Buddhist Churches of America Satement on Russian Invasion of Ukraine

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BCA Ministers Association Statement on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Guided by the Buddhist principles of Wisdom & Compassion, the Ministers Association of the Buddhist Churches of America opposes the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Buddha taught that Greed, Hatred, and Ignorance are poisons, and we see all three fueling this war. 
Wisdom recognizes that all things are Interconnected, and the fallout from this war will affect not only the refugees but so many others as well, from the soldiers on both sides, to the environment and to the entire world. 
Buddha’s Compassion recognizes that all life has value and happiness for all beings is the ideal. This is seen in the Metta Sutta with the aspiration, “May all beings be happy – May they be joyous and living in safety.” Our founder, Shinran Shonin, expressed the wish, “May there be peace in the world.” 
We are in favor of relief to the victims, and call for this war to end. 

The Search for Truth is Found Within

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In a time of uncertainty when we become starkly aware of the frailty of life and the ever present prospect of losing all that we treasure and hold dear to us we may find ourselves asking the question, “What is true and what is real?”

The Buddha said that in the search for truth there are some questions that are unimportant.  For example, what is the universe made of?  Are there limits or not to the universe? How is this world and those who live in it created or put together?  What is the ideal form of government or organization for human society?

If we were to postpone our search for Enlightenment until all these questions were answered our life would have run its course and we would die.

The Buddha used the following analogy.  A man is in the thick forest hunting for deer.  He carries with him a bow and arrows dipped in poison.  As he ventures into the forest he sees a deer and draws his bow and shoots.  He runs to claim his quarry and to his dismay discovers that what he shot was not a deer but a man.

The hunter frantically tries to help the wounded man, telling him that he will extract the arrow and suck out the poison.  The wounded man objects and says, “Wait, before you pull out the arrow I want to know your name, I want to know what village you came from, I want to know about your wife and children, I want to know what type of bow you used and what is this arrow made of?  And lastly I need to know what type of string you used to make your bow and what type of feathers these are on the arrow?”

Before all these questions can be answered surely the wounded man will have perished from the poison seeping within his body.  Any logical person would know that the first thing to do is to remove the arrow and prevent the poison from spreading.

We find ourselves in a world on fire both literally and figuratively.  The fires of passion and anger endanger the world just as much as the wildfires.  And the questions of the universe matter little.  The Buddhist teachings contains answers to the most pressing issues of how to alleviate the suffering and agony of humankind.

The poisons which the Buddha referred to in his analogy are the poisons of greed, anger and ignorance.  Greed and anger are easily understood and both emanate from our self-centered desires and self-centered views.  Ignorance does not mean that we are not intelligent, but means that we ignore the world as it truly is. We ignore the truth that all things are interdependent and all things are impermanent.  These are indisputable truths and ignoring them causes pain and suffering.

It is these three poisons that cause the “death” of the true and real self and prevent us from seeing the truths of life.  Like the wounded man we should attend the most pressing issues of our poisons of greed anger and ignorance.

What the Buddha called True and Real is the person who sees all aspects of life and is receptive to all that it offers and throws at us.  It means to not resist life, not to resist the changes that life brings.  The teachings of the Buddha are a foundation upon which we can live our lives true and real.


Rev. Shinseki

Nirvana Day

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Buddhist throughout the world will commemorate February 15, 2022 as the 2,405-year memorial for the Buddha Shakyamuni.  As the Buddha was approaching death at the age of 80 years he told his disciples not to lament, “because life is ever changing; no one can escape the dissolution of the body.  This I am now to show by my own death, my body falling apart like a dilapidated cart.”[1]  He went on to say that death is only the end of the physical body and the true Buddha is not the body, but the Wisdom of Enlightenment and the Truth of the Dharma will exist forever.


The past year we have faced unprecedented events and many challenging situations.  I don’t need to list them here we all know all the events that have upset our peaceful lives.  The fear of uncertainty has make many feel anxious and depressed.  Some have lost their tolerance and are unable to accept other views and actions.


The Buddha constantly and consistently wanted his disciples to control their minds, to keep their minds from greed, he wanted them to keep their minds pure with words and actions.  On his death bed he reminded them to all think on the transiency of your lives and you will be able to resist greed and anger.  He wanted us all to be masters of our own mind. He reminded his disciples with his last breath to respect each other and to refrain from disputes.  By studying his teachings, he said you will all together enjoy the blossoms of Enlightenment.


