K. Ken Fujimoto
Shinran Shonin often uses the terms fukashigi (不可思議), fukasetsu (不可説), fukasho (不可称) to describe the wondrous workings of Amida’s compassion. The literal meanings are, in order, things are impossible to imagine, impossible to explain and impossible to express, yet they happen in our lives on a regular basis. How else can things that occur in our lives be described as being anything but wondrous?
When we talk about things being wondrous or miraculous, many people look for things that are extremely out of the ordinary, but some of the most miraculous events occur regularly in the course of our daily lives. We may take such events for granted, but if we were to think about all that had to come together for us to be able to be part of those events, most of them are truly unimaginable and inexplicable.
The Coast District Ministers Association will be hosting the annual Summer Seminar and Ministers Meeting here in San Jose, from August 10 -12. As part of this, we will be hosting, what, we are referring to as, a Mini-Dharmathon, in our hondo on Monday evening, August 10, from 7:30 PM. In reflecting upon my connections with the three people that have been selected to be our speakers for this event; these phrases that Shinran used to describe the inexplicable came to mind. Each of those encounters coming together in this way is a wondrous and miraculous convergence of countless conditions being met at just the right time and in the right way to make this event possible.
The main speaker for our seminar and the Japanese language speaker for our mini-dharmathon will be Rev. Haruaki Shirakawa, the head of the Chuo Bukkyo Gakuin, the main seminary for ministers of our Nishi Hongwanji tradition. We met as classmates in 1972. Rev. Shirakawa and I were in the master’s program at Ryukoku University in Shin Buddhist Studies and had most of our classes together. We also spent time in the offices of our instructors discussing a variety of things, even the Buddha-dharma at times. Our viewpoints were quite different at times on topics such as organ transplants, but, in the end, we come to see the validity and importance of the other view. This gave each of us a broader perspective on the issue. We have continued to keep in touch and would try to get together, even briefly, each time I go to Kyoto.
One of our English speakers at this event will be Rev. Earl Ikeda, who I have known a little longer than Rev. Shirakawa. Rev. Ikeda is originally from Hilo, Hawaii, and is currently at the New York Buddist Church in New York City. I also met him in Kyoto, when I went to study there, but he was there studying chanoyu (popularly referred to as tea ceremony) at the Urasenke Headquarters in Kyoto.
At that time, he was also learning traditional shojin ryori at a restaurant/caterer in Kyoto. Shojin cooking is often simplified as vegetarian cooking, but there is much more depth there since, in Buddhism, we create karma with our actions, thoughts and words. Therefore, what we eat should not make us even think about meat, poultry or fish. Veggie burgers and tofurkey may be vegetarian, but not shojin, since we would be eating meat in our minds, if not in our actions.
In any case, he was not there to study to become a minister, but he did take his first step of ordination there and later returned to Japan to complete his studies after working for some years in the family businesses in Hilo.
The third and final speaker will be Rev. Diana Thompson from the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temples. Rev. Thompson is much younger than me and the other two speakers, but her situation may be even more interesting. I am sure that she is a pioneer as the first non-Nikkei minister to have grown up in the temple. She came up through Dharma School, YBA and all. One of my first direct interactions with her was when she came out to California on the Tri-State Buddhist Temple Sunshine trip many years ago. She stood out because she had green hair then. I qualified my statement about “direct interaction” because I had met her mother many years before at Dharma School teachers’ conferences and such and I got to know her because she was also considering the BCA ministry at one time.
These three encounters, different and unique, have come together to make this program possible. A classmate at school, a fellow Japanese-American foreign student in Japan, and an active youth member of one of our temples; each a person I had the opportunity to encounter at different stages of my life. No one could have imagined or would have considered it a possibility that these different encounters could culminate into a program to be held here in our hondo, and yet, it is going to happen. Those encounters did not happen with this or any, particular end result in mind, but somehow, conditions aligned in such a way for this event to be made possible. This is the wondrous nature of the working of Amida’s compassion that Shinran describes as fukashigi (incomprehensible), fukasetsu (inexplicable), fukasho (inexpressible).
© July 26, 2015
K. Ken Fujimoto