Rev. Earl Ikeda, who brought the Aloha spirit to New York City, recently retired as the Resident Minister of the New York Buddhist Church and Supervising Minister of the Seabrook Buddhist Temple after seven years of learning to love and brave New York and New Jersey’s cold and often gray winters.
An outdoor retirement reception was held Oct. 10 at a venue in New York City’s Ellington in the Park in Riverside Park. About 35 Sangha members and friends attended. And although it rained, the group was protected under an awning and everyone was pleased to be able to gather in person to wish Rev. Earl — as he is known — well.
Rev. Ikeda has loved being in New York and found the city to be exciting, vibrant and filled with energy. He has enjoyed the diversity and "has no regrets whatsoever about relocating from Hawaii to New York."
He originally thought that he would be serving at a temple until he passed. The pandemic made him rethink that assumption.
"I saw many of my friends retiring, and I saw how much NYBC had to innovate and change the way it made the Dharma accessible to a larger number of people through live streaming and virtual events, even though the temple itself was closed for 17 months,” he said.
“It made me realize that I should step away and provide an opportunity for younger people to take on leadership,” Rev. Ikeda continued. “Many of the temples in Hawaii have begun to focus on the need to attract younger members to their temples in order for Jodo Shinshu Buddhism to continue to grow and be able to serve as a place where Buddhist teachings can continue to be heard and studied. I am hopeful that the NYBC Sangha, collaborating closely with a new minister, can focus on this important goal."
During his tenure with NYBC — which began in 2014 — Rev. Ikeda was noted for his warm welcome to both longtime Sangha members and, in particular, newcomers.
Besides their attraction to the teachings and practice of Buddhism, many new members often pointed to Rev. Ikeda’s compassion and sincere concern for their well-being as a major reason for becoming Sangha members.
Rev. Ikeda encouraged the Sangha to engage in new fundraising initiatives, often against some amount of stubborn resistance. But who can forget the successful introduction of loco moco — a Hawaiian staple dish — to NYBC’s Autumn Festival Bazaar and the wonderful time that everyone had at the Luau dinner fundraiser.
He brought Okinawan dance classes, as a practitioner devotee, into the temple and sponsored the introduction of ikebana classes. Rev. Ikeda was an advocate in encouraging everyone to be active in the larger community and could be counted on to support and participate in citywide LGBTQ+ and other events.
In 2018, he was awarded the Bronx Community Board’s Community Service Award for his work at MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care.
Rev. Ikeda was born and grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii and received a bachelor’s in arts degree in Japanese from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and later attended Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan.
He lived and studied at the Kaikyoshi Kenshu-sho, Study Center for Overseas Ministry, and subsequently received Tokudo ordination in 1972. After spending many years back in Hawaii, in 2000, he returned to Kyoto to receive Kyoshi certification and a year later received Kaikyoshi status from the Hongwanji in Kyoto.
Before arriving in New York, Rev. Ikeda was a minister for the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. He served several temples throughout Hawaii including West Kauai Hongwanji, Puna Hongwanji (overseeing Naalehu and Pahala temples), and Moiliili Hongwanji Missions.
He retired from his Hawaii ministry in January 2014 and in March 2014, joined the Buddhist Churches of America and was assigned to the New York and Seabrook temples.
NYBC and Seabrook will miss his inclusive Hawaiian-style warmth at their temples and wish him the very best in his well-deserved retirement in New York City.
Rev. Ron Miyamura of the Midwest Buddhist Temple will become the Supervising Minister of the New York Buddhist Church. Rev. Nariaki Hayashi of the Ekoji Buddhist Temple will become the Supervising Minister of the Seabrook Buddhist Temple.