Gomonshu Kojun Ōtani-sama visited the Seattle Betsuin on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. He had a visitation ceremony in the Hondo, participated in the Yabunouchi tea ceremony served by Rev. Castro, officiated Kikyoshiki confirmation ceremony, and joined the welcome BBQ dinner in the gym. It was a very precious and significant time for all of us. I truly appreciate that he spent time at the Seattle Betsuin. Many members were involved in this precious event. I would like to express my appreciation for all your work, contribution, and kindness. Today, I would like to share the Seattle Betsun’s introduction which I read to Gomonshu-sama on that day.
Seattle Bukkyo Seinenkai (Seattle Youth Buddhist Group) was founded on November 15, 1901. Rev. Kakuryo Nishijima from San Francisco conducted the first service. The membership continued increasing, and including the branch temples, became about four thousand in membership. Because of the increasing membership and Sangha becoming more active, the temple moved to different locations twice. In 1941 the temple was moved to the current location. Only two months after the new temple’s dedication ceremony, the Pacific war broke out Then members and ministers were sent to the concentration camps. The temple was used by the U.S. Maritime Commission during war years. After the war was over the temple was reopened to resume ministerial duties in Spring, 1946. In 1954 Seattle Buddhist Temple elevated to Betsuin by the Nishi Hongwanji, and Rev. Ichikawa became the first Rinban. Because of many devoted member’ support, the Seattle Betsuin has been a place where people enjoy listening to the Buddha Dharma. Seattle Betsuin is going to celebrate the 125th anniversary in 2026. As this commemorative project, we are planning the restoration of the Naijin, the Unreinforced Masonry Retrofitting Project, and installing an elevator, etc. All Sangha are going to work together for this big project.
Seattle Betsuin has about four hundred memberships. There are many Betsuin affiliated groups. Each group is full of activity. About one-hundredninety people belong to the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Women’s Association (SBBWA). They support Sunday service every Sunday and help with all temple activities. They visit some nursing homes. They also do volunteer work for the community. About One-hundred-fifty to two-hundred fifty-people come to our Sunday Service. After service we have Dharma School. There are about seventy students and fifteen Dharma School teachers. There are six Dharma School classes divided by age group. Besides these groups we have Jr. YBA, Sr. YBA, YABA, ABA, Kids Summer Program, Gojikai, Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Camp Fire, Matsuri Taiko, Yabunouchi Tea Group, Chorus group, Ukulele group, Gagaku group, and Book Study Group.
Most people come to the temple on Sunday, but we also have Wednesday morning service. Some people prefer to come on Wednesday. At the Wednesday morning service we chant a section of the three Pure Land sutras, read Gobunsho (Rennyo’s letters), read the English translation of the three Pure Land Sutra, and have a discussion on the section which we read. Because it is a small group gathering, we are able to have a close and deep discussion.
We also started a new program called “Otera de Asobō (Let’s Play at the Temple)”. It is a play group for infants and toddlers. Christian Churches have this kind of program, but Buddhist temples didn’t. We wish that these small children become friendly with our temple and Buddhism and that both children and parents make more friends through this program.
Seattle Betsuin does volunteer work for community. Our BWA goes to help a foodbank once a month. One group from our temple goes to serve food at a Youth Homeless shelter, Orion Center, once a month. We also participate in Walk for Rice and Pride Parade.
We also launched the Seattle Betsuin Study Center. From now on, we will provide more Buddhist education programs to our Sangha and Community.
In February 2020 we are going to host the BCA National Council Meeting and the Northwest Convention. The theme is “Dana for World Peace”. We adopted this theme from the Hongwanji’s Slogan. As Jodo Shinshu, (Shin Buddhism), followers and Buddhists, what can we do for World Peace? To begin with, “What does Dana mean?” We plan this convention to think about these questions and to start practicing Dana.
Gassho, Rev. Katsu
From the October issue of the Wheel of the Sangha newsletter
* – Gomonshu (ご門主, “gate keeper”) is the title of the spiritual leader of the Nishi Hongan-ji school of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Gomonshu Kojun Ōtani is the 25th head of the Nishi Hongan-ji.