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Introducing Buddhist Values and Japanese Culture 
Understanding Buddhism
道場
Dōjō
Meeting Place

The word Dōjō is usually referred to as a place to learn the martial arts. However, in medieval Japan, it was a meeting place for Shinshu followers. As Dr. James Dobbins wrote, “Dōjō was not unique to the Shinshū but was prevalent throughout the Pure Land movement. The local congregation affiliated with the dōjō became known as nembutsumembers (nembutsushu) or religious companions (monto).  

Buddha
Wisdom: a Dharma Message
This week’s Dharma message is from Ann Rogers Carman, author with Minor L. Rogers, of “Rennyo Shonin: The Second Founder of Shin Buddhism.”  Ann says that throughout the history of Japan, there have been many pandemics over the centuries.  There were no vaccines in Rennyo’s day; many Jodo Shinshu followers wanted to know why so many were dying.  So Rennyo wrote a letter to his fellow nembutsu followers, which Ann translated, and it is here in this Dharma message.
Thank you, Ann, Namu Amida Butsu  
Gassho,

Hoshina Seki 

Rennyo Shonin
(1415-1499)
 
          According to a New York Times database, as of February 3, 2021, more than 26,472,800 people in the United States had been infected with Covid-19; there had been 446,643 deaths. This pandemic has changed all our lives over the past year. However, crises like our present one have occurred many times in the past, including during Rennyo’s time in Japan. He was no stranger to epidemics. For a remarkable history of the widespread disease in Japan, please see here to see. To quote just a few sentences:
 
          Although the historical record is difficult to read for the era 1421-1540, it appears that disease remained an important factor in demographic change. The period contains 45 epidemics of various descriptions, or one outbreak of pestilence for every 2.7 years, representing an increase over the previous era. Smallpox was particularly active, coming in 1452-3, 1477, 1495, 1523, 1525, 1531, and 1537. In all years excepting 1495 and 1525, however, the disease struck only children. ….Measles appeared more frequently, attacking the populace in 1441, 1471, 1484, 1489, 1506, and 1513. The outbreaks of 1471, 1484, and 1512 were harsh, killing many people of all ages. Influenza is recorded as an epidemic in 1428 and 1535. Dysentery and chickenpox are not documented. The era 1460-1550 was a period of chronic warfare in Japan, which leads one to suspect a link between the increased social strife and the higher incidence of pestilence (Fujikawa 1969; Hattori 1971).
 
       In 1492, Rennyo wrote a letter (4:9) to his followers entitled, “On an Epidemic.” He begins, “Recently, people have been dying in great numbers, reportedly from an epidemic,” but he understands the cause somewhat differently than our CDC physicians might and continues: 
 
It is not that they die primarily because of the epidemic. It’s [because of] determinate karma that has been settled from the first moment of our birth. We shouldn’t be so deeply surprised by this. And yet, when people die at this time, everyone thinks it strange. It is really quite reasonable. 
 
     Later, however, he reflects particularly on the unavoidable fact of impermanence in a well-known letter (5:16), “On White Bones.” It rings true, too, in our times and is perhaps the reason why it has served as a touchstone for so many through the generations:
 
            When we deeply consider the transiency of this world, [we realize that] what is altogether fleeting is our own life span—it’s entirely like an illusion. So, we haven’t yet heard of anyone living ten thousand years. A lifetime passes quickly. Can anyone now live to be a hundred? Will I die first, or will my neighbor? Will it be today or tomorrow? We don’t know. The ones we leave behind and those who go before us are more numerous than the dewdrops briefly resting under trees and on their leaf tips. So, we may have radiant faces in the morning, but only white bones in the evening.

            With the coming of the wind of impermanence, both of our eyes are instantly closed, and when a single breath is forever stilled, the radiant face is drained of life, and its vibrant glow is gone. Family and relatives may gather and grieve broken-heartedly, but this is to no avail. As there is nothing else to be done, [the once-familiar form] is taken to an outlying field, and when it has vanished with the midnight smoke, nothing is left but white bones. This is indescribably sad.

