Past, Present and Future

A Speech for the Higashi Honganji Hawaii District 100th Anniversary
by Dr. Nobuo Haneda
Reprinted from the Dharma Breeze by permission of the author

Introduction: The Past Hundred Years
At the outset of my talk, I want to express my gratitude to the organizing committee for inviting me as the speaker for this important occasion. I am feeling great joy as a participant in this auspicious event. But I am standing here with mixed feelings. I am feeling not only joy but also sadness. Exactly five months ago, I stood here at this pulpit and gave a eulogy for one of the greatest human beings I have known. I spoke at the funeral ceremony of your late head minister, Rev. Gyoko Saito. I still cannot believe that he has passed away. I totally owe him what I am today. Ever since I came to the United States from Japan thirty years ago, I have been living my life, following the course he laid down for me. No words can express the deep gratitude I feel toward him.

Three months ago, your former bishop Rev. Shoko Sakata visited us in Berkeley. At that time I accompanied him in his visit to Mrs. Hitoyo Mori, who now lives in Moraga, California. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Mrs. Mori is the wife of Rev. Tenran Mori, who built the Palolo Honganji Temple. She met Rev. Mori and married him on the mainland. Then Rev. Mori was assigned to be a Buddhist minister in Hawaii. Rev. and Mrs. Mori worked hard for the building of the Palolo Honganji Temple. She told us about all kinds of hardships they endured in building the temple. We were deeply moved by her talk.

There have been many people like Mrs. Mori. They contributed to the propagation of Shin Buddhism in Hawaii during the last hundred years. Many of those people have already passed away. Many of their names are not even recorded in official history.

Today we are gathered here to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the bishops, Buddhist ministers, and members of the Hawaii Sangha, who have done so much during the last hundred years. Having this centennial celebration is certainly a great achievement. But this celebration, this achievement, is not a goal. It is a milestone in the long history of the transmission of the Dharma. We have a long future ahead of us. In other words, the last hundred years is a stepping stone to our future, a preparatory stage for our future growth. We must learn from our past, and take a new step forward. I believe that is the true way of repaying what our predecessors have done for us.

In reflecting upon the past hundred years, we must reexamine our mission. Many things that have been taken for granted must be reevaluated. In my talk this morning, I want to discuss three issues. First, I want to identify the essence of Shin Buddhism. Second, on the basis of my discussion of the essence of Shin Buddhism, I want to say that the present American Shin Buddhist temple institution is not an effective vessel for the transmission of the essence of Shin Buddhism. I want to say that our temple institution must be changed so that it may become an effective vessel for the transmission of the teachings of Shinran Shonin. Third and lastly, I want to talk about my hope for the future direction of Shin Buddhism in this country

Essence of Shin Buddhism
Let me start my discussion of the essence of Shin Buddhism with a personal note by referring to how I became interested in Buddhism. I was born and raised in Nagano City in Japan. My parents were not interested in Buddhism at all. So I was brought up without knowing much about Buddhism. In Nagano City, there were many Buddhist temples. But the ministers of those temple seldom gave sermons or lectures. So very few young people went to Buddhist temples for spiritual guidance. This may surprise you, but the Christian churches in our city were much more attractive to young people who had some religious interest. For me, at least, that was the case. I used to attend a Christian church when I was in high school. Although I did not become a baptized Christian, I used to attend a Christian church.

While I was studying Christianity, I became interested in Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace. I loved Tolstoy so much that I desired to become a translator of Tolstoy. So when I entered a college in Tokyo, I majored in Russian. I was in Tokyo in the late 60s. My life in Tokyo was a depressing one for several reasons. In those days, Tokyo had serious pollution problems. The whole city looked so dirty and gloomy. In 1969 the Vietnam War was still going on, and the student’s movement was at its peak. I was a senior and was supposed to graduate from college that year. But my college was closed by radical students for one whole year. We did not know when the school would reopen. My friends were fighting with the police. It was such a confusing time. In my personal life, too, there were some difficulties. Around that time, I lost two of my close friends, one by sickness and the other by suicide. And the family in which I was brought up had some problems: my father had a couple of divorces when I was small. Thinking about my father's divorces made me quite depressed.

I became more and more depressed. Since my college was closed by radical students, I was in my boarding house most of the time. My boarding house was like a tiny cocoon. Inside the tiny cocoon, you inhale the same air that you have just exhaled. The air inside the cocoon gets stuffier and stuffier. The more struggle you make to get out of the cocoon, the more suffocating the air becomes.

