Ganjin lives, part 1

My first wife, Linda Luebke, was very impressed by the heroic story of Ganjin. When I was first assigned to Seattle Betsuin in 1986, our two sons were young and Linda became very involved in the Betsuin choir, Dharma School and initiated an annual Buddhist Arts Retreat that lasted for about ten years. Seeing a need for more contemporary children’s gathas, she composed and published “Six Songs for Buddhist Children” in 1990 which included “Ganjin’s Journey.”

For Linda, Ganjin’s selfless missionary spirit is the same spirit that motivated the issei ministers who crossed the sea from Japan to establish what would become the Buddhist Churches of America. For the issei, it was not the ocean journey that was so perilous but what they encountered when they arrived here; they spread the Dharma in the face of racial prejudice, religious intolerance and great economic hardships. The ministers persevered like the words of the gatha,“ Foreign lands, does it matter? Foreign tongues may speak the same thought.”

A few days before she died of pancreatic cancer in December 2013, I went to visit Linda. She had given up her teaching position in Indiana and moved to Milwaukee to be close to her mother and sister. Our two sons Quincy and Ted had taken family leave from their jobs to share a two bedroom apartment with her and, with hospice care, to take care of Linda’s needs. Thankfully, Linda was lucid and able to stay in her apartment
until the last day of her life.

The last time I spoke with her, I said, “You are on Ganjin’s journey now.” I told her I would try to take Quincy and Ted to Ganjin’s temple in Japan and to present her gatha. She smiled and replied,“That would be nice. ”

Eleven months later, in November 2014, I travelled with Quincy and his wife Caitlin to Toshodaiji and was received by the abbot Rev. Chien Ishida who was extremely kind but who didn’t speak any English. With my extremely limited Japanese, I presented Linda’s gatha to him and tried to explain the reason for our visit. Somehow we communicated and, after talking and serving us tea, Rev. Ishida gave us a wonderful tour of the monastery complex. The three of us agreed our visit and the kindness we received were the highlight of our Japan trip.

With our busy, complicated schedules, it was impossible to coordinate a trip for both my sons and their wives and me to visit Japan at the same time. So, once again, I am off to Japan to visit Toshodaiji with my younger son Ted and his wife Hanine. Thanks to the help of our new minister Rev. Sala Sekiya, I was able to make contact with Rev. Taichi Ishida who is the son of the abbot we met last year. I hope I will be able to report on a successful journey in the next newsletter.

Ganjin Lives, part 2

Arigatai, what a great word! As Rev. Chijun Yakumo wrote in his wonderful book “Thank You: Namo Amida Butsu,” “I believe arigatai is a term that arises naturally when we sense the intricacy of karma in our life and the profundity of the Buddha’s teachings that embraces it.” (page 13)  Arigatai or arigatoo is generally translated into English as “thank you” but literally it has the meaning “difficult to be.”

Only through the pain of loss (for my sons, the loss of their mother to cancer at age 62) did the idea of presenting Linda’s gatha at Ganjin’s home temple arise.

“You have been brought here by profound causes and conditions” were the first words spoken by Patriarch Kosho Ohtani in English at my Tokudo ordination in 1975. Forty years later, in December 2015, even more causes and conditions, some happy, some sad, enabled me to fulfill my commitment to Linda and my sons.

For my sons, presenting the gatha “Ganjin’s Journey” at his home temple and gravesite was both an opportunity to honor their mother and a chance to be introduced to Japan with its ancient and sublime Buddhist culture (not to mention delicious food). My older son remarked after the trip,“When I grew up in the temple, I always saw Buddhism as something small and marginal to American culture. Going to Japan made me realize what a great tradition I grew up in.”

Ganjin, the courageous traveler, is still inspiring journeys. I regard my trips to Japan with my sons in 2014 and 2015 as pilgrimages to Toshodaiji and the Hongwanji. I don’t know if I would have made those two trips if Linda had not passed away and I had not made the promise to her to present her gatha. Looking back, I realize what a precious opportunity my sons and their wives had to spend eleven days together and to share wonderful experiences with memories to last a lifetime. It gave me and my daughters-in-law an opportunity to really get to know each other. So many kind people made the trip possible. Kemi Nakabayashi gave me an improved version of Linda’s gatha so each son was able to present something new. The Hongwanji International Dept. staff accommodated our request for lodging. I could go on and on, “You have been brought here by profound causes and conditions.” Arigatai


Temple board and cabinet

Current Cabinet (2 year term):

President:        Alan Hoshino
1st VP:              Calvin Terada
2nd VP:            Tyler Moriguchi  (
3rd VP:             Leanne Nishi-Wong
Recording Secretary:   Craig Nakashima
Corresponding Sec.:    Steph Ojima
Treasurer:        Howard Luke
Auditor 1:         Michael Teramoto
Auditor 2:        Julianne Tosaya
Auditor 3:        Susie Taketa

Current Board:

Akira, Karen Iwamura
Castro, Donald
Gotchy, Joe
Hamakami, John
Hamakawa, Ron
Hoshino, Alan
Kozai, Art
Kubota, Ken
Luke, Howard
Mano, Andrea
Moriguchi, Tyler
Nakano, Craig
Nakashima, Craig
Nishi-Wong, Leanne
Ojima, Steph
Okawa, Janie
Ozeki-Chinn, Connie
Shibata, Dennis
Taketa, Susie
Tamura, Anna
Tazuma, Grace
Terada, Calvin
Teramoto, Michael
Tosaya, Julianne
Umeda, Sam
Yamasaki, Mae
Yokoyama, Jason
Yokoyama, Kevin
Zumoto, Donna
Zumoto-Ko, Tina

International Ministerial Orientation Program (IMOP) visit to Seattle Betsuin

This weekend two Japanese ministers, Reverends Chikako Tsuyama and Yugo Fujita, will visit us and give Dharma talks in both English and Japanese. Reverends Tsuyama and Fujita are part of the 2015 IMOP class from our mother temple the Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto Japan. They will each give a 15 minute English language message on Friday evening starting at 7:30pm. On Saturday they along with Rev. Kiyonobu Kuwahara of the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkley, CA, will deliver a 3 hour Japanese language seminar starting at 9:30am. On Sunday the ministers will participate in our Eitaikyo Muenhoyo service and give both English and Japanese language Dharma talks.