Sympathy Message & Statement on the Wildfire on Maui


We are truly saddened and shocked to learn about the recent wildfire that devastated Lahaina, one of the most beautiful historic towns in Hawaii.  With much pain and sympathy, we must report that our Lahaina temple buildings were all burnt to the ground while we are relieved to know our resident minister, Reverend Gensho Hara, and the family are safe after evacuation several times during the night.

I wish to express our sincerest condolences to those who lost their lives,  residents of Lahaina, and all those affected by the devastating wildfire on Maui.  The loss of precious lives and properties is truly heartbreaking and our prayers are with the community as they rebuild and heal from this tragedy.  Please know that we are not alone.  Our ancestors must have experienced this devastation many times in the past and every time they got to be strong and rebuild what they lost.  

According to the Buddhist teachings, life is marked by change with the impermanence of all things, and it is our understanding that true solace can be found in supporting one another during these challenging moments.   May we all find strength in the interconnectedness of all beings as we move forward on the path of healing and recovery.  

We have now two Go Fund Me fundraisers for both rebuilding Lahaina Jodo Mission and supporting Rev. Gensho Hara.  Your kind support will be greatly appreciated.

Namu Amida Butsu. 

Bishop Kosen Ishikawa 

Message from Bishop Kosen Ishikawa

Aloha and Mahalo for your ongoing support. I also thank you for your generous donations to Lahaina Jodo Mission. It’s already December, with everybody busier with holiday events and gatherings. I hope you’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving. In old Japanese, December is called “Shiwasu” which means “Reverend (Master) running.” As you may know, according to our old tradition, it is said that reverends should not run. However, the word “Shiwasu” indicates December is so busy that even reverends have to run about the temple. Please forgive us if you happen to see us running in the temple. 

Jokes aside, we will be quite occupied this month. We’ll have a Bodhi Day Service, Pearl Harbor remembrance, General Clean-up (Ōsouji), Mochi Pounding, and New Year’s Eve Service in addition to the daily memorial services. Also, many of us are busy with holiday traditions such as sending greeting cards and presents along with hosting gatherings. Because we are using more SNS or email, I feel in-person gathering and sending cards are more valuable.

 When I was a freshman in high school, I started my very first “Arubaito” or “part-time job.” Younger Japanese call it just “Baito” which is a shorter word of “Arubaito.” Interestingly, the word “Arubaito” came from the German word “arbeit” meaning “labor” or “work.” Anyway, my first “Arubaito” experience was at the local Japan Post office operated by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). My job was to sort and deliver New Year’s cards called “Nengajo” to houses in my hometown starting from New Year’s Day. At the time, sending Nengajo was a must-do custom for new year in Japan. MPT issued nearly 4 billion Nengajo and the population in Japan was 120 million. This means one person sent average of 33.3 cards. Therefore MPT used to need lots of workers to sort and deliver the mail. I understand now students can choose a part-time job among many other jobs. But back when I was a high-school freshman, Japan Post Office was one of the few jobs for students. This also meant I saw some of my classmates working during the winter break as well. 

What I loved about this job was that I got to know my hometown better. Before delivering mail, I didn’t realize the names of the people who lived in the houses. Of course, I knew people in my neighborhood. But I didn’t know the larger community. As I walked around the town, I saw the houses as scenery but never imagined what kind of people lived there. It was quite interesting to know each house had the names of the people living there. Also, I delivered many Nengajo to many houses, and many people kindly told me “Thank you.” This made me happy and motivated me to work hard. Later among many workers, I was liked by the boss and asked to continue to work for summers and winters for the rest of my high school days. Though I used up all the money I earned from the post office soon after I became a college student, I still cannot forget this precious experience as a delivery man, followed by many more “Arubaitos” both in Japan and here in Hawaii. 

December is the month when we need to reflect upon the past year and plan for the upcoming new year. I wish you’ll have a wonderful holiday and the year 2024 will be a safe, healthy and prosperous new year for you and your family. Namu Amida Butsu with Gassho, 

December 2023

Bishop's Message

Dear members and friends,
It’s been over a month since the Maui wildfires raged over Lahaina, Kula, and their people on August 8.  I was heartbroken to know that eleven members of the Lahaina Jodo Mission lost their houses in addition to the loss of Rev. Hara’s house and temple buildings.  I also recently met one of the relatives of our member who lost his house while he was traveling on the mainland.  I was speechless and felt condolences to hear this loss from the 89-year-old man.  Are your families or relatives in Maui okay? If not, please let us know.  I would like to support not only Rev. Gensho Hara and the temple but also the relatives of our Jodo Mission members who were affected by the fires as we are “Ohana” of Jodo Mission. 

