WCBT's Autumn Ohigan Service features Memorial Service for World Trade Center Victims

West Covina Buddhist Temple’s annual Autumn Ohigan Service, held this year on September 16, 2001, is a time when temple members gather and reflect on the meaning of “the other shore” in Buddhism. Due to the tragedies at the World Trade Center in New York and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., this year’s Ohigan held perhaps its greatest significance ever. In memory of the thousands of victims, the special Kada chant, normally performed at major services and funeral services, was added to the Shoshinge chant. Also, at the beginning of the Service, following a moment of silence in memory of the victims, Rev. Ken Kawawata spoke a few words (see “Rev. Ken Kawawata's Message"). However, his message stood in stark contrast to the many anger-driven and revenge-seeking sentiments we see in the media today, and therefore may have been understandably difficult for some of our members to comprehend, or to fully accept. This is because Rev. Ken’s message essentially asked us to view this tragedy from the “other shore.” But whether we personally “agree” or “disagree” with Rev. Ken is not important. What is most important is for us is to reflect on his message and simultaneously question our “take” on this tragedy, our opinions and our viewpoints. This questioning process allows the Buddhist teachings to illuminate our lives.

Later in the service, guest speaker Rev. Marvin Harada also addressed the Sangha (see “Rev. Marvin Harada's Message”). Whereas Rev. Ken asked us to question our desire for revenge, Rev. Harada spoke to those of us so overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem of hateful violence in our world today that we may feel we are powerless. In that sense, Rev. Harada was encouraging us not to become cynical, not to give up hope. We just need to “do all that we can do” individually, he said. At the same time, he clarified that, from a Buddhist perspective, doing positive work towards world peace first requires us to be at peace ourselves, to deeply study and know the self.

Following the Dharma talks, West Covina Buddhist Temple’s own Lotus Band performed two songs for the Sangha. The first song was “Never Had a Dream Come True, a warm and wonderfully melodic song featuring vocalists Lindsay Ogino and Allison Haraguchi. This was followed by a memorable performance of “Colors of the Wind,” the well-known Disney song which asks us all the question of the moment, “Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?” The Lotus Band’s performance was quite meaningful to us all, not only because they are accomplished musicians, but also because they just 16 or 17 years old, and thus carry our hopes for the future.

After Lotus’ performance, the Sangha was treated to a delicious otoki dinner. These otoki dinners are always a favorite event of our Sangha, but due to the historic circumstances, the camaraderie and conversation seemed all the more special. One positive note is that there may be an opportunity to interchange our Lotus Band with Orange County Buddhist Church’s performing choir in the future, as well as opportunities for Lotus to perform at OCBC.

This year’s Autumn Ohigan will certainly be remembered long into the future. Due to the World Trade Center tragedy, it is a time of both great sadness and anger. These emotions are natural and will take a long time to resolve. However, those in attendance at the Ohigan Service were extremely fortunate to hear the messages of both Rev. Ken Kawawata and Rev. Marvin Harada. Both ministers’ messages were ultimately saying the same thing. Before we succumb to either anger or feelings of hopelessness, we should try to reflect deeply on the Buddha-Dharma. The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is a negative truth, which is that the self is the real cause of our difficulties. However, the positive truth is that when we fully awaken to the problems of our own egos—when we reach the “other shore”—we also can glimpse the world of oneness, and fully and unconditionally appreciate all life around us. As Buddhists, as Americans and as citizens of the world, let us reflect deeply and “just do all that we can do,” however small that may be, to share this gift of the Dharma, and join with others to work for world peace.

Namu Amida Butsu

Rev. Ken Kawawata's Message

I would like to express my deepest condolences to the victims and their families of the terrorism in New York and Washington last Tuesday morning…I think that all Americans received a tremendous shock and fell into deep sadness.

I think that the terrorists wanted to show America that they were the enemy and were challenging the U.S. However, they could have shown their challenge in other ways. They did not have to use commercial jets as missiles, and they did not need to aim at the civilians of New York.

Now, people’s sadness and fear naturally turns to anger. And we are going to stand up and fight back for America. But before we take arms, we have to think, “Can power and arms really change this world? Can those things bring real freedom and peace for us?” We know that hate brings hate, revenge will bring back revenge.

About 800 years ago in Japan, Honen Shonin, the teacher of our founder, Shinran Shonin, experienced the terrible killing of his father by another warrior’s group. Before Honen’s father died, he told Honen Shonin, “You must not be a warrior like me. If you become a warrior and revenge them, you will get revenge again and the revenges will go on forever. So become a priest and seek true peace for yourself and all people.” So Honen Shonin became a priest and became a seeker of true peace.

