Bishop’s Message to the 48th State Hongwanji Jr. YBA Convention (2005)

Message from Bishop Chikai Yosemori

The 48th State Hongwanji Jr. YBA Convention
Pacific Beach Hotel
July 15-17, 2005

Rev. Chikai Yosemori with backdrop of greenery

Aloha and good morning. On behalf of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, I would like to welcome and congratulate you on your 48th State Jr. YBA Convention. I would also like to express my sincere and heartfelt appreciation to the members of the host unit, the United Jr. YBA of Oahu, their advisors and the many others who worked so hard to make this Convention possible. Thank you very much. I wish all of you will enjoy this wonderful gathering with old and new friends.

Recently when I was asked to speak at another gathering, I was told, "Sensei, you have two minutes so please keep it short and finish on time." Some times it’s one minute; others two or three minutes. That is why, when Ann asked me to speak at the opening ceremony, I asked her how many minutes I was permitted to talk. Ann said that I could take as long as I wanted. I was very grateful for the generosity and decided to talk for about two hours. However, after much thought I changed my mind. Do you know why I changed my mind? It’s because I remembered an incident which I personally experienced a long time ago.

It was 1979, almost 26 years ago, and most of you were not even born. I was working for the Makawao Hongwanji Mission on Maui. It was summer when I officiated at a wedding. At the wedding, the bridal group used the bride’s niece as the flower girl. She was a cute and friendly first grader in elementary school. She always followed me and asked a lot of questions. She asked me, "Why do you decorate the altar? Why do I have to bow at the altar? Why do you put candles? Why do you use those funny smelling powder (referring to the incense powder)?" She never ceased talking. And, she told me, "You know Shenshei," (she had difficulty pronouncing Sensei), "I had a stomach ache last night so I worried if I could be the flower girl today. But, now, I am all right. Can you guess, Shenshei, why I got the stomach ache?" I told her I did not know why but asked her to tell me why. But, she insisted that I guess, so I asked her if she had too much soda to drink or if she ate too much. She said, "No. Take one more guess." So I asked her if she watched too much TV. She answered no. She then told me that her mother told her that she talked too much and that is why her stomach ached. I do not want to get a stomach ache so I won’t talk too long.

According to the letter I received from the United Junior YBA of Oahu, the mission of the Junior Young Buddhist Association is to:

  • Increase young people’s knowledge of Buddhist Teachings and its application in their lives.
  • Teach young people about Buddhist Ethics and encourage them to follow it.
  • Preserve Buddhist Culture for future generations.
  • Meet other Buddhists and create life-longfriendships. Produce productive members of society.

Your convention theme is "E=mc2:Enlightenment = Meditation and Compassion2." Honestly saying, the small capacity of my brain does not allow me to understand this theme well. But my personal understanding of this formula is that you want to become a model Buddhist; therefore, I would like to suggest a few things about what I would like to see you get out of your Jr. YBA activities:

First, I want you to be a decent, seemly person. What I mean by decent is not superficially but a person whose good heart is reflected in your behavior and manners; a person who can think by and for yourself; and become one who can feel, "Your Happiness is My Happiness," and "Your Suffering is My Suffering."

When I graduated from school — not from the intermediate school, not from high school, but from the University — one of my dear professors had given us a gift of several words. I still remember one of his advices. He said, "You do not have to buy beautiful clothes or expensive clothes but always try to wear clean and neat clothes when you meet people. People can feel cleanliness of your heart, too."

As I mentioned previously, decent does not mean only superficially but more importantly be a person of yourself who can think by and for yourself.

Long time ago, when I asked one of the youth groups, what do you like to do as a group, one boy replied, "Do not ask us what we like to do. Just tell us what to do." I do not want you to be like him. Think! Think for yourself with advice from senior people and friends and with self-reflection.

Second, I wish that you would try to be a person of leadership. To be a leader does not mean one has to be a dogmatist but rather one who listens to other people’s opinions and ideas, attain the respect of others, and become a reliable person. In other words, try to be a person of rational thinking and one of responsibility. Be prepared and always do not be a last minute person. Do not let other people wait but be a person who prepares and waits for others. Know that interdependence is a fact of our very existence. Let people help each other.

Third, cultivate yourself to have a creative mind. I do not mean that I want you to be a discoverer like Isaac Newton or an inventor like Thomas Edison. We Buddhists are the minority in this Christian country. However, I strongly believe that Buddhism can play a vital role for the betterment of our troubled world. Because Buddhism is clearly teaching us how to liberate ourselves from the deep rooted self-centered mind, which is the cause for most troubles. To spread Buddha’s Teaching, we have to basically be a good Buddhist who is living in the Dharma in our everyday lives. Then the people around you will be influenced by your attitude and will gradually understand what the Buddha’s teaching is. The people will say, "Oh, that girl is a good girl. She must be a Hongwanji Jr. YBA member." Or, "Oh that boy is a nice boy. He must be a Hongwanji Jr. YBA member."

However, besides the basics, I want you to create something visible which people can feel comfortable with and taste Buddhism in our community while you preserve good Buddhist traditions and customs.

This is not a very good example but it can be a little clue. In the mid-1980s, the Makawao Hongwanji on Maui had a very strong Jr. YBA group. At that time their main force was the eighth graders of Makawao School. One Sunday after Sunday service, they got together and were talking to each other. When I passed them, I heard the girls were asking a boy, "You promise us?" The boy said, "Yes, I promise you." Then the girls said, "You circle your heart?" The boy replied, "Yes, I circle my heart." I did not understand what they were talking about so I asked, "What are you folks talking about?" They all laughed and told me that they were just making sure that the boy who is in charge of one of their activities be done by the deadline date. And they told me that since they are Buddhists, they created a new phrase. Instead of using the words, "cross your heart," which came from Christianity, they chose the words, "circle my heart." I am hoping that you people would create something good for all people in our community as a new good Buddhist tradition. Antique heads of my generation do not have much ability to produce new good things. The future of Buddhism in America is on your shoulders!

Fourth, I want you to be a person who can say, "thank you," freely and naturally. Thank you Buddha. Thank you Mommy. Thank you Daddy. Thank you teacher. Thank you sister. Thank you brother. Thank you friend. To have the feeling of "Okagesama — I am what I am because of you" — and "Mottainai — Too good to waste" — will enrich your lives, make it more meaningful while at the same time you’ll have concern about our environment.

Lastly, please do not forget the "beginner’s mind." I can still recall an incident which happened when I was on Maui. It was the first day after summer vacation. I went to Makawao School to meet the principal, Mr. Tavares, on an errand. After the meeting, when I was leaving the office, a boy came to the school office. The boy was one of my Dharma School students so I said, "Hi! You must be happy today because finally school has started after your long summer vacation." You know what he told me with a very unhappy face, "I wish today was the last day of school."

In Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, every day is a new day. If you always keep a beginner’s mind, you can cultivate yourself to be a person of indomitable spirit, lead your life under any kind of situation, and will be able to open up a bright future by yourself.

All of you have the Buddha nature in you. Polish your Buddha nature through your school life, family life, and church life, especially through your Jr. YBA activities.

In closing, again, I hope that you will have a wonderful and enjoyable convention with your old and new friends.