No matter how small the donation may be, its value will be significant.  I strongly feel rebuilding members’ houses is as equally important as rebuilding the temple.  Without members and ministers, the temple cannot fully serve its community.   Therefore I’d like to continue to support Sensei, the temple, and its members in whatever I can do for them for now and for the future.  I thank those who already sent relief funds or donations to the Lahaina Jodo Mission.  I was also moved to see all the familiar names who contributed to GoFundMe.  Thank you very much.

Since this devastation of Lahaina town, I’ve seen many articles and news videos of Rev. Gensho Hara.  Though Sensei must have been very stressed and busy, he has done a great job of sharing the Buddha-Dharma with his sincere appreciation for the kindness and generosity he received.   At our recent statewide Sunday Service after the Kyoku meeting, Rev. Hara delivered an inspiring Dharma talk and shared the touching stories of the Amida Buddha Statue and his family’s cat called “snowflake” with us.  Although this is such a challenging situation and hardship, I see this may be a great chance to share the Dharma because we don’t need to go out to share the teachings but they come to listen to us.
To my surprise, I also received interviews with a major Japanese newspaper editor and saw an article on myself as I happened to be President of the Hawaii Buddhist Council.  After experiencing the interview, I was intrigued by the editor’s questions, “What would Honen Shonin teach if he had to face this harsh reality of the devastation?”

Until I encountered this question, I was thinking about how to support the temple materially including online fundraising but this question made me realize that my mission is to help people with Buddha’s teachings and spread the teaching of Honen Shonin which is supposed to be the source of peace and happiness. As soon as I received this question, I immediately thought of the passage from the words of Master Honen.  The title is “Tenjuu-kyoju(転重軽受)” which literally means “To convert heavy burden to accept lighter.”
Honen Shonin said, “Illness is the result of unwholesome residual karma.  As such, one cannot prevent illness through prayer to any Buddha or deity.  If prayer could heal and prolong life, there would be no illness, there would be no death.” 

I think this statement by our founder is truly honest.  National disaster is also like an illness that we cannot escape.  Disasters are always happening somewhere in the world.  We ministers always rely on the prayer as if prayer always works.  But Honen Shonin clearly states this current situation whether good or bad was brought by the residual karma in the past.  No matter how hard we pray, we cannot change this reality and cannot do anything.  That’s the reality.  However, the only thing we can do to accept this current reality is with the teaching of “Tenjuu-Kyoju” or the teaching to make the heavy burden lighter.  

Prayer cannot work as we wish to come true but because of the prayer, we can have peace of mind. Nenbutsu will lead us to be born in the Pure Land which is an extremely happy land after this world.  With the faith and practice of Nenbutsu, we can make this heavy burden to accept lighter.  Thanks to the Amida Buddha, the Nenbutsu can lessen the impact of the ailment through his great compassion.

Another good understanding of “Tenjuu-Kyoju” is to support Lanaina with many people.  The super heavy burden stays heavy if one person tries to carry it by oneself.  But even if the burden is heavy, by holding with more people, the burden can be lighter.   In like manner, we can overcome this hardship by sharing sadness with many people.

Once again, I thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for your kindness and generosity.  Let us work together to ease our Jodo Mission Ohana and friends’ heavy burden through this wonderful teaching of “Tenjuu-Kyoju.       
”Namu Amida Butsu with Gassho, 
Bishop Kosen Ishikawa
September 21, 2023

New Year's Message

 Dear Members and Friends of Jodo Mission, 

“Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it either way.” 

You may have heard of this phrase before, and this phrase was by the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard. Of course, this is not always true since we can find both happy couples and happy singles. However, the truth lies in that there are only two kinds of “regret” in this world; one is a regret of what we may have of the past. Another is regretting what we didn’t do. “Marry” and “don’t marry” or “Did” and “Didn’t do” are completely different choices and different ways. But once we have chosen it, there is always the possibility of regret because of the two choices we have every moment regardless of the choice made. In other words, two kinds of regrets are nothing but two kinds of actions we do every moment. 

In our daily lives, we commit ourselves to many tasks. Actions such as waking up, eating breakfast, and reading the newspaper all count as such. However, all these actions we do can be divided into two types of actions. They are “to do” and “not to do.” Then once we decide between the two, the other choice you didn’t take could be the source of regret. 

Of course, our simpler daily actions such as eating, walking, reading, or watching hardly produce regret since they can be redone or delayed should we choose to not take these actions. But most actions that require us to choose “to do” or “not to do” at this moment cannot be redone. Once we choose it, we cannot take it back and this is the very reason we regret our actions and inactions alike. 

