, who faced widespread discrimination and public hostilities and barriers to employment in mainstream society.


After failing to get a good job with a mainstream newspaper, Rev. Dr. Yamaoka turned to the BCA. One thing led after another, and he’s compiled an amazing career with the BCA and IBS -- serving as Bishop and as IBS President, 44 years as a Kaikyoshi minister for both the Stockton and Oakland churches and spearheading major BCA capital campaigns.



“Never lose sight of the fact that we are dependent on countless lives to live.”


— Rev. Dr. Seigen Yamaoka (Nov. 16, 2020)


He says he began venturing into social media because he wanted “to be out there for our (Oakland) church members and for young people who go on to college. In case they ran into some difficulties, they could always contact me.”


He tags each message on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #shin-ibs.edu — and links it to the Institute of Buddhist Studies website. (https://www.shin-ibs.edu)


“Today I lost the love of my life of 52 years. Feeling deep sadness and gratitude for the life we shared.”


— Rev. Dr. Seigen Yamaoka (Aug. 4, 2018)


Rev. Dr. Yamaoka’s posts are almost always somewhat impersonal. But he broke with that norm on Aug. 4, 2018 — a day his wife, Shigeko, passed away.


“Usually I don’t get too personal about myself, but that one was very important,” he said.


“You know, for me, it’s not a big project,” he said. “It’s something I just kind of do as part of my ritual. The whole idea of the Buddhist side of it is always in every message — in my mind, whether I say it or not. It’s something to do with life or death or something that’s going on — the lack of compassion in the world — or whatever. The idea of Buddhism, of Jodo Shinshu, is always in there.”