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Dharma Message

June 1,2014 Sunday Service

Rev. Masanori Watanabe

Please join me in Gassho,


           Sakyamuni Tathagata

           Appeared in this world

           Solely to teach the oceanlike

           Primal Vow of Amida;

           We, an ocean of beings in an

           Evil age of five defilements,

                                                           Should entrust ourselves to

                                                           The Tathagata’s words of truth

Namo Amida Butsu


Hello, everyone.

It is June already.

It is amazing how time flies.

I took part in the Strawberry Festival for the first time last month.

I was surprised how many people were there to enjoy the strawberries.

I enjoyed it very much. I especially liked dipping strawberries and the community spirit of working together with the Sangha.


I visited three cemeteries last Sunday. It is a difficult but necessary and important part of my responsibilities.

I am indeed honored to conduct services for the deceased who protected the Oxnard Buddhist Temple.

Thanks to the deceased members, we can share the wonderful teachings of the Buddha.

I know well that it is very hard to listen to the Buddha Dharma, if there is nobody who enjoys teaching it, spreading the word.

Our ancestors strived to lead us to the Buddha Dharma, in other words, to the ultimate truth.

When I was young I didn’t appreciate the Buddha Dharma.

I didn’t really like chanting and listening to the Buddha’s teachings.

I thought it was boring because at that time, I thought that there were many more exciting things in this world.


I spent my money and time to pursue my desires.

It was fun for a time but little by little I began to feel it was unfulfilling. The joys were fleeting, the joys were not truly meaningful.


I started seeking something that was more meaningful to me.


I read many books about religion and philosophy.

They were hard to understand, and I couldn’t feel a connection with those teachings.

My thirst for meaning was not quenched.

I know many young Japanese felt the same way as I did at that time.

I heard traveling to India was popular for young people, so I decided to go there.

It was kind of an adventure for me.

I stayed in India for 1 month.

I visited many places.

When I visited Varanasi, a town along the Ganges River, I personally witnessed a cremation.

It was not hidden or veiled by walls.

I directly saw the cremation, and I couldn’t accept the harsh reality of it at first.

It took days to understand what was going on and accept it.

I finally understood that I had to die like the people who were cremated. We all die. It is unavoidable, everything that has lived will, or has died.


I was shocked but I woke up from my ignorance. I was ignorant because I was sheltered from the harshness of reality, in this case, the reality of death.

I now truly understand my limited life.

I now appreciate the precious time I have, and have decided to seek the truth with this time.


In India, I also visited the Buddha Gaya where the Buddha attained enlightenment.


I didn’t expect it, but I met the Dalai Lama there. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and is thought to be the reincarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion. He is a very wise man. He received the Nobel peace prizefor his great accomplishments.


 I listened to his speeches, and saw his many followers.

I was very impressed with him and his influence on so many people. This helped me  develop an interest in Buddhism during this time.

Previously, I wasn’t interested in Buddhism, even though I was born into a temple family.


After my visit to India, I went back to Japan, and I started to study Buddhism.


At first, it was difficultto understand Buddhism, but by studying hard, little by little, it became my joy. It helped me overcome my ignorance, and opened my mind.


Now I think I am very fortunate because I was able to encounter these wonderful teachings.

If there were no Samghawho protected the teachings, I could not have learned about them.

I always think when I am in the Hondo, it is my place to be connected to Buddhist teachings. This is comforting to me.

Since your our ancestors preserved the teachings,

we should not take this for granted.

We should be grateful for it.


I think Buddhism provides a way to achieve comfort in the face of unavoidable difficulties.Nobody can avoid aging, sickness and death.


I was present when some members of our Sangha passed away.

I learned something from them. They taught me through their death what the most important thing is for us.

I believe it is the Nembutsu teaching.

The teachings remind us of our interconnectedness with all things. With people who live before us and people who live after us.

A star that has long since burned out may still be shining its light on us. So it is with our ancestors. Even though they might be gone, we still remember their faces, their words, and their kindness.

The Nembutsu reminds of this connectedness.This connctedness gives us comfort that we are not alone.


I believe that my ancestors are watching, guiding and protecting me. They have become part of me, and are still shining their light and influence on me even though they have departed long ago.

The Nembutsu reminds me of this. 

