Sunday, December 8, 2013

When a keynote speaker..sort of...disses their host...

Jodo-E Service at Jodo Mission of Hawaii.  Reverend Narashiba of Jodo Mission of Hawaii was very kind to let myself and Rev. Quinn Hashimoto sit with the ministers during the service on this 8th of December, regarded as the day the Buddha attained enlightenment (at least to Western calendars) and my birthday! The service was a beautiful one, and included the main Japanese sects of Buddhism in Honolulu.  I say main because the Hawaii Buddhist Council is made up of what many consider to be the BIG SEVEN of Buddhism in Hawaii and sort of excludes other nationalities' Buddhist temples, and the newer schools of religion in Japan.  Our temple used to be the headquarters of the Shingon Sect, but since we are independent and do not have a recognized by the Hawaii Buddhist Council Bishop sitting at our temple we cannot be part of the organization.  Long story short, the attendance was large, but more importantly, the keynote speaker was impressive.  Dr. Shoho Machida of Hiroshima University, with a long list of credentials ranging from a Masters of Divinity from Harvard and a PhD from University of Pennsylvania, to teaching at the prestigious Tokyo University gave a lecture.  Dr. Machida's enviable curriculum vitae is like catnip to the religious aristocracy, who for the most part love to engage with people "of learning" as it gives weight to an otherwise intangible subject: religion and faith.

Unfortunately, with most people who have pursued a life in religious academia, much of what they have to say goes against the rules and dogma that so carefully guard the ecclesiastical world.  Always it seems that the more a person studies religion and its meaning and place in our world and society, the bigger question of "WHY?" grows to blimp like proportions.  Dr. Machida pointed out that for many the appearance of wisdom that one can convey simply through credentials, looking intelligent, or aged with all of the connotations of wisdom that entails, or worse, because of the robes that are worn as a mark of the individuals separation from the secular world, is a facade.  One can have all of the things mentioned, but without actually living, experiencing desire, having goals beyond the rote recitation of sutras, is a person really excavating to get to the Buddha nature within?  Without digging to get to that nature, that compassion and tolerance, are we really being faithful and religious?  Another interesting thought that was brought up:  a person who keeps mentioning God, Jesus, Allah, or Buddha is far more distant from those ideals of worship than one who keeps them in their heart.  If you know that they exist in your heart and live your life accordingly, you don't have to keep telling everyone how much you believe, nor do you need to qualify your belief by inserting their names in every pronouncement you make.  Obviously this lecture seemed weird in a temple that, like the majority of Buddhist temples, are adorned in gold and silk, with the servants of the Buddha likewise clothed...reciting repetitiously the name of the Buddha...and then falling asleep during the most informative part of the program...Dr. Machida.  I don't say that as an insult or jibe really, in fact I think these guys are just keeping it real for themselves.  And that is just okay!  Buddha wouldn't mind.

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