The BCA National Council Meeting and the NW Convention is coming around the corner. They will be held on Feb 21st – 23rd at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington. You can find the details on the Seattle Betsuin website. I hope many people come to the convention and enjoy the Dharma.
For this convention we would like to try a new approach. We will not print any sutra for the services in the program booklet. We will provide a limited number of service books for those who have not brought one. I would like to ask you to bring your own service book which includes “Juseige” and “Amida Sutra.” (Don’t forget to write your name on it.) Please use a small bag or Furoshiki to bring your service book.
In the past, we have always included the sutra chanting in the program booklet. I always have my question and concern about it. Because of the improvement of technology, it is very easy to print anything. It is very convenient, but at the same time, we don’t cherish these printed materials. The sutra teaches about the Dharma, which is one of the three treasures. However, do we treat the program booklet as a treasure? Didn’t you just throw it in a trash can? Because the sutra are the words of the Buddha, we should treat them with proper respect. One of my teachers told me that we should show our respect and shred it. It is a minimal level of our etiquette. Another person said, “if so, we should digitize sutra and use cellphone and tablet to chant a Sutra. We can also show the Sutra on a big screen”. Because of technology’s improvement, we may start doing them in the near future. However, I still have some doubts to do them when I think about how I use my cellphone. I use my cellphone in a bathroom and drop it easily. I don’t think I treat my cellphone as my treasure. I also have a concern to use a big screen. If we do so, people face the screen and not to Amida Buddha. And more, I don’t think we can nurture our respect and appreciation to Buddha and Dharma through using a big screen. For these reasons, I decided to use service books at the convention. I think it is still the best way to keep our treasure.
The theme of this convention 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 2019 new year greeting message. Because Seattle is the host, I have been writing my Newsletter article on this theme since November. I hope my articles also help you think about this theme. As I mentioned before, Dana has three aspects. These are Zaise (財施, giving wealth), Hōse (法施, Spreading the Dharma), and Muise (無畏施, the practice of giving fearlessness). We need to understand these three aspects to practice Dana.
There is a representative figure in our sect who truly made a lot of effort to practice Dana. Her name is the Lady Takeko Kujo (1887-1928). BWA in Japan annually conducts her memorial service (kisaragiki) on February 7th. Each local temple in BCA also conducts her memorial service around that day. One of her great deeds is that she supported the victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. She was also one of the victims, but still she devoted herself to help other victims. We learn from her deed what Compassion is. Another of her great deeds is that she worked hard to establish a school for women (current Kyoto Women’s University). During that period, aspects of male chauvinism remained strong, so women had only limited opportunities to take education. Because of that, she made a huge effort to establish the school. Here are the founding philosophy and educational goals from their website. “It is based on Buddhist principles espoused by a Japanese monk named Shinran Shonin (1173-1263). These principles advocate the fostering of human spirituality through learning and through enhanced sensitivity towards the lives of others”. Because of her achievement, more women were able to get more opportunities to learn Shinran Shonin’s teaching and to have more opportunities to study.
Supporting the victims and working to establish the school are different work, and both are practical ways of Dana. There is no fixed way. Any deeds coming from the three aspects of Dana is true Dana. People sometimes forget about Hose (Spreading the Dharma), so please always be aware of Hose. What Dana do you or your temple do? How can you and your temple improve your Dana? Also, What Dana can you and your temple launch? Through this convention, we all learn what Dana is, contemplate what we can do, and start practicing Dana.
Gassho, Rev. Katsu
From the February issue of the Wheel of the Sangha newsletter