As in Shinran Shonin’s commentary,


           Those who have been born first guide those who come later,

           And those who are born later join those who were born



Please remember your loved one’s efforts and wishes when you are in the temple and at the cemetery.


Please join me in Gassho,


           It is difficult to meet true teachers

           And difficult for them to instruct

           It is difficult to hear the teaching well,

           And more difficult still to accept it.


Namo Amida Butsu 

May 11, 2014

GoutanE&Mother's Day Service

Rev. Masanori Watanabe

Please join me in Gassho,


              When sentient beings think on Amida

              Just as a child thinks of its mother,

              They indeed see the Tathagatawho is never distant

              Both in the present and in the future.


Namo Amida Butsu 

Hello everyone.

I am very happy to see you all today.

I appreciate your attendance even though today is mother’s day.

Last month, we celebrated Buddha’s birth.

This month is the celebration of Shinran Shonin’s Birth.

So I am going to talk about Shinran Shonin today.

However, I would like to talk about my mother first.

I became a Jodo Shinshu minister under the influence of my mother.

My mother was born in a temple family in Hiroshima. Her family’s temple was small and not wealthy. After high school 

graduation, she had to earn her own living.

She moved to Tokyo, because it was much easier finding a job than in Hiroshima.

She was not really interested in Buddhism at that time.

After she worked as a public employee, she got married, she raised three children,

She realized that she was missing something in her heart.

Therefore, she began to studying Buddhism, especially Jodo Shinshu Buddhism when she was early 40’s.

In my 20’s, I was struggling to make a living as an artist.

I wanted my name to be known in this world.

But the reality was very difficult. I knew that there was a huge gap between my ideal and the reality.

I was depressed. I often thought if I could not realize my ideal in life, what  would be the meaning of life.

At that time, my mother tried to lead me to Buddhism, especially Jodo Shinshu.

At first, I was unwilling to listen to her, but it comforted me little by little.

Now I feel joy and thankfulness for Buddhism, so I truly appreciate my mother’s love and affection.


Our tradition is Jodo Shinshu.

As you know, the founder of Jodo Shinshu is Shinran Shonin.

He was born on May 21, 1173.

He was ordained as a Tendai monk at the age nine.

As I wrote in the Prasada, during life was terrible in Shinran’s time.

Many kind of disasters happened.

Many people died because of the disasters.

Shinran saw many of them.

I assume he felt the emptiness in life, so he was seeking the meaning of life through studying Buddhism.

However he couldn’t find his comfort through ascetic training of the Tendai tradition.

At that time, he heard about Honen Shonin, who used to study as a Tendai monk on Mount Hiei.

Honen was 40 years older than Shinran Shonin.

He was called Honen of wisdom by other Tendai monks.

Honen memorized all the Sutras by heart.

He had been promised a position on Mount Hiei, but he renounced it.

Then he left Mount Hiei, and began propagating the Nembutsu to people.

Since studying Buddhism was generally allowed only to people of high status, people were pleased with Honen’s teachings.

His teachings spread among the people.

When Shinran Shonin heard about this, he had a strong interest in Honen’s teachings.

Shinran Shonin hesitated at first, but then decided to visit Honen Shonin for 100 days.

Shinran Shonin asked many questions to Honen Shonin.

Honen’s teachings touched him greatly.

Shinran Shonin decided to become a disciple of Honen Shonin

And Shinran SHonin left Mount Hiei like Honen Shonin.

Then he devoted his life to the Pure Land Way.


Shinran said in “Tannisho”, A Record in Lament of Divergences,

       As for me, I simply accept and entrust myself to what my revered teacher told me, “ Just say the Nembutsu  

       anbe saved by Amida Buddha”; Nothing else is involved

when I began to study Buddhism,

I could not understand the meaning of the reciting the Nembutsu.

But now I feel joy and comfort through reciting the Nembutsu.

Today is mother’s day.

We appreciate our mother’s love and affection.

Mothers always watch their children.

If children are in difficulty, mothers will help them automatically.

This is unconditional love.

Amida Buddha’s compassion is like that.

Namo Amida Butsu is Amida’s call as he will release all of us from all kinds of Sufferings.

As in the three treasures, it is rare and wondrous to be born in human life, and now live it. It is rare and wondrous to be able

to listen to the Buddha-Dharma.

Thanks to Shinran Shonin, we can listen to the true teachings of the Buddha now.

We are very fortunate and should be grateful to be able to hear these teachings through celebrating Shinran Shonin’s 



Please join me in Gassho,


              The light of wisdom exceeds all measures,

              And every finite living being

              Receives this illumination that is like the dawn,

              So take refuge in Amida,

              The true and real light.



April 13, 2014

 Rev. Masanori Watanabe

Please join in me in Gassho,


"A man’s mind may make him a Buddha,

Or it may make him a beast.

Misled by error, one becomes a demon;

Enlightened, one becomes a Buddha.

           Therefore, control your mind and do not let it deviate from the right path."


Namo Amida Butsu


Hello everyone. I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to attend this service. 

I was able to get a driver’s license recently and now I am able to drive anywhere on my own. 

I drove to Los Angeles several  times for meetings and services.

 GPS is also very helpful so I didn’t get lost. 

I drove for 20 years in Japan so driving was not a problem but since we drive on the opposite side I was rather worried. 

I’m sure you will have the same problem if you had to drive in Japan. 

When I was in Japan, I drove from Saitama to Hiroshima many times, which is about 700 miles. My family’s temple is in Hiroshima so I had to drive about 12 hours.

 This worried my mother so she often called me to see how I was.  Although I am a middle age man she always worried about me. 

I am sure she is worried about me at this very moment. 

Parents are like this and I will always be her child, her treasure, just like you are to your mothe

Today, I would like to share a Buddhist story of a mother and her baby. 

This is a story about Sakyamuni Buddha and a young woman called Kisagotama in India.

 Kisagotama was married to a rich man and they had a baby.

 She was very happy but her happiness did not last very long.  

Her baby got sick and she lost her baby. 

She thought,

          “My baby isn’t dead, he is just sick. I have to find someone to cure him.” 

She started looking for someone, going from house to house taking the dead child in her arms to save him. 

She visited many houses to get help for her baby, and she offered lots of money for the baby, but no one could help him. 

She didn’t stop looking for someone to save her baby.  

People pitied her and they thought she was crazy. 

The Buddha’s disciples just happened to be passing by and saw her and they decided to take her to the Buddha. 

When they got to the place where the Buddha was staying, Kisagotami said to the Buddha; 

         “I have heard that you are a great healer of life and I would like to ask you to save my baby.”


The Buddha said,


         "If you want me to save your baby you must get some poppy seeds.  This will cure you baby. But you have to get               these poppy seeds from a home where death has never entered.”


So the woman went out and sought a house where death had never entered. 

She went from house to house begging for some poppy seeds.


        “My son is sick. Please help him.” “I need some poppy seeds. Could I get some poppy seeds?”




          “By the way, have you had any death in this house?”


          “Actually, my grandparents recently died.”


Every house was like this. She could not find a house where death had never entered.


At last, she was obliged to return to the Buddha.

But she began to realize that everyone has experienced grief through a death in the family.

And when she saw the Buddha’s quiet presence, she understood that her grief was not special.

With this her mind cleared and she understood the meaning of the Buddha’s words, even though she couldn’t accept her reality at first.

When the Buddha saw her, he said,

         “Now, what are you going to do?”


Kisagotami said,

“I deeply understood what you meant. My grief was not special.

 Everyone has their own grief.

 And now I understand that we are also living, even though everyone will eventually die. How precious our life is! 

This is what my child taught me through his death. Now, I am going to bury my child’s body.”


She then took the body and buried it.

She accepted her loss, and returned to the Buddha to become one of his disciples.


This story teaches us that people naturally fear misfortunes, and hope for miracle. 

But through the true Dharma, we can realize that misfortune often turns out to be good fortune and good fortune to be misfortune.

So Sakyamuni-Buddha has taught that:

“A man’s mind may make him a Buddha, or it may make him a beast.

Misled by error, one becomes a demon; enlightened, one becomes a Buddha. Therefore, control your mind and 

do not let it deviate from the right path.”


I hope all of you enjoyed this Buddhist story.

Please join me in Gassho,


"The spirit of Buddha is that of great loving kindness and compassion.

The great loving kindness is the spirit to save all people by any and all means. The great compassion is the spirit 

that prompts it to be ill with the illness of people, to suffer with their suffering."

Namo Amida Butsu

Hanamatsuri service

4.6, 2014

Rev. Masanori Watanabe

Please join me in Gassho      

"In heaven above and on earth below, I am the most honored one. shall dispel the suffering that fills the world."

