Namu Amida Butsu

Reverend Hojun Kunisaki was our first resident minister at theWailuku Hongwanji Mission. He was assigned to Maui in 1899 tospread the heart of the Nembutsu teachings to immigrants from Japanwho worked on the sugar plantation. Can you imagine that hetraveled from Wailuku to Kula, Lahaina, Hana, Puunene, and beyondon horseback, riding for hours on the rough dirt roads, under the hotsun? He carried a little Butsudan, incense and other necessary itemsfor the services. I firmly believe that his propagation of the Nembutsuwas beyond our thinking. The living conditions were difficult for everyone,especially for our pioneers of the Nembutsu.

Why did Reverend Kunisaki choose this difficult course? Was itbecause it was his mission? I think there were more than one reasons.Of course, someone must have offered him to go overseas asa mission, but for him to decide to come to Hawaii was a major decision.His willingness to share the Nembutsu, Amida’s great wisdomand compassion, made him come to Hawaii. When he came to Hawaii,he discovered how difficult the lives of people were having onthe plantation without having any spiritual support.

Despite his hardships, he wanted to share Amida Buddha’sgreat wisdom and compassionate heart. He touched everyone’sheart in their daily lives and let them to know or feel that Amida Buddha’sspiritual blessings are supporting them in their lives. I am surethe guidance he shared of the Nembutsu brought a moment ofpeace to these individuals. If he contributed Amida Buddha’s Infinitewisdom and compassion as it touched their hearts, I am sure thatthis was the most gratifying thing for Reverend Kunisaki.

I would like to share with you a story I heard from the ReverendShoin Hoashi. He is a great minister emeritus who shared with melife in the olden days. I think it took place in the early part of 1900 toa minister who propagated the Big Island at Puna Hongwanji.

This minister had 2 children, ages of 5 and 8. Early one morning,he and his wife traveled to Pahoa, and other towns around Pahoafor their Dharma home services. The minister’s wife left 4 onigiri(rice balls) with some takuwan and water in the room for the twochildren and locked the door from the outside. They left for the Pahoaplantation around five in the morning on horseback. The distancebetween Puna and Pahoa was about 10 miles one way andthe roads were not paved or straight like it is today. The two of themcarried a small Butsudan and other necessary items for the serviceson the back of their horses.

Because they had to return to Puna before evening, they had tohave the services done as quickly as possible. As you may know,the Big Island has lots of rain, especially in the Puna and Pahoaareas. It was difficult for people to predict the weather. So, even ifthe weather in the morning was sunny, they might have heavy rain inthe afternoon. They carried a raincoat and umbrella with them.

It is difficult for me to imagine how the minister and wife couldleave their children behind to go on their mission of sharing the heartof the Nembutsu, the great wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddhato the plantation workers. Why did they have to sacrifice somuch by leaving their children alone at home? After the home serviceswere completed, it was a little after 5 o’clock.

As I mentioned, the distance between Puna and Pahoa wasabout 10 miles, but roads were not paved and there were no lightson the roads. On the way home, there was heavy rain and theymissed the roads several times and by the time they arrived at PunaHongwanji it was after 8:00 p.m. It took over 3 hours from Pahoa toPuna. The minister’s wife ran into the children’s room. The two ofthem were sleeping but room was a mess because they couldn’t goto the bathroom all day. She felt so sorry for her children and justcried for their difficult lives. What they have to do was "Gaman",which is having "patience". It was a situation of "Shikataga nai —cannot help."

If I had to do the things that Reverend Kunisaki did for our community,I wonder how I could do it all. It would be difficult, and I wouldnot be able to leave my children home alone. What I can say to ourgreat minister emeritus is "Okage-samade, thank you very much fromthe bottom of my heart for your great dedication and propagation."

I think they lived their lives in the true spirit of "ON DOKU SAN"which says as follow: "Such is the benevolence of Amida’s greatcompassion, that we must strive to return it, even to the breaking ofour bodies; such is the benevolence of the masters and true teachers,that we must endeavor to repay it, even though our bones becomedust."

Reverend Hojun Kunisaki passed away as an active minister atthe age of 32. Can you imagine how hard and difficult his life was?But, with his great mind and his willingness to share and spread theNembutsu teachings, we are able to have peace and serenity in ourprecious lives today. We can all learned from our great pioneers thatthey sacrificed their lives and gave selfless efforts that built the foundationof our society.

I too am receiving your kindness, smiles, and wonderful supportin my daily life. So, I firmly believe that I need to provide a little moreeffort to serve our community and share our wonderful Amida Buddha’sinfinite wisdom and compassion.

Physically, we are not able to act on "ON DOKU SAN" but atleast we are able to realize that we have inherited the value, spirits,and mind of gratitude which we are receiving from Amida Buddha andour great Nembutsu leader.

Wailuku Hongwanji Mission will be observing its annual specialgraveside services for the late Reverend Hojun Kunisaki on the lastSunday of August. This is one way for us to express our sincere gratitudeand appreciation to the late Reverend Kunisaki but more importantly,he is reminding each one of us that Amida Buddha’s spirituallight and wisdom are always reaching into our hearts. Listeningto the Dharma without doubt is the only way for us to realize or beaware of this important aspect in our lives. Once we are able to beaware of this, without knowing Nembutsu, Namo Amida Butsu will beflowing out from our mouths in a mind of gratitude.

Namo Amida Butsu