In those days I had a lot of self-pity. I was concerned only with my happiness. All the questions I had concerned only myself. I asked, "Why am I so unfortunate?"; "Why did such a thing happen to me?" I was grasping myself so firmly. I was immersed in myself so deeply that I could not see myself objectively, from outside.

On one of those days, I went to a bookstore. At that time I wanted to study Goethe's Faust, a famous German story. In the bookstore I found one small commentary an Faust. The commentator's name was "Shuichi Maida." I had never heard of this name. But who wrote the commentary did not matter, because I just wanted to know the outline of the story of Faust. I bought the book because it looked like an easy book to read. I went home and read it.

When I read the commentary, I was really impressed by it. I was impressed not by the story of Faust, but by what the commentator Maida said about Faust. Although I had not known it, the author Shuichi Maida was a Buddhist and he was interpreting Faust from a Buddhist standpoint. I was quite surprised because Buddhism was the last thing that I had expected to find in that book. In the book, Maida was using words such as Shinran, Amida, and the nembutsu. That was the first time I was exposed to Buddhist teachings.

Up to that time, I had no interest in Buddhism at all. Everything associated with Buddhism had looked so old, obsolete, and fossilized. To me, Buddhism was like antique furniture. I thought that the value of Buddhism was its oldness. I thought that people appreciated Buddhism only from an artistic point of view, because Buddhist tradition preserved old temples buildings and statues. I never thought that Buddhism was relevant to my life--that it had living meanings to my life.

But the Buddhism that I discovered in Maida was so new, fresh, and relevant to my life. So I went back to the same bookstore and bought other books written by him. I started to study Buddhism from that time. That was the turning point in my life. I was twenty-two at that time. From that time on, for the last thirty years, I have been studying Buddhism.

Concerning this experience that I had when I was a senior in college, some of my friends asked me, "What was it that hit you and changed the entire course of your life?" Whenever I received this question, for a long time I could not find any clear answer for it. The only thing I could say was that when I met Maida, I encountered a tremendously overwhelming power. But I could not explain what that power was. Now, having spent some time in studying Buddhism, I can say, with some conviction, that it was Maida's student spirit that hit me. It was the power of his student spirit, his seeker's spirit, that hit me and changed the entire course of my life.

Maida met his teacher, Rev. Haya Akegarasu, when he was eighteen years old. From then until his death at age sixty, he was a constant student, a constant seeker. I had not met anyone in my life who lived the dynamic life of a seeker as he did. I was deeply moved by the way he sought the Dharma, by the way he respected his teacher’s teachings. As I have told you, when I first read his book, I was feeling as if I were in a tiny cocoon. I was deeply sunk in self-pity, in self-love. At that time his student spirit shouted at me:

"Enough of your self-pity and self-love! You cocoon is so stuffy, so suffocating. Get out of such a tiny cocoon! Break the shell! Be liberated into a broader world, into a larger world! Don't you know there is something greater than yourself? There is a wonderful tradition. There are many wonderful teachers and their works. Why don't you listen to them and appreciate them? Become a student! Become a seeker!"

When I heard his voice, I realized that the totality of my self was nothing but a garbage can. I was attempting to find something pure and wonderful in a garbage can. I was digging deeper and deeper into the garbage can, believing something pure could be found there. But after all, the more digging I did, the more stinkiness I was creating.

Maida hit the garbage can from outside and made a big hole in it. Then, cool fresh air started to gush into it. The cool fresh air was his student spirit. It was the humble and dynamic spirit of a constant seeker. It was the spirit that was permeated with the newness of life, the creativeness of life. This spirit challenged me and made me become a student, a seeker. Having encountered Maida's student spirit, I recognized the foolishness of dwelling in a tiny cocoon of self-pity and self-love. From that time on, I have learned the importance of shifting the focus of my attention from myself to the Dharma--from thinking about myself to listening to the Dharma.

I believe that the student spirit is the most important thing--the core--in Shin Buddhism. If I discuss this using Shin Buddhist terminology, I can say that the tremendous power that I encountered in my first meeting with Maida was the power of the Name (i.e., Namu Amida Butsu). The essence of Shin Buddhism is fully contained in this one Name that means perfect studentship.

Now let me explain why I say that the Name means perfect studentship. Here we must talk about the Larger Sutra, the textual basis of Shin Buddhism. Shinran considered the Larger Sutra the most important text in his life; he devoted his entire life to learning from it. All his writings are nothing but commentaries on this sutra.

