April 2005 Metta page 1 A famous statement by Shakyamuni Buddha is "Make a light of yourself." This could also read "Make an island of yourself" depending upon how one interprets the original Pali word "dipa." In either way, the Buddha told his disciples - and ultimately each one of us - to learn to rely on ourselves, fully re- alizing the preciousness and weight of the life that is given. This is echoed by Shinran, who, accord- ing to Chapter 2 of the Tannisho , said, "This is how I entrust myself to the teaching. Upon hearing this, it is up to each one of you to de- cide whether to entrust yourselves to the nem- butsu or abandon it." When we decide to rely on the Dharma based on a true understanding of it, we have established our heart and mind on the ground where Buddhas abide.
The past summer, I was given the great opportunity to discuss and think about the Dharma for the Buddhist Study Center Summer Session. That is where I was first introduced to the teaching of Shinran in about 1975, so it was like returning to my place of birth. There was something that ... more. less.
worried me, however.<br><br> Some people who have listened to the teaching for a long time are still too concerned about the words found in the scripture or those used by different teachers in their lectures and sermons. We should not forget that words are the "finger that points to the moon," but not the moon itself. We have to find the moon, that is, the true heart of the teaching.<br><br> To make this happen, it is important to keep in mind that the teaching was directed to "myself" alone. Only then, the meaning of the words in the teaching becomes clear as if encountering a light in dark- ness. A person who has seen the light becomes a light.<br><br> That light will in turn "enlighten" others surrounding the person. That is what the Bud- dha meant by "Make a light of yourself." C offinman by Shinmon Aoki startles the reader by its frankness about death and dy- ing, and the rituals of the body that people involve themselves with, in their apprehension of death. Aoki begins his story by recounting his ear- lier lifestyle--of trying to become a writer and later of running a bar, failing at both ventures--events that led up to his becoming a keeper of dead bodies.<br><br> As a coffinman he settles into a life of little recourse and poor prospect, where he encounters prejudice and family rejection as a result of this lowly occu- pation. But this work becomes his salvation. He begins to really look at people for what and how they were in life, how they were at the time of their deaths and then as dead persons.<br><br> Ultimately, what the book does is to challenge readers to look at their lives introspectively through the lens of Shin Bud- dhism and the Inconceivable Light. In the latter part of the book, when Aoki T HE N EWSLETTER OF THE B UDDHIST S TUDY C ENTER Make a Light of Yourself Dr. Toshikazu Arai April 2005 A Review: Coffinman by Shinmon Aoki Juliet Lee page 2 Metta April 2005 talks about the nature of being a poet, his introspec- tion piqued my own self-reflection, making me wonder why I became a writer and poet.<br><br> Why this avocation? In his speculation, Aoki says that "the way poets are born is different, but especially the tragic separation from parents during childhood can trigger their meeting the Light that has conse- quences for their entire lives afterward." Although Aoki talks about separation from parents as the ulti- mate cause, a like trauma could surely precipitate a longing for something spiritual, thereby manifesting itself in someone's life work. One of my earliest memories is of my bed- room of my parents' home in Hilo, Hawai'i in the district of Waiakea called Shin-machi.<br><br> I must have been about two and a half years old at the time. The memory is one of the white curtains moving in and out of the window with the sea breezes and the morning light streaming down on me. I came to re- alize that this happened the next day.<br><br> And the next. This repetition brought the awareness that I was alive and that my life was something continuous to behold. In other words I was not born, anew, when I woke up in the morning; I did not die when I went to sleep at night.<br><br> Not long after that vivid memory, the tsunami of 1946 occurred and washed our home away. My family barely made it out alive, and though I was very young I already had the sense that life could be remarkably fleeting and lonely. This was, you could say, my first "meeting" of the Light.