Without a doubt we will all encounter moments of anger, greed and intolerance. These are the moments when we truly need to look deeply at the self as the Buddha encouraged us to do. We will also encounter Truths in our life that encourage us to be in control and stop the anger, control the greed and be tolerant of others.


Many people were anxious for the end of 2021 and looked forward to a better year in 2022.  I too wish for that, but it begins with me.  It begins with me embracing the Truths taught by Shakyamuni Buddha.  There is much in the  world that we cannot control, but  we can begin to control the mind, and our lives will be become shining examples of the wisdom and compassion taught by the Buddha.




Rev. Hosei Shinseki

[1] Teachings of  the Buddha, Kosaido Publications, 1966

It’s Obon Time

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In a few weeks we will be in what we call Obon season.  Temples throughout the world celebrate and commemorate Obon.  Sadly, this year, temples all over the world have been canceling the Obon celebration.  This may be the first time since WWII that Obon has been canceled in many temples in the United States.

This is a time when we can take a moment to read about the significance and history of Obon.  The tradition dates back to the time of the Buddha.  The story of Obon comes from the Ullambana Sutra.  A talented and wonderful disciple of the Buddha named Mogallana was well known for his ability to deeply meditate.  He was this able to see worlds beyond the human realm.  He was able to see Jigoku (Hell), Gaki (Hungry Ghosts), Chikusho (Animal Realm), Ashura (Fighting Spirits), and Tenjin (Heavenly Beings).

One particular time while viewing the world of Gaki he was seeing all the many beings suffering in this realm.  He was shocked and saddened to see his mother in this realm.  She was hanging upside down and begging for water and food.  Mogallana attempted to give her something to eat and when it reached her mouth it burst into flames, doubling her agony.

Mogallana, came out of his meditative state and immediately went to the Buddha and asked what he could do to help his mother.  The Buddha informed Mogallana that his mother in her previous life had been selfish and therefore resides in the realm of the hungry ghosts.  If he wants to help his mother, Mogallana was instructed that he must perform a selfless act of Dana (Selfless Sharing).

Mogallana then went to his fellow monks and presented them with clothing and food.  This act of Dana released his mother from the realm of Gaki and when Mogallana saw this he danced for joy.  This was the beginning of Bon Odori or the Bon Dance.  The word Bon comes from the Sanskrit Ullambana.

The story of Obon is filled with symbolism and teachings that are very relevant to our lives today. Mogallana honors his mother with the practice of Dana.  Each Obon we gather and honor our family members and make donations in their memory.  We dance to celebrate our lives which are gifts given to us by our parents.  We celebrate life with food dance and drink.

This year we cannot gather together to do this, but each of us can celebrate Obon in our own way.  We can ring a bell, burn some incense and make a donation in memory of our loved ones. We can take a moment to remember our family members and vow to celebrate their lives by living our lives with gratitude, compassion and love.  Happy Obon everyone.


Rev. Hosei Shinseki

The Air Outside is Fine

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Hi Everyone,

I hope you are  all well and staying healthy.  At a time when being isolated in our homes it can be stressful for our minds  and bodies.  Each  day I try to go out for a walk and get some fresh air.  Although  the  governor has asked  us to stay in our homes, we can go outside in our backyards and get some fresh air.  It will do us  good to breath in the  air and feel  the  sun on our bodies.

Yesterday I went for a walk to the grocery store and noticed something very interesting.  First  there  weren’t many people walking around or  driving their  cars.  While I was walking, I  did encounter a few people and each one of them kept their 6′ distance from me.  But that  wasn’t what was interesting.  What was interesting is that every single person I ran into said, “Hello”  or  “Good Afternoon”.  In my prior walks  around the neighborhood, most  people were walking  and  rarely  would  they  say hello.  Many were wearing headphones  or earplugs listening to  music.

Could this be a result of a  shared  experience?   Could it be that people are sensing that  we  are  all in  this  difficult situation together and  understand what we  are all going through?  I like  to think that difficult situations like this bring us closer together.  Perhaps there is an understanding of the interrelationship of all things and sentient beings.