I don’t think that striking back at the terrorists with arms guarantees to bring real peace and harmony to us. We are taught that the principle of America is freedom and justice. When we seek true freedom and justice, we have to realize that we must take full responsibilities for our actions for true freedom and justice. And we have to seek and find true freedom, justice and peace not only for America; we must seek and find true freedom, justice and peace for all people on this earth. I think that terrorists who attacked New York and Washington are the same human beings as us. They are victims too. They are victims of the incorrect education they received…It seems that, for the fundamentalist religious groups that were involved this attack. religious education is supposed to teach and lead them to true peace and harmony in their lives. But in the case of these terrorists, religious education worked in the opposite way. It made them put a huge number of people in the world of suffering and fear. Religions have to lead us to the world of peace and harmony in our spiritual lives.

Also, I realize that if I had been born 50 years earlier in wartime Japan, I would have lived in the same kinds of conditions as these terrorists. I would have received the same kinds of education and I could commit a suicide Kamikaze attack just as these terrorists did. My actions are not entirely under my control. Depending on the conditions I find myself in, I could kill or harm somebody.

From this tragedy, I really felt that the spirit of bowing, “Namu,” is important and has to be at the center of my life. “Sorry” and “Thank you” are the spirit of Namu, of Namu Amida Butsu. When we bow to each other, we don’t have any fights and arguments. We can live in the world of peace and harmony, the world of oneness.

Right now, we all share deep sadness, fear and anger. However, when we really think about our future and our actions, we must ask what kinds of deeds bring us true peace and harmony? How can we achieve this common goal for all people on this earth? I think that it is easy to fight back for America. We have all kinds of arms and technologies. But can arms really take our sadness and sorrows away and bring us real comfort and peace?

We love our country. However as Buddhists, we must go beyond nationalism and patriotism. We should wish for the gift of true humanity for all people of this world. This gift is the innermost aspiration of Amida Buddha. I don’t want my son and future generations to have to witness the scenes of last Tuesday on TV again.

In closing I would like to express my condolences and sympathy to all people who died by terrorism on September 11, 2001 again.

Thank you.

Rev. Marvin Harada's Message

West Covina Buddhist Temple was very fortunate to have Rev. Marvin Harada, minister of Orange County Buddhist Church, as its guest speaker for the Autumn Ohigan Service of September 16, 2001. In reference to the World Trade Center terrorist attack, Rev. Harada began by saying, “Today, I join with you in this very solemn occasion….for each of the 5,000 victims there grieves a husband, a wife, a son and daughter, and many relatives and friends.” After expressing his personal grief for this tragedy, Rev. Harada told a story from an ancient Buddhist sutra. The sutra tells the story of a great, beautiful forest that was home to many animals. However, one day the forest caught fire and the animals had to flee for their lives. Rev. Harada said, “The lion, who was the leader of the animals, shouted, ‘Run, run…flee for your lives!’” But, after they had regrouped in a safe place, the animals noticed a small bird who was doing something quite strange. The bird, despite being injured, would go to the nearby lake, dip its wings in the water, then fly over the raging fire, flapping its wings and dropping a few drops of water on the fire. It did this over and over again. Finally, the other animals shouted to bird, “Are you crazy? You must get out of the fire now!” The little bird explained that the question is really not about whether he could actually do anything about the fire at all. The little bird said, “I’m only concerned with what I can do. This is all I can do. I’m just doing all I can do.”

“We ourselves wonder what we can do,” said Rev. Harada. “But I think we are doing, like the little bird, what we can do. By listening to and having our lives nurtured by the Buddha Dharma, we can become human beings who will, once again, restore peace to lives. The “question” therefore, is not to wonder, “What can I do?,” but rather to ask, “Am I doing all I can…am I deeply listening to the teachings?”

Rev. Harada clarified why listening is so important in Buddhism. He related a story regarding one of Rev. Kubose’s discussion groups in which a woman had spoken passionately about the need for Buddhists to go out into the world and work for world peace. Participating in the discussion was Rev. Saito, who then asked the woman, “Are you at peace yourself?” The woman had no answer for Saito-sensei. Rev. Harada pointed out that this story shows that “A Buddhist tries to bring peace into the world by first being at peace themselves. The teachings are transmitted simply by how we live our lives, by being truly humble, truly selfless.” Futhermore, as Buddhists we know this kind of peace is only attained through deep insight into the nature of our self. This insight can be transforming. As an example, Rev. Harada related that he had once read an interview with the great nun Mother Theresa, where she had been asked why she works so tirelessly for the poor and underpriveleged. Surprisingly, Mother Theresa had said, “I do this work because I have seen the Hitler within me.”

Rev. Harada added that Shinran Shonin himself is of course a great example of the transforming power of this insight into the self. His entire life can be seen as an example of “Namu Amida Butsu.” But what makes Shinran’s message even more compelling is to realize, as Rev. Harada pointed out, that Shinran lived during a time of tremendous turmoil, when feudal warfare, crime, starvation and disease were widespread. Yet despite these circumstances, Shinran’s message was not dark and negative. He said, “Make the world at peace and spread the Buddha-Dharma.”

Real World Buddhism Menu | Home