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Minister's Message



OBT Resident Minister: 
                    Reverend Masanori Watanabe 

I am from Saitama, a city next to Tokyo. I graduated from Nihon University college of Art where I majored in sculpture.

My mother is from a Jodo Shinshu temple family and when I was 33 years old, I decided to study Shin Buddhism at Tokyo Bukkyo Gakuin.

 After graduation, I worked as a Shin Buddhist minister in Hiroshima for 5 years. In 2011, I went to New York for one year to pursue my love of art. During that time, I had the opportunity to visit the New York 

Buddhist Church. While attending the church, I was given the opportunity to participate and help at services. It was at this time that 

I developed an interest in the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA). I subsequently took part in the International Ministerial 

Orientation Program (IMOP) at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California in 

the fall of 2012 with the intention of becoming a BCA minister.

In December 2013, I was assigned to the Oxnard Buddhist Temple and Buddhist Church of Santa Barbara.

Some of my favorite things to do are painting, listening to music, watching movies (especially classic black and white movies) and reading.


June 2018

Those Who Have Encountered Buddhas In Their Previous Lives, Will Rejoice

In Hearing This Teaching

Rev. Masanori Watanabe

 

Obon is around the corner. Let’s get in the mood. Our Obon is on July 14 from 1 pm to 8:30 pm. Obon dance practices start on June 19. The Rennyo Memorial Service will be held on June 3 at 10:00 am. This special service is combined with Father’s Day and Dharma school Award Day. It would be great if you can join in the Dharma school children’s celebrations at the service. We are looking forward to seeing you at these events.

 

Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism) is a Buddhist denomination that was started in Japan. How can we recognize whether a teaching is Buddhist or not? Simply put, it is whether there are “teaching, practice and realization” of the Buddha in the teaching. “Teaching” is of course refers to Buddha’s teachings. The basis of nembutsu teaching is the “Three Pure Land Sutras”, and the most important one among them is the “Larger Sutra”. “Practice” is daily training based on Buddha’s teachings. The common image of this will be leading a rigorous ascetic life. In Jodo Shinshu, “nembutsu” is our practice, and for Zen Buddhism, it is “sitting meditation”. Practice means different things in different sects. Lastly, “realization” means “to attain enlightenment” or “to become a Buddha”. These teachings and practices should be guaranteed by the Buddha in his Sutras that through them, people will be able to attain enlightenment. 

When Shinran was alive, nembutsu teaching was criticized by other Buddhist sects that it was not a true Buddhist teaching because there is no ascetic practice. “No practice is no realization”, they contended. Shinran countered by writing his commentary, “The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way”. Shinran declared in his commentary that nembutsu teaching surely is a “practice”, and thus is an obvious Buddhist teaching. Moreover, we now live in the age of decadence, or “Mappo”, and therefore, it is very relevant in our fast-paced world.

Nembutsu teaching was not well-known by the people until Rennyo appeared. Thanks to his efforts, Jodo Shinshu has thrived as the largest Buddhist denomination in Japan. I think this shows that Jodo Shinshu teaching is really needed by the people living today. 

It is one thing to understand that our main teaching is based on the Larger Sutra, but another thing to know the reason why our practice is “nembutsu”. When I did not know much about Jodo Shinshu, I also wondered why there are no ascetic practices, such as ritual devotions under a waterfall or running up a mountain all day. However, my question was answered by understanding the 17thvow of Dharmakara.

(17) The Vow that All the Buddhas Praise the Name

“If when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters should not all glorify and praise my name, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.”

Therefore, merely citing the nembutsu is the path for everyone (countless Buddhas), and not just for those who have the time for rigorous ascetic practices. But this does not mean the path is an easy one. Nembutsu teaching seems simple, but it is not easy. Sakyamuni Buddha taught us in the Larger Sutra that:

 

“People who lack roots of good, are not able to hear this sutra, but those who observe the precepts without fault are able to hear the right Dharma. Those who encountered the right Dharma are holding fast to it, they dance with great joy. For those of arrogance, wrong views, and indolence, it is hard to accept this teaching. Those who have encountered Buddhas in their previous lives will rejoice in hearing this teaching.”

-The Larger Sutra, the second volume

 

“Reliance on Buddha is not something that is added to the worldly mind-it is the manifestation of the mind’s Buddha nature. One who understands Buddha is a Buddha himself; one who has reliance on Buddha is a Buddha himself.” 

-Mahaparinirvana-Sutra

 

Dharmakara, during his ascetic life of five kalpas, helped bring us closer to self-realization. Dharmakara made it possible for everyone to follow a true path. The Bodhissatva promised that those who aspire to be born in his Pure Land with sincere mind and say his name with the deepest reliance, will be born there as a Buddha. This is his primal vow, and this was achieved 10 kalpas ago when he became Amida Buddha. As future Buddhas, we praise his name as Dharmakara did in his 17thvow. This is “nembutsu”. In essence, since your heart (Buddha-nature) already knows what Buddha is, you can say “Namo Amida Butsu” with joy. According to the 17thvow, if you feel comfort and joy when you say the nembutsu at temple, home or anywhere, you will be promised to be a Buddha. This utmost pleasure is shinjin, and nembutsu in daily life is obvious in our practice as well as our realization.

Namo Amida Butsu


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