The International Ministers Orientation Program (IMOP) has brought Japanese ministers who are interested in serving overseas to the United States.
Most have been ministers at the start of their careers. But this year, the minister who participated in IMOP was a veteran who holds one of the highest religious positions in the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha and is a respected teacher of more than 30 years and academician.
Rev. Giei Sasaki has the special title within Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha of “Shikyo,” which literally means “conduct training” in English. “Shikyo” is the second-highest academic position in Jodo Shinshu studies. Rev. Sasaki teaches at Ryukoku University and the Central Buddhist Institute and also holds the position of bishop at the Nishi Hongwanji, where he is involved in training students.
Rev. Sasaki and his family — wife, Mari, and son, Eiki – arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area on Aug. 23 and returned to Japan on Sept. 25.
“BCA is a place that reminds me of the most important things in my life,” Rev. Sasaki said during his stay. “Everyone earnestly listens to and rejoices in the primal vow of Amida Buddha.
“Bishop, ministers and members share the same feelings,” he continued. “Listening to their words makes my heart tremble. This is the true essence of Jodo Shinshu, which is the form of ‘Ondobō Ondogyō,’ — ‘fellow travelers together in the Nembutsu’ – where we share our joy and suffering together.“
Like other IMOP participants, Rev. Sasaki visited temples and experienced temple activities. But he also gave dharma talks and also headed up an online question-and-answer session for about three dozen minister’s assistants and ministers.
Rev. Sasaki would like to help spread the Jodo Shinshu teachings. He also has two dreams: One is to give a Ted Talk about Jodo Shinshu and the second is to help his son become independent in the United States.
Eiki has been severely physically handicapped since he was less than 4 months old, when he suffered a subdural hematoma. Eiki, now in his 20s, uses a wheelchair and communicates with the help of his mother.
Each year for the past 20 years, the Sasakis have visited an institute for brain injured children in Philadelphia, which Rev. Sasaki said is like a second home to them.
In addition to his duties in Kyoto, Rev. Sasaki is the head priest of his family temple near Lake Biwa. The family stays in Kyoto during the week and goes back to the family temple on weekends. He has also translated almost all of the Pure Land sutras into Japanese.
Rev. Sasaki and his family enjoyed their stay in the Bay Area and he thanked the BCA.
“Here, the spirit of Jodo Shinshu is alive and well,” Rev. Sasaki said.
“I am truly grateful. Thank you, BCA.”