<br><br> Many years later, during the delivery of my second child, my blood pressure suddenly spiked to a pressure well over 180 systolic. I blacked out. I remember struggling in my mind to get some bear- ing in the darkness that surrounded me.<br><br> Then I saw myself spiraling, literally falling at a tremendous speed (and it was an incredible sensation because I could see it all happening), toward a brilliant light. At the moment that I saw the light, I felt suddenly serene and at peace, thinking that if I were dying, it was not an unpleasant sensation and I was not afraid. When I woke up, the doctor said, "I'm sorry you had to struggle so much.<br><br> But later, you settled down and we were able to medicate you." For me, the struggle occurred when darkness surrounded me and I didn't know what was happening. I settled down when moving toward the light, and perhaps, near to what Shinran calls "slipping beyond effort- lessly." Of course, I never reached that point, but I had an inkling of what it may have been like to meet the Light and to be unafraid of death. All people who had had experiences such as mine do not necessarily become poets or artists, and whether or not these experiences have influenced the path of my life in any direct or immediate way, I did eventually become a writer and poet.<br><br> It is true, too, that whenever I'm writing a poem, I am per- Coffinman& (Continued from page 1) M ETTA is published by the: Buddhist Study Center 1436 University Avenue Honolulu, Hawaii 96822 Phone: (808) 973-6555 Fax: (808) 973-6551 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Director: email@example.com www.rrhi.com/bsc/bsc.html The views and opinions expressed in M ETTA re- flect only the views and opinions of its writers and contributors, who are solely responsible for its content. No material that appears in M ETTA may be reprinted or republished in any medium M ETTA The Newsletter of the Buddhist Study Center April 2005 Volume 33 3 Number 3 Elizabeth Matsumoto and Evelyn Oishi learn the art of Ikebana from Mrs. Michiko Okano.<br><br> April 2005 Metta page 3 petually seeking "glimmerings" of Light. I am for- ever trying to reconnect myself with Life and Death when and where the "two are fully integrated" or where one meets "Reality-as-Such." This is diffi- cult work all around. In his foreword to Aoki's book, Taitetsu Unno says: "Inconceivable suggests that this light is beyond conceptual understanding but not beyond experiential awareness." I believe it is this "experiential awareness" that I seek, and I seek this awareness through the images I create.<br><br> I seek this awareness through my writing whenever I push the bonds and boundaries of daily life, no mat- ter how fleeting it appears, no matter how hopeless. I know that death can come at anytime. As I grow older this knowledge weighs on me more heavily.<br><br> Several years ago, after a stay in Japan, I wrote a poem concerning my sentiments about ag- ing and the ephemeral nature of death: Their caps blown off dandelion seeds drift in the wind. Caught in little cloud puffs on my window screen in Shimogyo-ku. At first, I thought they were insects and looked closely at them for legs.<br><br> The summer threatens to go on, but the crying of the cicadas have all but ceased. I don't know when it happened, for I'm always aware of the sounds of crying. At the Eikando Temple where the Buddha looks back at me, to hurry, come along, the maple leaves are turning a brilliant orange around the edges.<br><br> All the signs of autumn are here, my knees cracking, my arthritic fingers swelling. Like a cat in the pampas Waiting to leap at the late bird of summer, the cold waits, everything struggling to turn. In forcing and fusing this kind of introspec- tion, this slim volume of Aoki's narrative is a gift to Shin Buddhists and humanity, because it shares its insights as to how to live better through the under- standing of death, which in turn behooves us to strive for dignity in our lives through the Light.<br><br> In the movie, American Beauty , the main character is shot by an estranged neighbor. In the monologue the dying man says that he can see eve- rything in his life, every miniscule detail of it, and all its incredible moments. At the end of the cap- sule run of his life, he says that all he could feel was this powerful surge of gratitude for everything in his life.