Guitars in the Hondo

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G Sakamoto

My first assignment as a minister was to the Honolulu Betsuin. I was a part of the English Department where one of my responsibilities was helping with the layout of the monthly newsletter, The Goji. The department office was downstairs and away from the main office. Although I was usually upstairs occasionally I would spend time downstairs looking through old files and newsletters discovering things about our history. One of the things that really struck me was the concern expressed by leaders, twenty years earlier, about the need to make Jodo Shinshu relevant especially to youth. In a effort to meet that concern energy and resources were put into programs as other programs were developed. The Buddhist Study Center began with the encouragement of Rev. Dr. Alfred Bloom and the leadership of Bishop Kanmo Imamura. A conversation about a gathering place for students and retreats and study had been growing. The Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley was the result of the work of Bishop Imamura, and his wife Jane, while he was the minister of the Berkeley Buddhist temple. Their experience was invaluable. The Buddhist Study Center organized study sessions and seminars, established relationships with the University of Hawai’i. Teachers like Yoshifumi Uyeda and Ty Unno came to HawaiÕi to lead seminars and retreats. The Nembutsu Retreat for many years provided an opportunity to discuss the Dharma. The Youth Department organized retreats and activities for the YBA community. The state YBA continued to hold conventions and activities. Temples were thriving. This was taking place around 1965 to 1975 nearly 40 years ago. There were programs before and after this time but I left Hawai’i in 1976. I do not know the history of the temples since I left. Many of the ministers I grew up with and worked with have retired or died. There have been successful programs like Project Dana that provides services and support to the community. Project Dana was written up in Psychology Today many years ago. The Pacific Buddhist Academy is a viable college preparatory Buddhist school. But the Hawai’i Kyodan, like the BCA, continues to face diminishing support of its temples. In recent years the BCA has initiated programs like the Ministers’ Assistant Program and the Center for Buddhist Education. The Institute of Buddhist Studies has been experiencing an unprecedented number of students. In that student body there are several minister candidates. Although we have experienced successes we cannot lose sight of the fact that we continue to lose support for our temples. Over the past thirty years the BCA has experienced a decline of its size. HawaiÕi has been closing temples. The BCA has been consolidating temples. We have learned a great deal in the past sixty years. Foremost, hopefully, is that we cannot simply change the form with which we present the dharma. An appreciation of the content of the dharma will find expression through language, music, art. Our temples are vessels that carry the dharma. It will not matter what the vessel is like. As long as the contents are alive the dharma will find expression as it has for more than two thousand years. In the long view of Buddhist history our temples may come and go. The only certainty is change. At the core of that change can be the Buddhadharma that addresses the difficulties that result from our inability to see things as they are. And the nembutsu that assures us, as we are, of the resolution of difficulties. The temple can be an expression of gratitude for the reminders of my foolishness and the hope of Amida’s Vow.