LIFE’S A BEACH and then you’re born in the Pure Land

Good morning! I am very grateful that the karmic causes and conditions of my life, the truth of Jodo Shinshu, and the truth of Hawaii led me to Tokudo ordination as a sōryō priest of the Hongwanji two weeks ago in Kyoto, Japan.

This journey has led me to a new understanding of the meaning of life:


and then you are born in the Pure Land

It’s hard to believe that my life has taken me from the streets of South-Central Los Angeles of the 1960s, son of a Nisei gardener, beneficiary of forced integration and affirmative action to expatriate executive in Asia, career burnout, to Hawaii, and then to Kyoto, Japan, for ordination as a priest in an 800-year-old tradition.

The Truth of Jodo Shinshu for me has been a rude awakening to my true nature—I am a self-centered, intellectually arrogant, not-very-nice guy.

At the same time, the truth of Jodo Shinshu has enabled me to recognize and accept my limitations, weaknesses, and inability to do anything leading to true spiritual growth.

Left on my own, I will always choose the wrong path, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time!

Deep in my heart, I know I am not worthy of the many good things in my life.

So it is inconceivable that I too am embraced by the Great Compassion of Amida and saved from ME, My Ego, My Attachment to My Self.

Thanks to the Vow of Amida, I can live this life without fear, with no doubt, with absolute freedom and total responsibility for my thoughts, words, and actions.

This shift in my worldview is incredibly liberating.

Ironically, Tokudo in Kyoto taught me the true meaning of Japanese expressions we often use in America both on the mainland and here in Hawai’i.

OKAGE DE (thanks to you all) I now see things much more clearly, understand things more deeply, and have let go of guilt over the bad things I’ve thought, said, or done in the past.

When I reflect upon the ENGI—the situations, causes, and conditions that took me from LA to Tokyo to Beijing to Shanghai to Hawaii to Moiliili Hongwanji to Tokudo and to the Truth of Jōdo Shinshū, I become aware of the incredible chain of people and events in my life, the paths taken and not taken, the mistakes and mishaps along the way; and even the most stressful, humiliating, or painful episodes of my life…ALL LED ME TO THIS MOMENT.

All the things that brought me here, to this point in time, are like the moving grains of sand in The Hourglass of Life, constantly shifting from past to present to future in a single continuous stream.

I see they all form the top half of an hourglass, leading to this exact moment in time.

Becoming aware of this undeniable yet unbelievable reality, I can only be ARIGATAI—humbled and grateful for the incredible things happening in my life—being ARIGATAI has changed my attitude, my purpose, my life.

And then, when I imagine what might or could happen from this point going forward:

our son, his wife, their child, our granddaughter;

future great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren;

each of you listening, including everyone in your life;

and everyone they will encounter in their Life,

I realize the future possibilities and potentialities of the bottom half of the Hourglass of Life are infinite and inconceivable!

Life is filled with endless discovery of wonderful things, kind and gentle people, and connection with the Great ‘Ohana of Life.

So, the question: Is Life just totally random? Or is the Power of Amida’s Vow to Save All in fact a Reality in my life?

When I finally became able to accept the Reality that Amida’s Vow has always embraced me, of all people, gradually but inevitably guiding me to a true appreciation of this moment in time, and the infinite possibilities of the time I have left in this world, I can only say MAHALO!

The Truth of Jodo Shinshu: SHOGYO MUJO (impermanence, constant change) means that happiness built on ‘things’ cannot last: Wealth, Fame, Celebrity, Power, Beauty = all these things will change, eventually they will disappear.

So why did I stress so much about the “pursuit” of happiness arising from impermanent things?

True Happiness begins when you understand and accept that all things are MUJO (impermanent and constantly changing) and you begin to live your life in accord with Amida’s Vow.

Accepting this Truth has allowed me to understand TRUE HAPPINESS is to live joyfully in each moment of this Life, without fear, without doubt, and with purpose, in the service of others.

My purpose in Life and my Vow as a sōryō priest is to continue studying the Dharma and living the Life of Namo Amida Butsu so that I can share the joy of what I’ve learned with others.

The Truth of Jodo Shinshu: Shogyo MUGA (no intrinsic Self or eternal Soul, or ‘essence’ of things) has taught me that I am desperately clinging to an Ego-Self, a sense of self, that is an illusion (a delusion) created by my mind, the ultimate Joker.

