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.