“You may say  I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”  Thank you John Lennon.  Sadly, sometimes it takes a dilemma or shared suffering to bring us together.

Please think of your neighbors and friends during this difficult time.


Rev. Shinseki

World Buddhist Women’s Conference

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On August 30, 31 and September 1, twelve members of the Watsonville Buddhist Temple attended the World Buddhist Women’s Conference in San Francisco.  Attendees came from Europe, South America, Hawaii, Canada and Japan.  The current Gomonshu his Eminence Monshu Kojun the 25th generation descendant of Shinran Shonin to head the Hongwanji was also in attendance.

Everyone who attended were very pleased with the two keynote speakers Dr. Tono of Japan and Rev. Yukiko Motoyoshi of the Stockton Buddhist Temple.   Most of the workshops were fun, educational and interesting for the attendees.

On Sunday after the conference many of the 1700 attendees participated in Bon Odori at the Yerba Buena Park near the hotel.


Thank you to all who attended from Watsonville.

Gotan-e Shinran’s Birthday

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Gotan-e (Shinran Shonin’s Birthday)

The following is text by by Rev. Dennis Shinseki, from a 1983 pamphlet published by the Northwest Ministerial Association, Buddhist Churches of America.

The teaching of Nembutsu, which is the saving power of Amida’s compassion, has its origin in ancient history. Many great people from India, China and Japan have relied on this teaching to gain peace of mind and have shared this teaching with everyone they encounter. This teaching was taken up by Shinran Shonin who taught Amida’s great vow will save people through their own faith. When we find ourselves limited in our understanding or limited in our capabilities, Shinran’s way of the Other Power guides us through his clear understanding of cause and effect. When we question our own life, old age, sickness and death it is this teaching that takes us from agony to peace of mind. It does this by giving us a vision of the Pure Land. When we realize our limits, this teaching provides for us the Name of Amida. We find joy, consolation, life and gratitude~ all through this great way of salvation. If we take a moment to think we owe a great deal to Shinran. Therefore on his birthday we join in sincere celebration of the occasion.

This vow of saving all beings taught by Shinran to some may seem strange. Such things as relying only on Arnida, his total acceptance of all beings evil and not, his paradise and his hell, may be regarded as nonsense. However when the questions of life and death are actually experienced, and the psycho- logical agonies have taken their toll, then one will rnarvel at the compassion of Amida. Then one will find a deep significance hidden in the Other Power. Gratitude will flow naturally when we realize Amida’s acceptance of us unqualifiedly. All that was doubtful will be seen in its true significance. Everything will become as vivid as the moon on a cloudless night, without any shadow of doubt.

As there may be a person who doubts the sweet- ness of sugar there are people who doubt the comrnpass ion of Arnida. There will always be that doubt until the person just tastes the sugar for himself. Then everything will be clear as to the taste of sugar. It is the same way with those who doubt Amida’s Com- passion as incompatible with common sense. Common sense and even higher learning will not give peace of mind, so religion must be tried, to see if it really tastes sweet or not.

Some people find no value in the images, the scriptures, and in the religious services. These are like people who try to hide from their own shadow. Just as the shadow, these images, scriptures, and services are a part of our being an indication of what is in our hearts and minds.

Religion is an experience in the mind. When Shinran’s teachings are seen this way they give us peace and gratitude. They give us everlasting life.

Namu Amida Butsu
Rev. Dennis Shinseki
Seattle Betsuin

Nirvana Day & Valentine’s Day

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“The embracing Spiritual Light eternally shines upon us protectively; Although the darkness of ignorance has already been rent, the cloudy mists of greediness, desire, anger, and hate always blanket the heaven of True Faith.  It is as though the sun is obscured by misty clouds, But below them it is light and there is no darkness”[1]

The month of February brings to us two holidays, one more well-known than the other.  Nirvana Day or Nehan-e falls on February 15 each year.  This is the day that the historical Buddha Shakyamuni lay down between two sala trees and died at the age of 80 years.  It is said that he then entered into perfect and complete Nirvana.  Below are the final words of the Buddha to his disciples.