            And so, because the impermanence of the world creates a condition of uncertainty for all of us, we should immediately take to heart the most important thing, the afterlife, and deeply entrusting ourselves to Amida Buddha, say the nembutsu.
 Respectfully.
Coming Soon, Rev. Dr. Mark Unno's Talk
The Future Past
The Unfurling of Great Compassion Beyond Time

In July of 2020, Rev. Mark Unno gave a virtual talk to our members and friends of the ABSC. As you know, we were in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Mark spoke about compassion, Amida Buddha, Namu Amida Butsu, and recollections of his father, Rev. Dr. Taitetsu Unno.


If you like Rev. Mark Unno's trailer, please click like on Youtube. Thank you.
ABSC Art Gallery and Trailblazer
The ABSC Art Gallery and store is now open. 
We are featuring Ken Horii's Illuminating Reflections series of sculptures and small and large works on paper. These fine art pieces were part of our end of the year art auction fundraiser.   
In the coming weeks and months, Ken will add to his collection, and we will add other artists to the gallery. 

 A portion of all purchases will be tax-deductible as ABSC is a 501(c)3 corporation.


Click here to view 
Trailblazer Rose Ochi

We are honoring a new Japanese American Trailblazer.  Her name is Rose Ochi, who broke the glass ceiling as the first Asian American woman assistant to the U.S. attorney general.

Click here to read her whole story
Coming ABSC Events in February
 Seiza Meditation, Saturday, February 20 from 11 to 12 noon EST
The Art of Sitting Perfectly Still
Meditation Sessions

Led by Rev. Miki Nakura, a Shin Buddhist minister
 
Please join us and learn the fundamentals of Seiza (sitting-in-stillness) meditation, which Torajiro Okada established. You can sit on a chair or a cushion on the floor. Rev. Nakura will demonstrate how to make the correct posture, breathe, and put full power into the lower belly. Sensei will explain the history and why this is an excellent meditation to clear your mind from all the daily stress of life.
 
This will be Free live virtual event.  

Register and join the meeting here

 Meeting ID: 921 2630 1233

Passcode: ABSC

   
 
Book Discussion, Saturday, Feb. 20, from 1 to 2 pm EST
Truth In The Rivers
By Bruce Hopkins and watercolors by Howard N. Horii
 
Please join us as Ken and Paula Horii cohost this book discussion about Howard Horii, one of the many Japanese Americans uprooted and placed in an American Internment Camp during WWII.  
2021 marks the 79th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history. The Executive Order 9066, taking away all rights and privileges of being an American citizen from the Japanese Americans living on the West Coast and the Hawaiian Islands.
 
This will be Free live virtual event.

Register and join the meeting here

 Meeting ID: 935 7339 5800

Passcode: ABSC

Click here to buy Truth in the Rivers special book discussion price: $20, including shipping and handling fees.
Japanese Green Tea
Rev. Hozen Seki, the New York Buddhist Church founder and the American Buddhist Study Center was born in Kagoshima, Japan.  When Rev. Seki was growing up, it looked nothing like it does today.  
Your Support Matters
Please give a donation so we can continue to bring you these emails along with many programs we are planning in 2021. Any donation is humbly appreciated. 
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My Favorite Buddhist Quote

Sakyamuni Buddha was born into this world
With the sole mission of teaching 
the treasure-ocean of Amida’s Vows.
To rescue us who constantly pollute
our streams of birth and death.
Please listen to the Truth of Sakyamuni’s message!


Shinran Shonin
 

Please send us your favorite Buddhist quote at info@ambuddhist.org
Calendar of Events
Saturday, Feb. 20, from 11am to 12 noon EST

Saturday, Feb. 20, from 1 to 2pm EST

Saturday, Mar 20,  from 1 pm to 2pm EST
Please join us for a virtual Seiza, quite sitting, Meditation with Rev. Miki Nakura

Book Discussion Truth In The Rivers



Book Discussion TBA
 
Stay Safe, Stay Calm, Stay Mindful.
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