Truth: Pain is inevitable in this life because I was born Human, BUT it is MY stubborn belief (attachment) to Ego-Self that causes of all problems, irritations, and suffering in my life.

And there is NO SELF. Haha!

No “self” also means that I don’t exist except in the context of all other forms of life. We are all inter-connected and interdependent, in a dynamic continuum of interacting and counteracting life forces.

We are all grains of sand in the Hourglass of Life.

You are listening to me giving a talk this morning but this moment only exists because each and every one of you are here!

If I or any one of you had a flat tire, or caught a cold, or decided to sleep in, this precise situation, these circumstances, this precise moment in time—and their influence on the future—in “my” life would not exist.

The doctrinal points of Jodo Shinshu are nuanced and often difficult to understand fully, especially in English translation from Japanese, which is translated from Chinese, which was translated from Sanskrit, which was translated from Pali.

The Truth of Hawaii

I came to understand these doctrinal points more clearly through three words I discovered in Hawai’i.

Truth of Hawai’i is found in ‘OHANA

I’ve found that in Hawai‘i it really is all about ‘Ohana, the big extended family of Life, in all its forms.

When I learned to see everyone and every thing in my life as my buddha, my teacher, my guide, my grandma, my grandpa, my mother, my father, my uncle, my auntie, my brother, my sister, my child, a friend who truly cares, a fellow traveler in the journey of life, or as the living beings who sacrifice everything to sustain my life, I learned to appreciate and cherish the ‘OHANA (the big extended family) of my Life.

Understanding the Truth of ‘Ohana, made me realize it’s never been about ME, that life is best lived in the service of others, that’s when Aloha began to transform my heart.

Clearly, the true appreciation of the Great ‘Ohana of Life in all its forms goes hand-in-hand with ALOHA.

Truth of ALOHA: is infinite compassion and universal responsibility for the well-being of all people and the obligation to protect all forms of life on this Earth.

I don’t create aloha through will power or self-effort or esoteric practices; Aloha just is; Aloha is what it is; Aloha exists because of other people’s love and compassion; Aloha begins with awakening to being in tune with the life energy of all living beings, and a true appreciation of the breath-taking beauty and awesome power of Nature.

You can’t make aloha happen.

Aloha just is.

But by living the spirit of aloha and cherishing the big ‘ohana of Life—how can I hate, how can I be angry, how can I seek revenge?

Aloha comes to you.

By letting Aloha fill my heart, I now see a rainbow of colors, where I once saw only black and white.

Incredibly, I didn’t do anything. Aloha just seeped into my heart and changed me from the inside without any conscious effort!

In this state of mind, in this state of being, in the spirit of Aloha, in this place many call Paradise, I can only bow my head, and say Namo Amida Butsu or “MAHALO” in joy and gratitude for all the incredible blessings in my life, especially the ones that I will never be able to understand.


When you seek the Truth in your life, you will find it.

The situations, causes, and conditions of my life are truly incomprehensible; and the Wisdom of Buddha’s Teachings, the Great Compassion of Amida’s Vow to Save even me, living the Life of Nembutsu, saying NAMO AMIDA BUTSU in joy and gratitude, has changed me forever.

And this transformation is not a result of anything I have done; it is a gift, a blessing from a power that is not me.

When I die, I have no doubt that I will be born in the Pure Land, I will attain enlightenment and become one with Amida, and I will return to this world to help guide others to find their Truth.

What is the life of Namo Amida Butsu?

Namo Amida Butsu is living Life to the fullest in each second of every moment of every day, truly grateful that you didn’t wake up dead, and then appreciating life as it comes to you, good, bad, or ugly.


Sometimes it rains, sometimes you get stung by jellyfish, sometimes you eat too many mango (oops)…but when we wake up each morning, we live in Hawaii!


I am indescribably grateful that the situations, causes and conditions of my life have led me to Truth of Jodo Shinshu, the Truth of Hawaii, and the Truth of the Hourglass of My Life because:

Life’s a Beach.

And then you’re born in the Pure Land.

Thank you for listening, and may your day be filled with Aloha, ‘Ohana, and Mahalo!

Please join me in putting our hands together in Gassho, and say Namo Amida Butsu, Mahalo Amida, for the gift of Compassion and Wisdom, for the kind and gentle people in our lives, and for allowing us to live in Hawaii.

Namo Amida Butsu!

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