The NW District of Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is going to hold its annual Convention in conjunction with the BCA National Council Meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Renton, Washington February 19 – 23, 2020. Seattle Betsuin is hosting both these big conferences. The theme is “Dana for World Peace”. We took this theme from the slogan of our sect, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha. Our Gomonshu also mentioned this slogan in his New Year greeting message. (Please see the January Wheel of Dharma.)
Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii celebrates their 130th anniversary this year and each district celebrated it. I was invited as a guest speaker to the Hawaii district’s anniversary ceremony which was held at the Hilo Betsuin in October. One of the programs on Saturday was “Interfaith Dialogue: Homelessness on the Big Island and of spirituality HOPE Service, Hawaii County, ministers”. Let me share my thought through this panel discussion.
It is not easy to solve homelessness. As Buddhism says, everything has causes and conditions, not just one cause and condition. Homelessness also has many causes and conditions. Therefore, the solutions must not be just one. There are many things to do to solve and improve homelessness. When we think about homelessness, we need to think of shortterm, middle-term, and long-term solutions. One of the short-term solutions could be serving food for today and providing a place to sleep for tonight. Some members of Seattle Betsuin are volunteering at the Orion Center and food bank. In addition, homeless people need a variety of support: medical, educational, employment, and more. It is impossible for one person or one organization to provide all this support. Everyone has something that they can do and other things they cannot do. Everybody has their limited ability. With realizing our limited ability, we need to think about what we can do and what we should do.
Prior to the panel discussion, I had a chance to talk about this topic with my wife. In our conversation, one assumption came up. “How many dharma school students become homeless after they graduate?” I don’t think anyone has counted the number, so I don’t know the exact number. But I don’t think it is many. If it is true, Dharma School could be one of the long-term solutions: to keep Dharma School going, and to increase attendance. Attending Dharma School could be one of the causes that allow students to avoid making wrong decisions and stepping onto a wrong path. The guidance they learn at Dharma School and friends they meet at Dharma School could be the basis for their peaceful and stable lives.
Our founder, Shinran Shonin said in his letter, “May there be peace in the world, and may the Buddha’s teaching spread.” I believe that spreading the Buddha’s teaching brings world peace and people’s peaceful and tranquil life. Without having this belief, I cannot serve as a Buddhist Minister and continue being a Buddhist. This world becomes peaceful if everyone has the view and the way of thinking that Buddha Dharma teaches. As a Buddhist minister and temple, we should make the biggest effort to achieve it. I am not saying to convert people to Buddhism. It is important for more people to have and learn the Buddhist view and the way of thinking. Providing food and places to sleep for homeless people are important and necessary. I am full of admiration for these people’s work. We should support these programs. Each government and organization have their own things to do. So, Buddhists and Buddhist temples also have our own things to do. Our first priority is to spread the teaching of Buddha and to provide Buddhist Education. No other organization can do this except Buddhist temples and sangha. Regarding Buddhist education for children, temples in BCA have been offering Dharma School for more than one hundred years. None of the other Buddhist temples and organizations have done this in the U.S. during this time. If we stop providing Dharma School and teaching Dharma to children, there will be no place for them to learn Buddha Dharma. So, Dharma School is our treasure and one of the practices of Dana.
We are Buddhists. Under the theme of “Dana for World Peace”, what can we do? There must be something which only we can do. Providing food and donating money is not the only way to practice “Dana for World Peace”. Dana has three aspect. These are Zaise (財施, giving wealth), Muise (無畏施, the practice of giving fearlessness), and Hōse (法施, Spreading the Dharma). We should not make light of Hōse (Spreading the Dharma). I introduced Dharma School as an example of the practice of Hōse-centered Dana in this article. Through thinking of “Dana for World Peace”, it is necessary to think about how we can practice Dana which has three aspects of Zaise (giving wealth), Hōse (Dharma Dana), and Muise (the practice of giving fearlessness).
Gassho, Rev. Katsu
From the December issue of the Wheel of the Sangha newsletter