About Shin Buddhism
I. Buddhism Comes to America
[In 1898} the small island country of Japan was bursting forth from long years of self-imposed isolation. Although in the early period of the 19th century, the Tokugawa regime did not appear to be moving toward a total collapse, it was beginning to realize that the technological advances of the West would make it not only difficult but foolish to continue a policy of isolation.
With the successful negotiation by Towsend Harris that brought about a full trade treaty in 1858 between the U.S, and Japan, other Western powers managed to negotiate similar treaties with Japan.
Despite popular sentiments against the opening of the country and cries of “Expel the barbarians!,” the educated leaders of the time wisely acknowledged the necessity of accepting the trade treaties negotiated by the Tokugawa. Nevertheless, they further recognized the need to replace the cumbersome feudal system with a centralized rule under the Emperor, as a unifying symbol, so that the country could effectively move toward a technological modernization that would enable the Japanese government to meet the challenges of the West. Because of the knowledge required to build up the country’s infrastructure by first improving the transportation and communication systems, the government began to dispatch students abroad to acquire the necessary skills in the various fields of technology.
The focus on the Emperor, however, caused the government to adopt an anti-Buddhism policy that sought to destroy the immense political power and social influence of the Hongwanji by declaring that only the Shinto religion would be allowed. Myonyo Shonin of the Nishi Hongwanji and Gennyo Shonin of the Higashi Hongwanji joined forces and vigorously opposed this political strategy; thus, the freedom of religious worship is now guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution.
At the turn of the century, the Japanese immigrant population in Northern California already numbered in the thousands. According to the census, 1,781 were residing in San Francisco alone. Informal estimates for this gateway city placed the number at 3,000. Not all of these immigrants were simple farmers and laborers. Some were from samurai families, which had gradually lost their government pensions and privileged status after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Some were young scions of rich merchants and wealthy agricultural landowners.
The Meiji Restoration had made it possible for young men of vision and ambition to break out of their traditional status in life to attempt novel and adventurous activities. They not only contributed to the modernization of Japan in leadership roles but had the courage to travel to foreign lands to gain new and advanced knowledge of the West. With great determination, not a few struggled to educate themselves in American and European schools and colleges in languages totally alien to them.
A surprising number of our early BA ministers from Japan also entered American universities and succeeded in obtaining academic degrees under difficult conditions. The remarkable beginnings of the Buddhist Churches of America can be best understood from this historic perspective of the modernization of Japan. Inspired by the Meiji Restoration and its activities toward modernization on Western models, Myonyo Shonin, the 21st Chief Abbot of the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, began in the early 1870s to send highly-qualified priests overseas to investigate or study Western methods of religious education and propagation.
In the fateful year of 1897, a devout immigrant Buddhist named Nisaburo Hirano, frustrated by the lack of Buddhist temples in California where he could receive spiritual guidance visited the Hompa Hongwanji in Kyoto.
It was during the time of a special memorial celebration, and Mr. Hirano, accompanied by Hidesaburo Yoshida, found Reverends Kakuryo Nishijima and Shoi Yamada prepared to answer questions posed by people attending the services. He thus seized the opportunity to request the Hongwanji to send missionaries to the United States. The earnest efforts of these young men from San Francisco resulted in the Hongwanji sending Reverends Eryu Honda and Ejun Miyamoto in 1898 to investigate the needs and conditions in America.
The two ministers arrived in San Francisco on July 6, 1898, and were greeted with great enthusiasm by the young immigrants. On the evening of July 14, thirty of these young men gathered at the home of Dr. Katsugoro Haida and formed a Bukkyo Seinenkai (Young Buddhist Association), which in 1905 was to become the Buddhist Church of San Francisco.
Source: BCA 100th Anniversary Commemorative Book, 1998
II. Buddhist Church of Sacramento History
Established Dec. 17, 1899; incorporated, June 15, 1901; incorporation amended June 13, 1936
Betsuin status, Nov. 4, 1966; incorporation amended, Jan. 10, 1967
Temple Building/Meeting places
1. First meeting at 1221 Third St., Dec. 17, 1899.
2. Temple building purchased, at 418 “O” St., August 1900; dedicated Aug. 15, 1900.
3. New school building constructed, 1905.
4. Completion of building renovation and classroom additions, Dec. 10, 1908
5. Adjacent property purchased, Nov. 1913.
6. Temple, classrooms, and dormitories destroyed by fire, April 15, 1923.
7. New temple constructed, May 21, 1925.
8. Classroom building purchased, May 1927.
9. YBA Hall constructed and dedicated on Aug. 28, 1937.
During WWII--Temple facilities used by the U.S. Army under the administration of the city of Sacramento, 1942-1945.
1. Members sent to various Relocation Centers.
2. Rev. Gyoyu Hirabayashi sent to Tule Lake Relocation Center, CA; assigned to Midwest Temple, Nov. 1945.
3. Rev. Sensho Sasaki was also sent to Tule Lake Relocation Center; returned to Sacramento, 1945.
Post-WWII–Temple facilities returned; YBA Hall and Sakura Gakuen used as hostels for returnees, Sept. 1946.
1. Relocation of Temple due to Sacramento Redevelopment Project, July 1, 1958.
2. New temple complex constructed at 2401 Riverside Blvd.; ground-breaking, Oct. 18, 1958; completed and dedicated, June 27-28, 1959.
3. Approved as Betsuin, Nov. 4, 1966; dedicated May 21, 1967.
4. Completion and dedication of classroom building and other facilities, May 19, 1968.
Source: Sacramento Betsuin Seventheth Anniversary Book, 1969
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism
This section will give you a brief introduction to our sect of Buddhism. There are also some fundamental teachings associated with Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism). For more information please visit our temple and attend our discussion sessions after Sunday Dharma Service.
Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism) is a sect of Buddhism which means, “Pureland” Buddhism, and was founded by Shinran Shonin (1173 – 1263). The Pureland is not a literal place, it is a state of existence that is free of ego and selfish desires. Shinran’s parents both died before he was the age of 9, and he became a monk at the Tendai temple on Mount Hiei. He studied there for 20 years, and was one of the most devout and dedicated followers. But he was not closer to discovering the meaning of life that he sought, so after 2 decades he left in persuit of something different.
Shinran became one of the first religious leaders to share the teachings with commoners and poor people. He made the teachings available to everyone. Shinran taught that true understanding comes when we let go of our ego, and realize that we cannot do things only through our own efforts. It is this understanding that leads us to live a life of gratitude.
Shinran taught that there were many paths to enlightenment. One is not required to follow the strict path of discipline and study. This is why he left Mount Hiei, and eventually got married and had a family. This all connects back to his views on Middle Path and living a life of reasonable balance.
Amida Buddha is the symbol of infinite wisdom and compassion, or infinite “understanding” and “caring.” Amida Buddha is the central figure of reverence. Amida is not a God or a Supernatural Being. Buddha means, “One who is awake.” There is not only one Buddha in the world. We don’t pray to Amida for help, but we reflect upon Amida’s infinite wisdom and compassion to help guide our lives.
The Dharma is the Buddha’s teachings. And these teachings are not mystical or magical. They are not to be taken on faith or belief. They are to be tested and questioned. The Dharma teaches the universal Truths that governs our existence. The Dharma is not unique to any individual or culture or time. The Dharma is true for everyone, everywhere, at any time. The goal of every Buddhist is to live a life with their eyes open to see this truth.
The Sangha are all the temple members and friends that come together to learn about the Dharma. Without the Sangha members, our temple would just be a building with four walls and a roof. It is the community of people that give the temple meaning and purpose.
One of the most fundamental teachings of Shin Buddhism, is the concept of impermanence. This means nothing can stay the same forever.
In understanding this truth, we come to learn how precious everything is in our lives, and how much we should appreciate them. And in contrast, when we face great hardship and pain in our lives, we realize that this will not last forever. So we must endure the pain and challenges so we can emerge from them stronger and wiser.
Shin Buddhism teaches us that all things are connected. Some connections are more obvious and direct in our lives, such as our parents, children, friends and loved ones.
Other connections are less obvious, like a child that lives in a poor village halfway across the world. But no matter how far away or seemingly unrelated something, we are all still connected to it and it is connected to us. No single person exists without the help and existence of others. When this truth is realized, we become so much more aware of how our thoughts, our speech and our actions affect everything in the world. Everything we do matters.
When the historical Buddha began his journey towards understanding, he left his lavish kingdom and family and lived the very harsh and disciplined lifestyle of an ascetic monk.
He gave up all his worldly possessions, and left his new born son and wife in search of life’s meaning. He studied, meditated and engaged in the very strict and difficult practices of an ascetic monk. He fasted almost to the point of death. But after 6 long years he realized that he was no closer to discovering the meaning of life than when he lived a life of a young prince. So instead of continuing on this harsh and difficult path, he nourished his weakened body and sat in meditation. It was after many hours of deep contemplation that he finally found enlightenment. He realized that living a life of extremes was not the key to finding understanding.
Middle Path means that we try not to live our lives in the extremes. We try to create a balance somewhere in the middle of those extremes, so that we can live a much happier life. We don’t obsess only about the past, or plan only for the future at the expense of the moment. We don’t always agree with everything or always disagree with everything. We try to exist somewhere in between those extremes. This “middle” is different for all of us. And the goal is to find where your middle is.
Living In The Moment
While it is very important to learn from our past, and plan for our futures… we can not do these things at the expense of the present. We only exist in the now, so we must embrace and appreciate this moment, for it can never be repeated. Every moment is precious, and tomorrow is not guaranteed to any one of us, so we must focus on the moment that is now, and exist fully in it. If you focus and obsess to much about that past and don’t let go of bitter feelings, you will do so at the expense of the present. And if you only live for the future and miss everything that is happening right now, you may not ever enjoy what is right before your eyes.
Life of Gratitude
In realizing all of these truths about life, we can not help but gain a deep sense of gratitude for all countless causes and conditions that allow us to exist in this moment. In understanding the transient nature of life, we realize how precious and temporary everything is, so we strive to spend less time complaining about our lives, and more time living it and appreciating it. When we are feeling grateful, we are not feeling greedy or angry or selfish. Thus to be in a state of grateful appreciation is the goal of all Buddhists.
Monthly Buddhist Study Classes
These sessions, led by our ministers, provide a deeper understanding of Buddhism. Dates, time and location are listed on the church calendar and on the Home Page. Classes are free. Everyone is welcome. No RSVP necessary.
Online Courses About Buddhism
Orange County Buddhist Church, the home temple of our interim Rinban, Rev. Marvin Harada, offers an online series of lectures taught by ministers, scholars and authors. The curriculum includes a series of courses in “Buddhist Basics,” Everyday Practice,” and “Deeper Study.” Cost of the courses ranges from FREE to under $40, with additional savings for bundling courses. To learn more, go to https://www.everydaybuddhist.org/
There are several significant dates on which memorial services should be observed: 49th Day, One-Year Anniversary, 3rd Year (actually the second calendar year, since the funeral counts as year one), 7th Year and years ending in 3 or 7, until the 50th Year., then 100 years.