Namu Amida Butsu

Hello everyone. I would like to thank all of you for attending this special service.

Buddhist all around the world will be celebrating the Birth of the Buddha in many ways today. 

It is a celebration of the world and I hope you feel very proud to be here today.

Today, we don’t mention that we are Mahayana Buddhist or Theravada Buddhist.

We don’t even call ourselves Jodo Shinshu Buddhist.  We are simply Buddhist today and join all Buddhists around the world with this celebration.

Some Buddhist call this day Vesak Day. 

Japanese Buddhist calls it by its Japanese name, “Hana Matsuri.”

“Hana” means flowers.  “Matsuri” means festival in Japanese.

The altar is decorated with flowers around a statue of baby Buddha.

“Hana matsuri” is also known as “Lambutu-E”

Do you know what “Kanbutsu” means?

“Kanbutsu” means “pouring the sweet tea on the Buddha’s head to celebrate his birth.

Legend has it that when the Buddha was born it rained sweet rain.

So pouring the sweet tea on the baby Buddha symbolizes this great event.

As for the actual Buddha’ birthday the dates may differ but Japanese Buddhists usually celebrate it April 8th.

Now, I am going to talk briefly about the story of Sakyamuni Buddha’s birth.

The legend says that Maya Devi, his mother, gave birth to the child on her way to her parent's home. She did not make it to her home.  

While resting at a place called Lumbini’s Garden, and while standing, she felt a pains on her side.  While trying to hold a drooping branch of a sal tree, she gave birth to a baby, the future Buddha.

The infant Buddha then took seven steps with one hand pointing upward and the other points downward and said:

      “Above heaven and earth below, I alone am the world-honored one, I shall dispel the suffering that fills the               world.

This was a great story but it was symbolic of how great this baby was.

General speaking, the six steps mean the six realms.

The six realms of suffering are the hell realm (jikoku), the hungry ghost realm (gaki), the animal realm, the Asura (shura) realm, the human realm and lastly the Devas (heavenly beings) realm


The seventh step represent how the infant would transcend the six realms of suffering and take the extra step into the awakened life that is the Buddha’s.

Later, the Buddha indicated the six paramitas to transcend the six realms.

Six paramitas is also observed in Ohigan but this talk is for another time.

Thanks to the Buddha’s birth, we are able to listen to the true Dharma. 

As you know the Three Treasures says;

It is very rare and wondrous to have been born into human life, and we live it.

It is very rare and wondrous to be able to listen to the Buddha-Dharma, and now we are able to hear it.

Shinran also express his joy of encountering the Buddha Dharma.  He said:

It is difficult to encounter a time when a Buddha appears in the world,

And difficult to hear teaching of the Buddhas;

It is rare hear the excellent dharma for bodhisattvas,

Even in a span of countless kalpas.

When I was young, I could not think that my life was precious.

I was full of complaint and was not mindful of many things.

I was selfish and also dissatisfied with my life.

But through Buddha’s teachings, I learned that all beings are unique and very special.

This is because no two lives are identical. It is amazing that we are such special people.

So this life is the greatest treasure for us.

When the baby took seven steps and spoke to us with; “Above heaven and earth below, I alone am the world-honored one,”  He was saying that he came to this world so everyone can be happy and enjoy life to the fullest.            By understanding the deepest human nature we can overcome the anxieties and frustration of life and go beyond it.

And through listening to the Buddha Dharma we can also realize that we are a Buddha’s child because we will someday become a Buddha thanks to the Buddha’s teachings.

Now I can say that my life is special just like yours and we are all future Buddhas.

So I can live with joy, even if there are many sufferings and worries in this world.

During the “HatsuMairi Ceremony” the passage I read said:

Just as Queen Maya held the future Buddha in her arms on that fair morning in Lumbini Garden, so today you also hold a future Buddha. The seeds of enlightenment are present in every person born” 

Please don’t forget that we are all future Buddha. We are able to realize this through the Buddha’s teachings.

So please take care of your precious life.  And let us celebrate the great Buddha’s birth with today’s service.                                                                     

Please join me in Gassho,

Hard is birth as a human, Hard is the life of mortals, Hard is the hearing of sublime Truth, Hard is the appearance of a Buddha.

Namo Amida Butsu

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