Namu Amida Butsu

AS YOU MAY KNOW, EVERY RELIGION HELPS AND supports the spiritual assessments in our precious lives. The way each assists may be different, but they all provide people with courage and peace of mind. Some religions have rituals more than spiritual messages; others provide spiritual messages, and some do both. Regardless of what religion, if there is a feeling of being afraid or having difficultly following its guidance, then those religions will soon fade away.

I read a dharma book written by the late Reverend Chijo Yakumo, a former minister at the Buddhist Churches of America, and found a very interesting story in his dharma book. I checked the town in Hiroshima, Japan, and discovered that the story was indeed a true story. I would like to share with you a summary of the story. It was written in Japanese so I’ll translate it into English.

There was a small village in the mountain with a population of about 100. In this village, there were two Buddhist temples, and the people in the village relied on these two Buddhist temples. As you may know, these temples existed were supported by the member’s contributions. The ministers offered them spiritual support in their daily lives.

Since the village was located deep in the mountains, the main industries were farming and hunting. As years passed, the population of the village started getting less and less. There were not too many young people living there, and it was very difficult for the people living in the village to support the two temples.

Since It was a small village and if there were occasions when the temples needed help, everyone had to do the rituals twice to support both temples. One evening, at the village directors’ meeting, one of the old timers brought a resolution saying they were not able to support two temples anymore with the existing population. Therefore, they had to find the best minister for the village.

The resolution was passed at the meeting, so someone had to tell ministers about their wishes. What were their wishes? The village people decided that they will keep the strong and reliable minister. So, they called the two ministers into the courtyard and brought two tubs of hot water. The people asked the two ministers how they were going to handle the tub of hot water.

One minister spontaneously recited his spiritual sutra and concentrated by himself and went into the tub of hot water. This minister stayed in the hot water without burning himself. Many felt that this is the minister they needed to keep in the village. Then next was a Hongwanji minster. What the Hongwanji minister did was, he asked the village people to bring an empty tub right next to the tub with the hot boiling water and asked village people to divide the hot water between the two tubs and add cold water to make it a perfect temperature for bathing. Then he went into one of the tubs and said, "Wow, this is really wonderful; it is instant hot spring. Why don’t you folks come-in and enjoy bathing here? Otherwise it will be a waste of this wonderful hot spring."

As the Hongwanji minister instructed, many of village people went into the tub and enjoyed the instant hot springs.

At the village directors’ board meeting, many of them agreed that they would like to keep the minister who showed his great strength and spiritual power at the court yard. However, one old director said, "If this great minister passes away, what are we going to do? The Hongwanji minister didn’t show us about his spiritual strength and power but he gave us some wisdom on how to handle situations if we faced any problems. Through overnight meaningful discussions among the village people, they decided to keep the Hongwanji minister as their village minister.

When I read this story in Japanese, it was very interesting and I firmly believe that this story teaches us about believing the life of self-power and life of the other power. The teaching of the Nembutsu is not only select people but it is for all of us common people. We, as Jodo Shinshu followers, not only rely upon one’s own power or strength, but believe in Buddha’s great wisdom and compassion in our lives. The Jodo Shinshu guidance is not only a particular group’s religion, but is also a religion for ministers and lay people. The Jodo Shinshu and Nembutsu teaching is exactly informing us that we must work together and rejoice in the happiness with others. All the Hongwanji temples in Hawaii have grown up with this wonderful teaching over the past 100 years in this plantation society. The plantation society and their thinking do not exist anymore. However, we now build another century with Amida’s great wisdom and compassion and sincere mind of gratitude and joy with our Ohana, like in this wonderful story.

The Wailuku Hongwanji Mission will be observing our 120th anniversary in October, 2019. May we all work together like this story, as sincere Nembutsu followers and rejoice in the happiness and joy of our 120th anniversary.

Namu Amida Butsu