Dharma Message
By Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi, Resident Minister
     Happy Anniversary New Year!  
     The emphasis of the new year is traditionally on the future.  As this is our 90th anniversary year,
we will also be looking back to appreciate all that has been done for us to enjoy our present state.  
As Shin Buddhists, we have been gifted with a very reliable guide to any of life’s challenges.  Are
we aware of this valuable gift? Life is very complex.  The human mind and our place in the universe
are profound and confusing.  The Buddha addressed the core issues of human life and taught this
Truth at various levels.  Shinran presented this truth in a manner that can be appreciated by us
ordinary beings.  We have ample evidence that our predecessors benefitted greatly in good times
and bad.  Let us insure that our children continue to benefit, by understanding and living this great
     In Zen meditation, the meditator is invited to counts her/his breaths.  This is a distraction
technique to counter the mind’s ability to bombard the sitter with random, chaotic thoughts.  We
may suggest a similar strategy to counter our incessant attention to our own selfish desires.  By
asking the question, “how did I get here,” our attention is shifted from our concern for our personal
future, to our indebted connection to others.  We begin to realize that the efforts of so many
people have resulted in benefitting my life.  We begin to appreciate Shinran’s declaration that
“the Vow is for me alone.”  Somehow, in the vast mystery of time and space, I have been gifted
life in the 21st century in modern America.  Our living standard far exceeds even that of the
historical prince, Siddhatha Gautama.  Even with the threat of recent terrorist activity, our security,
health, and social standards are far above that of our pioneering predecessors who established our
temple.  So our 90th anniversary year will focus on the lives and contributions of past members and
ministers of our sangha.  It was because of their commitment to the Buddha-Dharma that we
enjoy the Teachings.  Let us resolve to understand the essential teachings of Shinran, so that we
may pass on this valuable guide to our children, who may face a more challenging future.
     The closest link we have to the historical past is our temple elders.  We may be reminded that
some of them were part of the “greatest generation,” as identified by Tom Brokaw.
     One of the characteristics that inspired that tribute was their courageous ability to act in the
interest of the greater community over their own self-interest.  This was most evident in the
tumultuous years of WWII.  There are many real-life stories experienced by our temple members
that are far more dramatic than the thin fiction that is aired on present day TV.  They experienced
economic insecurity, social discrimination, and minimal material comforts.  Yet they persevered
through the difficult times of the mid 20th century.  We are the benefactors of their efforts.
     We have suggested that our older Dharma School children interview many of our older
members of our temple.  The values that sustained these members need to be passed on to
counter the current trends of popular culture.  We can see ample display of conspicuous
consumption, bullying and violence, and the inflation of self-promotion.  It is at our temple that the
truer values of gratitude, humility, and relationships need to be shared.  The deeds of our elders
need to be shared by stories, since our younger students weren’t able to see for themselves.  But
they learn as we have, by observation as well as by words.  So those of us who are in that middle
age range might remember that it is by our conduct that children learn.  It is fortunate that this
sangha community has ample examples of a wholesome Dharma life.  But what is a Shin Dharma
life?  It is not about being good.
     Shinran was not living a virtuous life.  It was a life of integrity.  He was honest about his ego.  He
championed the life of the common man, not the rich and famous.  We want our children to
succeed, but not at the expense of false values.  Most of us have lived common lives.  Some have
reached higher levels of career competence.  But we should realize that whatever level we have
achieved, has been supported by the efforts of so many others.  
Acknowledging this support is the basis of a Shin Buddhist life.  “Thank you” or Namo Amida Butsu is
our awakening.  
     In my experience in conducting funerals and memorial services, I find that lives are valued by
what a person has given to others.  Career achievements are mentioned, but it is the love that
has been shared that is cherished.  Our anniversary year will be one of gratitude to our elders.  To
our children, it is also a lesson of the value of a Shin
Buddhist life.
                                                                                                                     Kenji Sensei
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