The hero in the text is a young seeker by the name of Dharmakara. Dharmakara is a symbol of a perfect student. At the beginning of the story, Dharmakara meets his teacher and expresses his joy by praising his teacher. Then he receives instructions from his teacher and meditates on them. When he comes out of his meditation, he expresses his forty-eight vows. After declaring his vows, Dharmakara engages in a practice called "Eternal Practice." Through this practice, he becomes a Buddha by the name of Namu Amida Butsu (Bowing Amida Buddha).

Here it is important to know the nature of Dharmakara's practice, because his practice crystallizes into his Name, Namu Amida Butsu. The meaning of his practice is the meaning of his Name. Although he takes up various practices, the most important practice Dharmakara performs is the practice of visiting innumerable Buddhas.

With the visitation practice Dharmakara perfects his studentship. The humbler be becomes, the more Buddhas he discovers and worships. The more Buddhas he discovers and worships, the humbler he becomes. Dharmakara gradually loses his attachment to himself. He sees less importance in himself. At the same time, he deepens his respect for his teachers, and intensifies his practice of visitation. The speed with which he studies the Dharma accelerates. In this way, Dharmakara perfects his practice of visitation. When his whole life becomes the visitation practice or listening and learning, that is the realization of Buddhahood. He now sees all human beings as Buddhas and worships them.

It is because Dharmakara perfects visitation practice that he becomes a Buddha by the name of "Namu Amida Butsu (Bowing Amida Buddha)." This Name means that Dharmakara has become a Buddha who is bowing (Namu) his head before all human beings, considering them Buddhas. Bowing (Namu) is the most important part of his Name. He has become a Buddha because of his bowing--because of his visitation practice. Bowing and visitation practice are synonymous.

I believe that there is nothing more important in Buddhism than studentship. If I say something like this, some of you may say to me, "Mr. Haneda, Buddhism cannot be that simple. Buddhism must have something more profound and important than studentship." I, however, firmly believe that studentship--the perfection of studentship--is all there is in Buddhism, in Shin Buddhism.

It is by meeting a human being who embodies the Name--the spirit of a perfect student--that we can be liberated. Thus it is crucially important that we, in our personal lives, actually meet a person with the spirit. If we meet the spirit, if we are shaken by it and receive it, and if we also become humble students, then we are liberated persons.

Thus we can say the most important thing in Buddhism is not whatness (i.e., things such as ideas, concepts, and theories) but howness. We are not deeply shaken by a person of whatness but by a person of howness. A person of extensive scholarship and knowledge may impress us, but he cannot shake us from the bottom of our hearts. We are deeply moved by a person who is humbly and dynamically seeking. I believe this is the manner in which Buddhism has been transmitted to us. If Buddhism were only whatness, it would have perished a long time ago. Buddhism has survived and has been transmitted to us because there have been many individuals who embodied the humble and dynamic spirit.

When Shakyamuni attained Awakening, he recognized the absoluteness of the Dharma, the truth of impermanence. When he recognized the absoluteness of impermanence, he recognized the futility of being attached to things, such as ideas, views, thoughts, and opinions. He recognized that his entire being was constant movement, constant newness of life, and creativeness itself. This means that he became a student--a constant learner and seeker. Thus his Awakening experience means that he became one with the Name and realized his perfect studentship.

The perfect studentship that is expressed in the Name was transmitted from India to China, from China to Japan. In Shin Buddhism, it was transmitted through the seven patriarchs (i.e., Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, T'an-luan, Tao-ch'o, Shan-tao, Genshin, and Honen). When Honen saw the Namu Amida Butsu spirit in his teacher Shan-tao, Honen was moved by it. Throughout his life, Honen identified himself only as a student of Shan-tao and devoted his entire life to learning from him. Although many people called Honen a wise person, he called himself a foolish person. He lived his life of a humble student. His becoming a perfect student was his liberation.

When Shinran met Honen and saw the Namu Amida Butsu spirit in him, he was deeply shaken by it. He also came to embody the spirit. He considered that becoming a true student, a true listener, was the most important thing in his life. He called the studentship or listener-ship, shinjin. Throughout his life Shinran identified himself only as a student. He never claimed that he was a teacher. In the Tannisho he says, "I, Shinran, do not have even a single disciple." Throughout his life Shinran deepened his joy of learning and listening.