“My disciples, my last moment has come, but do not forget that death is only the end of the physical body.  The body was born from parents and was nourished by food; just as inevitable are sickness and death.  But the true Buddha is not a human body: – it is Enlightenment.  A human body must die, but the Wisdom of Enlightenment will exist forever in the truth of the Dharma, and in the practice of the Dharma. He who sees merely my body does not truly see me.  Only he who accepts my teaching truly sees me”.[2]

When the Buddha died, he made it very clear that for you and I in this present age must look to the Dharma to truly see and understand the Buddha.  Some 1800 years after the Buddha died Shinran Shonin (1173-1263) spent a good portion of his life studying the Dharma.  What is significant for us is that Shinran found that the Buddha had left us a path to enlightenment despite the thousands of years that have gone by.  This is a path for us living in an age when we don’t even listen or accept the teachings of the Buddha.

This month many of us will celebrate Valentine’s Day and ignore Nirvana Day.  It will be our priority to make certain our significant other is recognized and show our love through flowers and gifts.  It is a commercialized reminder to us to express our love and devotion.  I may sound cynical, however I too will make sure flowers and dinner are part of February 14th.  It is a wonderful thing for us to do, however the difficulty is maintaining the “love” 24-7.  And many times the love we express or feel may be conditional.  It is difficult if not impossible to love someone unconditionally and consistently.  No matter what the relationship, parent, children, husbands, wives or significant others there will be times when our patience is tried and our desires unfulfilled.

Singer Pink says it best in her song: True Love:

Why do you rub me up the wrong way?
Why do you say the things that you say?
Sometimes I wonder how we ever came to be
But without you I’m incomplete[3]

Our lives are complete because of our relationships, but sometimes our own greediness, anger and desires get the best of us and we blame others.  This is the dilemma that Shinran understood and wrote in his Shoshinge or Hymn of True Faith.  There Shinran reminds us that despite our poisons that blind us to the reality of life and the self we are embraced in the infinite compassion that is Amida Buddha.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, let’s not forget Nirvana Day and express our gratitude to Shakyamuni Buddha for the Nembutsu and Shinran for clarifying for us the intent of the Buddha.


Rev. Hosei Shinseki

[1] Shoshin Ge, Ryukoku Translation Series, page 24

[2] Teachings of the Buddha, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, pg. 15

[3] True Love, written by: Pink; Greg Kurstin; Lily Allen

New Years Traditions

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D8002938-C6D1-4B2D-8DD1-24A1D84A0F87As we approach the end of 2018 it is a time of reflection.  The past year was full of change and we said goodbye to some dear friends and family members.  We can turn to the truth taught by the Buddha and find some comfort at our losses.  The Buddha taught that by attaining enlightenment, we shall enter Nirvana.  The advantage of enlightenment lies in the comprehension of the transiency of all our bodily existence while at the same time the permanence of our spiritual nature.

Impermanence is a common theme in our dharma talks and we have a long tradition of funeral and memorial services that remind us of this truth.  However, we live day to day like we will live eternally.

This is the plight of human beings.  We live day to day not realizing the shadow of death that follows us everywhere we go.  If we lived each day as if it were our last, we would feel sincere gratitude for each breath, for all that we receive and all that is done for us by others.

Thankfully we conduct dharma gatherings regularly to remind us of our limited selves and the infinite wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha that embraces us.  Annually at the end of theKagami Mochi year we place on the altar “kagami mochi” the pounded sweet rice that is shaped into the form of an ancient mirror.   Atop the mochi is placed a “daidai” or tangerine.  The mirror represents self reflection a practice encouraged by the Buddha throughout his life.   It is only through self reflection that we are able to see that self true and real.

The daidai represents the new life we are given with each breath.   Each breath, each moment of life is an opportunity for us to awaken to the truth of our life and begin to live a life of thankfulness and gratitude.

Rare is it to obtain human life, and difficult to encounter a Buddha’s appearance in the world; Hard is it to attain the wisdom of entrusting: Should you meet with and hear this teaching, pursue it with diligence.  If a person, hearing and never forgetting this dharma, sees, reveres, and attains it, and greatly rejoices, then he or she is my excellent, close companion; therefore awaken aspiration for enlightenment!  Even when the world is filled with a great fire, pass through it and seek to hear the dharma; then you will unfailingly become a world-honored one and free all beings from birth, aging and death.”  Shinran’s True Teaching, Practice, and Realization.