Namu Amida Butsu
THIS CORONAVIRUS IS INDEED QUITE AN ENCOUNTER that continues to affect our daily lives. This virus causes us to be cautious, worry about our health, and be angry at things that seemed unimportant. We have come to realize that there are so many things that are beyond our control, and through this difficult pandemic situation, we are all able to learn many important things about our lives.
As a Buddhist minister, I was able to discuss with clergies from different churches the subject of Covid-19 and what we could do for our community. There were so many good ideas that were discussed at these meetings. Most clergies felt that we should have a community prayer at an easy to reach location.
Although, in the Hongwanji teachings or traditions, we do not participate in prayers, I understood the situation and the sincere feelings of the other clergies. So, I did not say, "We, the Hongwanji, do not do prayers to our Buddha to solve this type of difficult situation."
Instead, I wanted to go along with the majority without saying anything. Why? If I said negative words against the other clergies I felt I would be breaking harmony and wishes. So, I told myself that we can do something else besides a prayer, such as reading Shinran Shonin's poem or Buddha Shakyamuni's passages.
Then, we received orders from the government to "Stay Home and Work at Home" because Covid-19 needed to be taken seriously. We were told not to have any services at the temples with members because there would be a good chance of spreading the virus to others.
In one state, a large portion of its population was affected by the virus and a large number of its citizens had died. This information made many people scared and worried about the virus. In fact, since there was no medication to cure this virus, we all had to follow the maximum security which was practicing social distancing, and staying at home as much as possible except for emergency situations and/or grocery shopping.
Whenever I watched the television, most of the time I saw updated news and reports on Covid 19. It got scarier each day as we were updated on the number of people affected and the number of people who had died. The news made me feel concerned about the situation and it was truly a warning to all of us that if we get infected with the coronavirus, we would be facing a really difficult situation and a difficult recovery time. Many people went to drug stores to purchase face masks, but most of the places were sold-out.
*Cooperation and Sharing
Since the middle of March, most community activities were completely shut down. All schools, restaurants, stores, and government agencies were closed. As I mentioned before, the churches were not able to hold any services, which included funeral at the church and funeral homes; memorials, weddings, counseling services, and meetings.
Many ministers including myself were able to learn how to do online services and shared our Sunday morning services with our community Ohana. At first, I did not know how to record the services and messages and upload those files, etc. I really appreciated our temple’s members who assisted me with putting together and uploading my services online even though many people were not able to access the on-line services.
One of the members said, "You know Sensei, my daughter explained to me how to do it ten times and I felt that I would be able to access the on-line services, but when the Sunday came, I totally forgot how to access, so I called my daughter for help. My goodness, she never complained. She went over the steps one-by-one how to access the Sunday morning services. So, I truly appreciated my daughter."
Like this example, our wonderful members asked their children and grandchildren how to operate their computer or devices and to be able to connect to our temple's on-line services on Sundays. Yes, everyone cooperated and assisted their parents and grandparents so that it would be possible for them to join the temple's Sunday morning services from their home. When I heard these stories from them, I was so impressed and truly felt the kindness from the children and grandchildren's sincere heart.
Rennyo Shonin, (8th Abbot of Hongwanji in Japan) made a very wonderful statement in his letter and said, "If there were any Nembutsu followers visiting our temple during the cold winter season, please offer hot sake and allow them to relax from their long journey. And if there were any Nembutsu followers visiting our temple during the hot summer, please offer cold sake and welcome them all from our hearts." This statement applies to all of us that we must have a mind to care for others and appreciate our fellow Nembutsu Sangha so that we are all able to have a caring, and respectful mind that appreciates each other. This great mind is able to rejoice in the happiness of one another.
As you may have read, Wailuku Hongwanji Buddhist Temple has decided that we are not going to hold our annual Bon Dance this year due to the coronavirus situation. We really don't want us to have another coronavirus outbreak. We are also not sure when our Hatsu-bon services will be held for the families. Even if the coronavirus situation slowly starts fading away in our society, it is not over yet and we need to be a little more patient and cooperate with each other. As Rennyo Shonin shared his sincere and caring heart to the Hongwanji workers, as long as we care and respect others, we may be able to find another way of solving this difficult situation and be able to become one with the great guidance of the Nembutsu. The great light and life of the Nembutsu is always showing us the path of the truth in our heart.