By Rev. Marvin Harada
Bishop of the BCA
These numbers are not the numbers to a combination for a safe, nor
are they numbers for a secret code. These numbers have significance in
my life, and they all have something to do with the date Sept. 1.
The first number, 34, is how many years I have served as a minister. I
started Sept. 1, 1986. The second number, 41, is the number of years I
have been married. My wife and I were married on Sept. 1, 1979. The
third number, 121, is the number of years in the history of our BCA. Sept.
1, 1899, is the BCA Founding Day.
It’s easy for me to remember my anniversary date because it is also
the anniversary of my ministerial career and the Founding Day of the BCA.
I have a hard time remembering how many years I have been married
though, because we got married in the odd year of 1979. We should have
waited until 1980 to get married so it would be easier for me to do the math.
There is another way that the numbers are all connected. If BCA was
never founded, I would never have become a minister. If the BCA had
never been founded, then my home temple in Ontario, Oregon, would
never have existed, and I would not have known or met my wife, Gail. Her
parents were my Jr. YBA advisors when I was in high school. My father-in-
law was the person who first encouraged me to attend an IBS summer
session, which was pivotal in my becoming a minister.
Over the years, in attending many BCA meetings, I have often heard
people criticize the BCA, some even questioning why we had it. I guess
some people feel like their temple assessments are too high, or that they
feel like we don’t need a national organization to have to financially
Such thoughts have never occurred in my mind. Without the BCA,
having been founded in 1899, Shin Buddhism would not have been
introduced to this country. It made its way to the Japanese communities
that built and established churches and temples across our country. Many
temples were literally built by the hands of its members.
My home temple in Ontario, Oregon, when it was built, had only one
professional carpenter. The rest of the labor was all done by the members
of the temple, who were basically all farmers in those days. They built it
during the winter, when farmers didn’t have work in the fields. My uncle
broke his arm, falling from a ladder during the construction. Many of our
BCA churches and temples have such stories. Our pioneering members
literally built our churches and temples with their own hands.
Thanks to the fact that the BCA was started, and my home temple
was started, I came to encounter Shin Buddhism, which eventually led to
becoming a minister, and now even more unbelievably, to be serving as the
Bishop of the BCA.
My life is limited and who knows how many years I will have to serve,
and how many years I will have to live, and how many more anniversaries I
will be able to celebrate with my wife. Hopefully we can make it to our
golden wedding anniversary someday.
But Sept. 1, 1899, will go way beyond my lifetime. It is my hope that
even centuries from now, Buddhist history will note the significant date of
when the BCA was founded and when Shin Buddhism came into this
But whether the BCA has a future that goes into the next centuries,
depends on us, today. We are the ones who must dig deep into the
teachings, then share those teachings with others, of all backgrounds,
ages, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientation.
It is my hope that the BCA will someday observe a 200-year anniversary, and a 300 and on and on. I wish I could see it. What a celebration it will be.