During the time I was helping at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, one night after Japanese folk dance practice at the Zen temple, my car was hit broadside by a speeding vehicle going the wrong way down a one-way street. When the police were sending me to the county hospital they asked who they should call so I gave them Rev. Gyoko Saito’s name and number. Sure enough, Rev. Saito came to the crowded emergency room and took me back to the temple. After I washed up in the Japanese style bath in his apartment, he gave me bedding to sleep on a couch in the temple’s lobby (which I had done a few times before when I partied too much to drive home). For a few hours, I wasn’t able to fall asleep when I thought about the stories of people in car accidents never waking up the next day due to concussions.
But then at one point I realized, “I encountered the nembutsu teachings from Dr. Haneda. That is enough – so I can die satisfied.” After that, I fell asleep until the early morning janitorial service crew woke me up.
Now in the same way I felt assured by my encounter with the nembutsu teachings through Dr. Haneda, I feel comforted that there are younger people out there who will continue in Dr. Haneda’s inspiring path of bringing the nembutsu to America - Michael Conway, for one, and our temple’s dear Native American member, Wendy.
This past Sunday Wendy gave a very articulate account of the Dharma Seeds retreat (Higashi Honganji’s North America District’s program) she attended in February where Rev. Mike was the main speaker. It made me happy to hear her describe how Rev. Mike is teaching about Shinran Shonin but also for how she appreciated what Rev. Mike described as his personal experience of receiving the nembutsu teachings.
[Rev. Michael Conway lecturing at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago]
Hopefully Wendy is not the only one influenced in the Dharma Seeds workshop and at our temple’s seminar, service and study class by Rev. Mike Conway in March. If anything, Rev. Mike is the reason I call my three years at Otani University and going through the Higashi Honganji rigamarole as worth it. The “West” needs to hear Jodo Shinshu from non-ethnic Japanese – to hear how powerful Shinran’s teachings are, transcending geography and ethnicity.
After seeing my father (d. 2010) and sister (d. 2012) struggle with cancer, I don't want to be just another documenter of cancer’s effects. I want to be that spotlight that shines on the young and fantastic Dharma teachers coming up behind me.