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Revering the Sangha: In Memory of Rev. Charles K. Hasegawa

I would like to remember and honor the late Rev. Charles K. Hasegawa, whose funeral I conducted April 13 at the Buddhist Church of Stockton.


Rev. Hasegawa served as a minister in Hawaii, in our BCA, at the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple, my home temple, and at the Buddhist Church of Stockton. 


I got to spend a lot of time with Rev. Hasegawa when he served at my home temple in Ontario, Oregon. Whenever I would go home to visit my parents or for a family vacation, I always spent time with Rev. Hasegawa.  


Sensei was an avid golfer and often golfed with the members. I played with him numerous times and also had many late night cups of coffee with him at the local coffee shops.  


Rev. Hasegawa was a most beloved minister when he served there and I am sure he was like that when he served in Hawaii and at Stockton.  My memories of Sensei were from those years that he served in Ontario.  


For my message at his funeral, I shared how Sensei was a minister who respected and revered the Sangha, and in turn, was respected and revered by the Sangha.  


Rev. Hasegawa was always one with his Sangha. He golfed with them. He bowled with them. He played cards with them. He had coffee with them. He worked alongside them at the Obons and festivals. He even enjoyed the casinos with them.  


As a minister, we all want to be respected by the Sanghas that we serve. But we have to understand that as a minister, first we have to be the one that respects and reveres our Sanghas. If we do that, then we will naturally be respected by our Sanghas.  


I think this is true for all occupations. A teacher who respects and reveres students is in turn respected and revered by the students. A nurse who respects and reveres patients is also respected and revered by the patients.  A business person who respects and reveres customers and clients is also respected and revered by the clients.  


The Larger Sutra, which Shin Buddhism is based upon, begins with Shakyamuni Buddha speaking to 12,000 followers before him. In most sutras, the Buddha is the enlightened one, sharing the Dharma, speaking to the unenlightened followers before him. 


Rev. Haya Akegarasu has a unique way of interpreting this scene from the Larger Sutra. Rev. Akegarasu feels that in the Larger Sutra, Shakyamuni does not see the 12,000 people before him as unenlightened people, but instead, the Buddha saw everyone in front of him as Buddhas, as emanating the radiant light of enlightenment. The Buddha revered the Sangha in front of him as Buddhas, and the Sangha in turn revered Shakyamuni as the enlightened Buddha.  


Rev. Hasegawa’s life as a minister teaches me this noble lesson to respect and to revere the Sangha. In so doing, one is naturally respected by the Sangha.  


No matter what our occupation or role of life is, this is essential. To respect one’s students as a teacher, to respect one’s players as a coach, to respect one’s clients in business, to respect one’s patients as a doctor is how one receives respect from them.  


This even applies to a farmer. Once, Rev. Gyomay Kubose spoke at my home temple many years ago. At that time, most of the members were farmers. 


In his sermon, Rev. Kubose said: “Tomorrow, you farmers should go out to your onion fields and gassho to your onions.”  


All of the farmers laughed and chuckled, but Rev. Kubose said, “Your onions are the source of your good life. Without your onions, you do not have your life as a farmer.”  


As I fondly recall and remember the late Rev. Charles Hasegawa, I will forever remember the lesson I learned from him about what it means to serve as a minister. Only when a minister respects and reveres a Sangha does that minister receive the respect and reverence from the Sangha. 


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Jun 26

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