Shinran's student spirit was transmitted to modem individuals such as Rev. Manshi Kiyozawa, the founder of Otani University. Rev. Kiyozawa's student spirit shook the hearts of his students. Rev. Haya Akegarasu was one of the students who were deeply shaken by him. Rev. Akegarasu saw the seeker's spirit in Kiyozawa and received it from him. Rev. Akegarasu also lived his life as a constant seeker. Akegarasu's seeker's spirit shook the hearts of his students. Shuichi Maida, my teacher, was one of Akegarasu's students who were deeply shaken by him. He saw the seeker's spirit in Akegarasu and received it from him. Maida also lived his life as a constant seeker. It was Maida's seeker's spirit that I met when I was a senior in college. It was the Namu Amida Butsu spirit that was coming through Maida that hit me and changed the entire course of my life.

We do not have to talk about many things in Buddhism. Only one thing--becoming a true student--is good enough. If' we can realize it in our lives, that is our liberation. Becoming a true student is the highest goal, the ultimate goal, in Buddhism.

My View of the Shin Buddhist Temple: Culture and Religion
I have now said that the essence of Shin Buddhism is Namu Amida Butsu that means perfect studentship. Now let me discuss whether the present Shin temple institution is an effective vessel for the transmission of the essence of Shin Buddhism. Has the Shin temple been a place where we study the student spirit that was taught by Shinran? Unfortunately, my answer to this question is no. The temple has not been an effective vessel for the transmission of the essence of Shinran's teachings.

I believe that the basic reason that the temple has not been an effective vessel is that the main function of the temple has been cultural; it has not been religious and educational. I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on the cultural aspects of the tradition and not much emphasis has been placed on the religious and educational aspects of the tradition.

Here we must discuss the relationship between culture and religion. In the past, Japanese Buddhist temples here have often served a dual function as both religious centers and Japanese cultural centers. But so far it has been ambiguous whether the temples are religious centers accompanied by culture or cultural centers accompanied by religion. I believe that it is now crucially important to clarify the basic role and function of the Buddhist temple in this country.

First, let me define what I mean by the "cultural aspect" of a Buddhist institution and the "religious aspect" of a Buddhist institution. By the "cultural aspect," I mean the Japanese ethno-cultural aspect of the temple. I mean Buddhist rituals, cultural activities such as the tea ceremony and flower arrangement, and festivals such as Obon Dance. All these things are presented in Japanese forms. By the "religious aspect," I mean the teaching and learning activities. I mean the activities related to the teachings of Shakyamuni and Shinran.

I can compare the cultural aspect to "a container" and the religious aspect to "water." As far as the "cultural aspect" or container aspect is concerned, it is quite natural that different ethnic groups in this country have different cultural activities. The Japanese, the Chinese, and the Tibetan have their respective cultural activities in their Buddhist temples. Thus as far as the container aspect of the temple is concerned, it is quite natural that each temple is different.

But as far as the water aspect of the temple is concerned, there should not be diversity. As there is only one water in this world, there should be only one essence of Buddhism. If Buddhist temples are Buddhist temples, they must teach the same Dharma--the universal truth. They must have a common denominator; they must contain the same water. What, then, is the water, the essence of Buddhism? The water is Namu Amida Butsu, perfect studentship, which I have just discussed as the essence of Buddhism. What makes Buddhism Buddhism is the student spirit. It is the water and the lifeblood of the tradition.

Here I recollect a couple of questions I received from a friend. He asked me, "Mr. Haneda, you seem to be differentiating religion from culture. But aren't religion and culture inseparable? Aren't religion and culture basically the same?" I answer yes to the first question. Yes, religion and culture are inseparable. Like a container and water, they are certainly inseparable. Water needs a container. Water cannot exist by itself.

I answer no to the second question. I strongly disagree with the idea that religion and culture are the same. The container and water are absolutely different. The basic difference between religion and culture is this. Culture (things such as rituals and the tea ceremony) can entertain and amuse us. But it cannot bring about the total spiritual transformation of our lives. However, religion (the Dharma) is not there to entertain and amuse us. When we meet the Dharma, it challenges, negates, and destroys our petty self and liberates us into a tremendous world of the Dharma. Only religion can bring about the total spiritual transformation of our lives.

In culture, the self is not negated; but in the Dharma, the self is negated. The self can contain culture, but it cannot contain the Dharma. The self can put culture under its control, but it cannot put the Dharma under its control, because the Dharma is much more powerful than the self. We must clearly understand the differences between culture and religion, between the container and water. The container cannot quench our thirst. It is the water that quenches our thirst and gives us life. It is sad, very sad, that some Shin Buddhists in this country confuse culture with religion, the container with the water. They think culture and religion are same.

