Minister’s March 2017 Message
“…Rejoicing in the Compassion of the Buddha,
Respecting and aiding all sentient being,
I will work towards the welfare of society and the world.”
Shin Buddhist Life Principle, from the Shin Buddhist Service Book
It was on February 19, 1942 an executive order was signed and put into effect. Over 112,000 first (Issei), second (Nisei) and some third generation (Sansei) Japanese and Japanese Americans of the West Coast were incarcerated into “concentration camps.” World War II between the United States and Japan was in progress. Although the second generation and third generation Japanese were U.S. citizens, the government interned all the Japanese because of the color of their skin. With the Japanese, the executive order also interned German and Italian Americans and incarcerated them in another camp far from home. It has been 75 years since Executive Order 9066 was put into effect.
After Sunday’s dinner, my mother and uncle’s conversation would sometimes drift toward their experience in the camps. My uncle and his family were longtime friends of the family. They would sit and talk about their experiences.
I remember my uncle telling us about the lack of fresh meat in Gila, Arizona. They would hunt for rattlesnakes and rabbits. Once killed, they would roast them over a fire. When I asked him what snake taste like, he always said, “chicken.”
My mother remembered not having toilet paper most of the time. She remembered using newspaper or leaves when there was none. When she passed away, in her linen closet was over a year’s supply of toilet paper and tissues. It was the softest and most luxurious paper. She told us that she would never again be without these things.
Memories are difficult for the older generation to discuss; however, my mother and uncle wanted us to understand the reason for evacuation. But there were many who came back to nothing and those who returned or moved on to another area were still faced with prejudice, hatred, and discrimination.
Being able to face these difficult times has only made our ancestors stronger and to never allow evacuation to happen again to them. Yet today we are faced with another executive order and it is against another different nation of people. We all have “bad” people in our culture, yet there are people who want peace and joy. They work hard and want to live their lives in freedom.
How sad it is that the younger children are attacking their classmate because they heard adults spouting hatred and anger. These young children are responding with actions and without knowing why. We as adults have a responsibility to teach using the principles of Shin Buddhism.
We have the Eightfold Path that gives us guidelines to live a peaceful life. What has happened to right view, thought, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and meditation. We have forgotten the Golden Chain of protecting those weaker than ourselves and the thoughts and speech of purity and thoughtfulness. How we use these principles only when we are faced with such dilemmas.
We should be the teachers who share compassion and use wisdom to educate others. We have lived through discrimination and prejudice that has created misunderstanding. Our young people tend to act on what they hear without taking the time to reason. We have Nembutsu to calm and to guide us. It is out of gratitude and thankfulness that we are able to extend our hands in peace. We share respect and honor those who, like ourselves, had to face a hostile society because of the color of our skins. It is our experiences and our teachings of Nembutsu that we share in truth and purity. Let us share our Namu Amida Butsu, in an effort that other people of color can also find true and real friendship.
Gassho, Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano