President’s Message May

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Happy Earth Day!

By the time this article appears, I know that we will be celebrating Earth Day here at the Betsuin.

Many of us had grandparents and parents who frequently uttered the phrase “mottainai!”  whenever we did something unthinking and wasteful.  After I had my own children I uttered those same words and felt the same frustration with unthinking and wasteful behavior.  I guess age makes us more mindful of the effects we have on everything around us.  We are much more conscious of the effects our actions have on the environment.  We are more open to learning ways to prevent a negative impact on the environment and to make the most of everything we have.

Back a few months ago, Reverend Sakamoto asked me if I thought it would be okay to build an aquaponic garden on the 6th Street property.  He very enthusiastically described the project with a sketch and a timeline as he was planning to have it ready for Earth Day.  He was very eager to get started using some recycled items to build the garden.  I thought it sounded like something fun and educational that would engage the Sangha and so he went straight to work.

On a recent Wednesday, after our usual Wednesday lunch, Reverend Sakamoto announced that he was going to go feed his catfish in his aquaponics garden located on our 6th Street lot.  It piqued our curiosity and a group of us followed him out to watch him feed his catfish.  I was impressed to find a very elaborate system of tanks, plants and fish, a complete ecosystem.  Reverend Sakamoto explained the process of the sustainable gardening.  There were already vegetable plants, such as lettuce, tomato and peppers, growing in the garden and the catfish looked contented swimming in their tank.  He explained how areas with very little water could farm in this fashion and feed many people.  Judy Nakano was cute as she crinkled her nose at the idea of eating the catfish but the lunch menu of fried catfish and tender greens intrigues some of us.  (Yes, we know catfish are bottom feeders.)  Reverend Sakamoto said as long as we don’t name each of the catfish it would be easier to eat them.

While we were out looking at the catfish, we toured Stan Kawamata’s compost piles and worm bins, which are located next to Reverend Sakamoto’s aquaponics garden. Stan stuck his hands into the worm pile to show us the happily wriggling worms.  Stan is very conscientious and is frequently seen carrying the compostable waste out to the bins after Betsuin events.  Stan also conducts the composting and vermiculture demonstrations at our Earth Day.  I look forward to the day when the Betsuin can have a garden using this wonderful compost.  I bought my own worm bin the other day and took a class in vermiculture and composting.  Stan has promised me a handful of worms as soon as I get my bin set up.  Although I have good intentions, the bin is still sitting in my garage, empty.

I encourage everyone to take a walk out behind the Hondo to see the aquaponic garden and the compost piles. You will be impressed.  How many other urban temples have an aquaponic garden and compost/worm bins?

Initially, I thought of the aquaponic garden as simply a demonstration of self sustaining farming, a sort of science project, but it occurred to me as Reverend Sakamoto was explaining his aquaponic garden that he was spreading the Nembutsu in a way other than through a Dharma talk.  These efforts to avoid negative impact on the environment are their own Dharma lessons as they demonstrate causes and conditions, interdependence and mindfulness. Catfish and worms remind us to be grateful for the environment.  Thank you to Reverend Sakamoto for spending all that time and energy for a most interesting Dharma lesson.

Wishing you all a very happy Earth Day!

In Gassho,

Janice Doi


The Infrastructure Committee has received a bid proposal from Cody, Anderson and Wasney.  Ruth Shikada will be reviewing the proposal with CAW.  The Infrastructure Committee will begin looking for a general contractor.

The Fundraising Committee of the Board has started seeking commitments for funds.  Roy Yamanouchi has asked the entire Board to be prepared to state their commitments toward the project at the next Board meeting. Keeping in mind that everyone’s financial situation is different, everyone was encouraged to commit at his or her own capacity.

The Membership Committee, which is chaired by Dennis Akizuki, is gathering information and data regarding our Sangha and will be providing information to the Fundraising Committee.

Since we will need help and manpower, the Board Development Committee, chaired by Joyce Iwasaki, is working toward recruiting new Board members.  The Committee is also researching options for a consultant to train the Board in fundraising.  We are seeking Board members who have talents in the areas of marketing, finance and high tech.  If you are interested in joining the Board or helping on any of our committees, please contact Joyce Iwasaki.