Here I want to specifically talk about Shin Buddhist temples in this country. The primary emphasis of Shin temples in this country has been placed on cultural activities, and secondary emphasis has been placed on learning Shinran's teachings. Primary emphasis has been placed on the container and secondary emphasis on water.

So far people have been seeing a container, but it has not been clear what the container contains. The living water that is supposed to be in the container has not been clearly shown or explained. Probably it has been inevitable that Shin Buddhist temples have been that way, because they had to play a historical role of Japanese cultural centers for the first and second generation Japanese Americans.

But now the times are changing. Now the younger generation is not satisfied with only the container aspect of the temple. They are asking where the living water is, what the living water is. They are asking if there is truly any living water--something relevant to their own lives. They are asking about the universal meaning of the tradition.

I believe that the priorities of the temple must be reversed. The religious and educational function of the temple should become primary; cultural activities should become secondary. The water should become primary and the container secondary. It should be water accompanied by a container. It should not be a container accompanied by water. It should be a Shin Buddhist learning center accompanied by culture. It should not be a cultural center accompanied by Shin Buddhism. The Shin Buddhist temple should become a place where we all become students and study the student spirit of Shinran.

My Hope for the Shin Buddhism in This Country
Now let me talk about my hope for the future direction of Shin Buddhism in this country. Nowadays many people are pessimistic about Shin Buddhism in this country. I hear many people lamenting the dwindling membership of the temples, deploring the shortage of ministerial candidates. In spite of all that, I am not pessimistic about Buddhism in this country at all. I am not pessimistic because we are having one of the most exciting and challenging times in history. It is so exciting to know that the Buddhist temple in this country has already taken a course that is quite different from its Japanese counterpart. As a person who was born and raised in Japan, I consider that the changes that have been made in the temple in stitutions of this country are quite remarkable.

Some changes that have been made in Buddhist temples here are due to the influence of Christianity. It is a good thing that Buddhism has received influence from Christianity. Christianity has done a tremendous favor for Buddhist institutions in this country. For example, Sunday services and Sunday school are part of Christian tradition. Most Buddhist temples in Japan do not offer people any religious and educational opportunities like the Sunday services and Sunday school. It is a good thing that Buddhist temples have adopted the Christian way.

In Japan there is a division of labor between Shintoism and Buddhism. When people have the happiness of celebrating a new life or new beginning such as childbirth or a wedding, they go to Shinto shrines. Whereas, when they mourn the dead, they go to Buddhist temples. So some people jokingly say, "Shinto marries and Buddhism buries." Almost all of the function of the Buddhist temple in Japan consists of funeral services and memorial services. But the function of the Buddhist temple here is quite different. Here we do not go to a Buddhist temple only for funeral services; we go there also for weddings, for cultural activities, for studying the Dharma and for many other activities.

Talking about how people become Buddhist ministers, the successions of most temples in Japan are hereditary and the oldest son of the temple family usually takes over the Buddhist temple. Thus, in Japan many people become Buddhist ministers without any serious religious motivation. When I think about the way people become Buddhist ministers in this country, I feel so happy because all Buddhist ministers have become Buddhist ministers because of their personal religious motivations.

Becoming a minister because of one's personal motivation is such a natural thing. This is nothing unusual or special in this country. But for centuries this kind of thing has seldom happened in Shin Buddhist temples in Japan. What is happening in this country is truly a revolutionary thing. Thus remarkable Americanization of Shin Buddhism has already taken place here. I think these things are quite wonderful.

Further, the people of the new generation have started to inquire into the living religious meanings of the tradition; they are no longer satisfied with only cultural elements of the tradition. Many first and second generation Japanese thought that their having a Japanese ethnic background automatically guaranteed that they were Buddhists. So they did not feel any strong need to study Buddhism as a teaching. But the third and fourth generation Japanese who cannot directly connect with Japanese ethnicity feel that they must study Buddhism to become Buddhists. Thus among the people of the new generation, I see a new trend to study the Dharma. In some temples, people have started to hold a regular study class or annual retreat to deepen their understanding of the teaching.

In view of the changes that have already been made and the new trend we are witnessing now, we must make further changes in our temple institutions. Here I want to propose another change concerning the Shin Buddhist temple institution in this country. I believe that the time has come for the two major branches of the Shin Buddhist tradition in Hawaii, the Higashi Honganji and the Nishi Honganji, to join forces and work together for the propagation of Shinran's teachings.