As long as we live, regret is always around us. Although we cannot eliminate regret, there is a way to forget regret in the past. How? That is to practice Samādhi which is a state of meditative consciousness. The well-known classic way is meditation and various religions teach various kinds of meditation. Doing meditation instantly makes us forget not only regrets in the past but also worries in the future. Thus, we can live in this present moment. 

Our foremost practice of Jodo Shu, Nenbutsu was considered to be meditation as Nenbutsu literally means to contemplate the Buddha. Because of the high level of patience and concentration required, traditionally Nenbutsu meditation was regarded as a higher practice. As compared to this contemplation, the practice of calling Buddha’s name which was started by Master Shandao (613-681), was much easier but considered to be the lower level of practice as this practice was much more accessible to everyone. 

Honen Shonin (1133-1212) had an unshakable faith in Master Shandao and realized that calling Buddha’s name was the ultimate way for universal salvation. Because many more people could recite “Namu Amida Butsu” so easily, Honen Shonin found the Nenbutsu was much more valuable and higher level of practice than contemplation of the Buddha. By reciting Nenbutsu at this moment, peace and happiness are always with us and we can attain birth in the Pure Land in the future. 

The year 2024 will mark a significant milestone for all Jodo Shu temples and followers as we celebrate the 850th anniversary of the founding of Jodo Shu in 1175. Also this year Hawaii Jodo Shu celebrate the 130th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jodo Shu ministers to Hawaii in 1894. We are planning various commemoration projects, including an October commemoration service at the Jodo Mission of Hawaii. Simultaneously, we will continue to support Lahaina Jodo Mission throughout the year. We appreciate your continued help and support. Lastly, I pray you have a happy and healthy new year! 

Namu Amida Butsu with Gassho, 

Bishop Kosen Ishikawa 

Message from Bishop Kosen Ishikawa

Dear Members and Friends of Jodo Mission of Hawaii, 

Thank you very much for your warm support and participation in our Obon services last week. It was wonderful to see you and your families. Some of you were our long-time members and friends, while others were new faces. Obon felt like a reunion of "Jodo Mission ohana members," bringing together both the living and the departed. 

As we welcomed Obon, it was a honor for me to write 37 Hatsubon O-Toba and to pray for departed loved ones who welcomed their first Obon this year since last summer. It allowed me to recall and think of your beloved ones and families. Your generosity and kindness during this Obon season deeply moved me. On the first day of Obon, the 522 O-Toba looked lonely with nothing but sticks and tables at the social hall. However, as soon as the doors opened, our members started making food offerings and dedicated flowers to the O-Tobas. The empty O-Tobas were gradually adorned with colorful flowers and various foods each day, as if the spirits of our ancestors were visiting one by one. After the Obon service ended, all the O-Tobas were taken down within an hour, as if our ancestors had returned to the world they came from, leaving no trace behind. The sincere offerings on the O-Toba were beautiful due to their ephemerality. 

I would like to express my gratitude to President Daryl Masaki, the board members, ministers, and volunteers who dedicated their time and energy to plan, prepare, and observe Obon with the 522 O-Tobas. Special thanks to Ms. Christine Inouye who was our Obon chairperson. She took the time to take photos of O-Toba and sent it to those who ordered. She also prepared meals for the ministers and volunteers. Another Mahalo goes to Ms. Sally Hayashi for her great work, taking care of everything but the religious services for our temple. All of your support and help were invaluable in making Obon a success. 

I also extend my heartfelt thanks to Mr. Darin Miyashiro for his beautiful Koto performances, which our beloved ones must have enjoyed along with the food offerings and flowers. Mr. Miyashiro teaches Koto and Gagaku (Imperial Court Music) at both UH and Jodo Mission, so if anyone is interested in learning these instruments, please let us know. I have recently started learning the "Ryuteki" or Japanese transverse flute and would appreciate someone to practice with. Let’s learn together! Also I would like to thank Ryugen Taiko, led by Mr. Nolan Miyahara, for entertaining both the living and the departed with powerful Taiko drumming as we concluded Obon. 

Lastly, my sincere “Arigato” goes to my wife and children. I always take it for granted for their help and I forgot to mention and introduce them to you before the services. Their help has been invaluable. Though I’m sorry internet connection was not stable, but my children managed to record high-quality videos of the services. So if you'd like to watch them, please let me know. 

This month, we are looking forward to another significant event, the Bon Dance. In Hawaii, Bon Dance is considered an important fundraiser, but it's also an essential community service to provide a fun festive atmosphere and great opportunity to meet both old and new friends. We sincerely wish you to enjoy our Bon Dance. At the same time, We’d very much appreciate your help and support for our Bon Dance. Once again, a heartfelt mahalo nui loa to you, your family, and your beloved ones from the bottom of my heart! 

Bishop Kosen Ishikawa