<br><br> The ending of this movie brings to mind what Aoki says in his book regarding dying: "It's just like Shinran said when he called this Inconceivable Light, for when you meet the Light, mysterious things happen. First we lose attachment to a life; at the same time we lose our fears of Death. Finally, we feel peaceful and serene inside.<br><br> Forgiving of all things, we enter a state where we hold all things in gratitude. When we encounter the Light naturally come to be so." So may we "naturally come to be so." Namo Amida Butsu BSC A SSISTANT O N T EMPORARY L EAVE Our able assistant and terrific youth leader, Sara Mizushima will be taking two and a half months off during the summer to fulfill some of her require- ments towards her Master's degree in English. During her absence we will manage our BSC office by part-time workers and volunteers.<br><br> She will be away from mid-May until the end of July. page 4 Metta April 2005 BSC Events S HOSHIN - GE C HANTING Every morning from Monday through Friday the Buddhist Study Center has morning sutra chanting. Please join us at 8:00 am.<br><br> ABC 9 S OF B UDDHISM C LASS Rev. Shoji Matsumoto of Hawaii Betsuin will conduct 3 sessions on the basics of Bud- dhism at the BSC. This evening session will be held on April 19, 26, and May 3 from 7:00 pm till 9:00 pm.<br><br> This free session is open to anyone interested in learning the ba- sics of Buddhism. W ASAN S TUDY C LASS Rev. Thomas Okano 9s weekly class, an introduction to Shin Buddhism, takes place Wednesdays at 9:30 am.<br><br> Presently the class is using the collection of Shinran 9s religious poems called Wasan (English translation is available) as its text. Everyone is welcome. I KEBANA (F LOWER A RRANGEMENT ) C LASS The BSC offers weekly classes on Japanese flower arranging, or Ikebana .<br><br> Classes are on Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. for the morning classes, and 7:00 p.m for the evening class. Each class lasts approximately two hours.<br><br> Mrs. Michiko Okano, who holds the title of Kyoju from the Saga School of Ikebana, will share the fun and fulfillment of this traditional art. For further details, please contact Mrs.<br><br> Okano at 973-6553 T ANNISHO S TUDY S ESSION The Tannisho Study Group provides the focus for learning, discussion and the sharing of the personal experience of the Dharma. Learning sessions are held every first and third Wednesday of each month from 7:00 pm 49:00pm at the BSC. Everyone is welcome.<br><br> For more information please call 973-6554. For more information or questions on any of these events, please feel free to contact the BSC at 973-6555 April 2005 Metta page 5 Barry and Barbara Brennan Honolulu, Hawaii Larry and Sumiko Kodama Hilo, Hawaii Betty Morimoto Honolulu, Hawaii Namiko Naganuma Lihue, Hawaii Sachie Otoshi Honolulu, Hawaii Kathy Shimata Honolulu, Hawaii Betsy Yamamoto Wahiawa, Hawaii Masaru and Helen Yamasaki Fremont, California Tatsuo and Wakako Yoshida Laupahoehoe, Hawaii Hanako Yoshimura Hilo, Hawaii For the Imamura Lecture Series May Imamura-Uruu Aiea, Hawaii Rev. Arthur and Sumie Marutani Honolulu, Hawaii Betty Morimoto Honolulu, Hawaii Teruko Yoshida Honolulu, Hawaii Ethel Aiko Oda Honolulu, Hawaii In memory of Alice Oda Tamura MAHALO FOR YOUR DONATIONS TO THE BUDDHIST STUDY CENTER RUMMAGE SALE #2 The BSC will be having another rummage sale on June 4 from 9:00 am till 2:00 pm.<br><br> The purpose of this project is three-fold: 1) To assist Pacific Buddhist Academy (our first Buddhist high school in the United States) in their fundraising campaign. 2) To work together in the spirit of Sangha to assist in the worthy cause. 3) To open up the BSC to the wider community.<br><br> As the BSC has no organized supporting body, we will be asking "friends of the BSC" and other volunteers for their kokua. Due to limited space at the BSC the donation of items will be accepted from May 1st. Please contact the BSC office for more details.<br><br> page 6 Metta April 2005 Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Buddhist Study Center 1436 University Avenue Honolulu, HI 96822-2415 ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED N ONPROFIT O RG U.S. P OSTAGE PAID H ONOLULU , HI P ERMIT N O . 9044 Make a Light of Yourself Dr.<br><br> Toshikazu Arai 1 A Review: Coffinman by Shinmon Aoki Juliet Lee 1 BSC Events 4 Mahalo 5 Volume 33 April 2005 Inside this issue: is a publication of the Buddhist Study Center Director Rev. Thomas R. Okano Editor Sara Mizushima Contributors Dr.<br><br> Toshikazu Arai Juliet Lee