If I say something like this, probably many Shin Buddhists in Japan may think that I am saying something quite outrageous. But as I have pointed out, the American Shin Buddhist temple has already taken a form that is quite different from its Japanese counterpart, Shinran's teachings do not exist for the enhancement of sectarian institutions. Sectarian institutions exist for the enhancement of Shinran's teachings. Most of us here have some affiliation with the Higashi Honganji; we have some attachment to it. But I sincerely desire that all of us think not from a sectarian viewpoint, but of what Shinran wants us to do, and transcend our sectarian attachment.

When I met Mrs. Mori three months ago, she told me that it was her husband's desire to transcend narrow sectarianism. She told me, "That's why we named our temple Palolo Honganji, instead of Palolo Higashi Honganji." She told us that the name reflected her husband's desire that people transcend sectarian attachment either to the Nishi or to the Higashi.
In this connection, I think of Mr. Hideo Itoh. Mr. Itoh was the first president of the Buddhist Churches of America. Before Mr. Itoh passed away about ten years ago, I visited him in Monterey, California on several occasions. During each visit, I had a wonderful conversation with him. Once Mr. Itoh told me, "When we started our Buddhist organization, we discussed what the name of our organization should be. We did not want to call our organization the Nishi Honganji. We wanted all Shin Buddhists (Nishi and Higashi) to join our organization. So we decided to call our organization the Buddhist Churches of America instead of the Nishi Honganji Churches of America.

Rev. Mori and Mr. Itoh had the same desire that all Shin Buddhists in the United States get together and work together for the propagation of Shinran's teachings. I know many other people here and on the mainland who share the same desire. It is rather foolish that Higashi and Nishi, because of their sectarian pride and attachment, waste their financial and human resources in having their separate seminars and conferences to study the same teachings of Shinran. It does not make much sense. When I think about the changes that have already been made and possible new changes that we can make, and when I think about the growing interest in Shin Buddhism, I am not pessimistic at all. I feel that Shin Buddhism here has a good chance of being reborn as a totally new Buddhist tradition.

Let us accept this historical challenge. Let us create a new truly living Buddhist tradition in this country. Being a Buddhist means having a courageous spirit that is not afraid of challenging an obsolete tradition and creating a new tradition. This is precisely the spirit of Shinran. Shinran was not complacent with the old way; he was one of the most courageous spiritual innovators that Japan had ever produced.

Now we have here a Japanese container. But this container was made in Japan; it was not made in the United States. It is an imported and transported container. The Japanese container that has been imported here has already served its purpose. It has already finished serving its historical mission and role. The future container of this country must be made here, in the United States. The Indians, the Chinese, and the Japanese created their own respective containers. Now we Americans must create our own American container that can hold the living water. We must create a new American Buddhist tradition that can hold the living essence of Shinran's teachings. That is what Shinran wants us to do. Let us accept this historical challenge and create a new truly living tradition in this country.

A snake keeps on shedding its old skin. If it stays in the same old skin, it will just die away. Likewise, if an institution is to keep on living and surviving, it must shed its old skins, its dead skins. Otherwise, it will just die away and become a remnant of the past.

The spirit of the humble seeker that is expressed in the Name is the essence of Shin Buddhism. Shinran lived his life only as a student and seeker. This spirit of a seeker is the lifeblood of the tradition. It is the living water that can quench the thirst of all the people in the world. All the people in the world can be liberated by it.

This spirit is such a wonderful treasure that it should not be hidden in an ethnic or sectarian container. It should be shared with all humanity. If we hide it in an ethnic or sectarian container, it is a crime. But the most important thing is that we first personally drink the water. If we do not personally drink the water, the water will stop flowing and the temple will become a lifeless dried-up container. Shin Buddhism is just too precious for that to happen. Shinran's teachings are such an enormously wonderful treasure that we should not let that happen. I sincerely hope that all of us together so deeply appreciate the living water--that we become students and study the student spirit of Shinran.

I really believe that I did a good thing in coming to this country thirty years ago. I consider myself a fortunate person, because I am part of this historical challenge of creating a new Shin Buddhist tradition in this country. I consider myself a fortunate person, because I have known many Buddhist ministers and members of the Sangha here in Hawaii and in the mainland.

This morning, in celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Hawaii Sangha, we are expressing our gratitude to our predecessors. Our predecessors played an important historical role. We are here not only to look back and express our heartfelt gratitude to our predecessors, but also to look ahead. Now we are facing a new historical challenge. We must learn from our predecessors and take a new and courageous step forward. If we do not take a new step forward, we are not truly expressing our gratitude to our predecessors and not truly repaying what they have done for us. Thank you.

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