Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue
August 6, 2003
Higashi Honganji Temple
Present: Amie McCampbell, Rev. Kusala, Dickson Yagi,
Marcus Darilag, William Briones, Diana Akiyama, Rev. Noriaki
Ito, Kenshi Ise, Michihiro Ama, Yadamini Gunawardena, Daiun
Iba, Sr. Thomas Bernard, Ven. Walpola Piyananada, Rt. Rev. Alexei
Smith, Rev. Cintamani, Lucy Palermino, Ven. Karuna Dharma, Nobuko
Miyoshi, Leila Kerze, Michael Kerze.
Rev. Ito: provided a brief history of Higashi Honganji.
The first temple was founded in 1904, the present building in
1976. The roots of the community were originally in Boyle Heights.
In Southern California, there are three temples, the one here
in downtown Los Angeles, the others in Newport Beach and West
Covina. There is a branch in Berkeley, an affiliate in Chicago,
branches in Hawaii, Brooklyn, and 30 temples in Brazil. Higashi
Honganji say Namu Amida Buddha. Namo is said by the brother
organization, the Nishi Honganji.
Nori described a week long trip to Japan with a group of young
people he made this summer: The last three days were in Nagasaki.
A temple in the center of downtown has a huge monument with
4 characters He, Kaku, No, Sen: Here no war. When the
bomb was dropped, those at the center perished and no one could
take care of the corpses. The US army needed a place to build
an airstrip so they bulldozed the area including the bodies.
Those from outlying areas came in. Buddhist groups collected
the bodies to be properly cremated, and the ashes and bones
were put in boxes on both sides of an altar, now under the temple,
a vault with the remains of 10-20,000 people. These bones are
very dark because of radiation. These students, Japanese Americans,
had ancestors in Japan. A priest said the monument said: no
nukes, no war, but not anti because that means you
are on one side and they are on the other side. Not: You
should not engage in war but I should not engage
in war. One young person asked: why cant we hate
what America did? I responded, we should share grief and suffering
of those who died.
Ven. Piyananda: At Hiroshima, there was a Buddhist statute
near where the bomb was dropped. It was in pieces and people
tried to put it back together because you have to walk with
the Buddhas mind, legs, heart; you have to care for each
Fr. Alexei: I had a similar experience, The archdiocese
with the Catholic schools and the Anti-Defamation League put
together a one week seminar on how to teach the holocaust. We
went to the Holocaust Museum and saw photographs of Catholic
bishops making Nazi salutes. We bear personal responsibility
for our actions.
Rev. Kusala: Ive come to understand Buddhists
have an easier task than Christians for Buddhists say: the
world will always be unsatisfactory, there will be war, it
cannot be made perfect. The only way to do perfection is with
our hearts and then, perhaps, take it outside. You have to
save yourself before you save the world.
Sr. Thomas Bernard: There is the old maxim: Physician
heal thyself. Our society seems overwhelmingly violent it
makes us feel helpless. We have to begin with the self: how
am I violent, disrespectful.
Rev. Cynthia Shimazu: When I was reading the minutes,
I was struck by Dr. Siddiqis statement that Jihad
is a blessed struggle. Many times spiritual struggle
is portrayed as being warlike. Should we use different symbols?
People can use struggle and similar words to justify
what they want to do. If you use different symbols, they might
be able to be used by fanatics.
Rev. Kusala: At a one week dialogue with Sr. Meg Funk
on the Rule of Benedict, I had to stop singing the psalms.
They were so violent about war, aggression versus the
Dhammapada saying that hate is to be overcome by love. The
psalms were very tough to read.
Fr. Alexei: They chanted some of the more violent psalms.
They were hymns from Judaism and they cover the gamut of human
emotion in relation to God. There is the Good Shepherd psalm
but also Psalm 33: smash babies heads against rocks if
you forget Jerusalem. Those violent ones are not helpful.
Sr. Thomas Bernard: Its a mixed bag. The diminishment
of violence might come from interest in the care of the earth,
environmentalism, stewardship. It might spill over into care
for one another.
Rev. Kusala: Stewardship means you are in control which
is different than the Buddhist emphasis on being connected to
Michael Kerze: Stewardship actually means working in
collaboration with rather than control over. For example, there
are Benedictine monastery lands in Europe that have been continually
farmed for over a thousand years that is stewardship,
working with the environment rather than controlling it. In
the Genesis story, Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to
tend it, care for it, make it grow.
Rev. Ito: Stewardship depends on how you define it:
caretaker versus controller. Our first abbot was called the Caretaker of
Dickson Yagi: The Bible speaks of winning and losing.
When the Jews were conquering Palestine they went in with a
religion of winning. They would lose if someone did something
wrong. They lost the war against the Babylonians and were taken
into exile. A winning religion lost everything. In the theology
of exile, they became a losing religion. The prophets asked:
dont you hear God crying with the losers, not celebrating
with the victors. Jesus chose losing religion in
the crucifixion and resurrection. Mother Theresa thats
the model. Another type of Christianity is into winning. The
Bible message is: Winning by losing.