Mahalo, Moth!

Moth, Makawao Hongwanji, July 19, 2021

“Why am I here?” is answered by pausing to reflect on the wonder of life right in front of you in this moment of your unrepeatable life.


Gecko Wisdom

“Things are always looking up from where I am.”

—Gecko Wisdom

Green gecko at Makawao Buddhist Temple, Maui, Hawai‘i, USA

Happy Sons & Daughters Day!

In reflection, a father is a father only because of his sons and daughters. Rev. Kerry shares how he truly came to appreciate just how hard his father worked when he was brought to see his own son work so hard to provide for his children. Happy Sons & Daughters Day! Mahalo for allowing me to be called both father and grandpa! NamoAmidaButsu!

Dharma Talk at Makawao Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Historic Makawao Town on the beautiful island of Maui in the great state of Hawaiʻi on June 20, 2021.

Put on your Amida Face!

Dharma Talk at Makawao Hongwanji, Maui, Hawaiʻi, on June 13, 2021.

「和諺愛語」”Wa Gen Ai Go” is an excerpt from the Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life that refers the “peaceful countenance” and “gentleness in speech” of Amida Buddha with all people regardless of wealth, power, or education. Rev. Kerry shares a story about how changing granddaughter’s diapers taught him about how the karmic consequences of one’s thoughts, words, and actions echo on in inconceivable ways. Rev. Kerry reflects how our attempts to emulate Amida’s “kind eyes, gentle words” can and will influence our thoughts, words, and actions and thus how those thoughts, words, and actions make other people feel.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
—Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Stars Over Makawao, June 9, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Kerry Kiyohara

Splendor of an Evening Sky (Seiya)

Splendor of an evening sky,
Who can ever fathom its timeless mystery?
Million eyes, when sparkling bright
In the sable sky,
Touch my heart, my lonely heart, with serenity.

More than all the countless sands
Ganges river holds
Are the infinite Buddhas who fill this universe,
Ever watchful over us, 
Throughout day and night.
Hearing this, my lonely heart, 
Fills with lasting peace. 

Baroness Lady Takeko Kujo (1887-1928)
Founder of the Buddhist Women’s Association (Bukkyo Fujinkai)

“A Mother’s Tears” Memorial Day Dharma Talk 2021

Rev. Kerry reflects upon the Dharma reality-as-it-is that Memorial Day begins and ends with “A Mother’s Tears”. Full text of the Dharma Talk is below the video.

This Dharma Talk was recorded LIVE FROM MAKAWAO! at Makawao Hongwanji Buddhist Temple on Maui on May 30, 2021.

Let us live happily then, hating none while in the midst of those who hate. 

Let us dwell free from hate while among those who hate.

Gautama Buddha, Dhammapada

Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional “beginning of Summer,” when kids have summer break, the weather turns warms, and the ‘ohana gathers together to feast around the BBQ, talk story, laugh, and simply enjoy being together.

Especially this year, 2021, as vaccination rates rise and hospitalization/death rates fall, there is a new sense of hope that we are moving in the right direction for managing COVID-19. 

Sooner, rather than later, we look forward to restarting full in-person activity at Makawao Hongwanji, including religious services and observances, sharing the Dharma experience, and community-building as Buddhist “practice.”

Thus, we have even greater reason to “celebrate” Memorial Day in 2021!

Let’s all stay on guard, be safe, and live aloha this weekend.

As Buddhists, Memorial Day is a wonderful opportunity tolisten to the Dharma, tohear the Dharma, and to make the Dharma your own “great torch in the dark night of ignorance” in this Samsara world of confusion and delusion.

As Buddhists in the Hongwanji tradition, we often refer to “reality-as-it-is” as opposed to “reality-as-My-Ego-wants-it-to-be” — this is Awakening, Enlightenment, Becoming Buddha.

Thus, Memorial Day Weekend, “party time, whooya!”, is “reality-as-My-Ego-wants-it-to-be”…and yes we all deserve to have some fun after a year of great change!

But, when we pause for a moment to reflect upon reality-as-it-is, we realize—awaken to—the deeper and profound meaning of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a somber and solemn occasion when we remember “when Jiro didn’t come marching home again…” 

Memorial Day is to honor the fallen, the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunties that marched off to war, and didn’t come marching home again.

Memorial Day is when we must awaken to the reality-as-it-is that Memorial Day begins with a mother’s tears.

Rev. Gensho Hara, resident minister of the Lahaina Jodo Mission and one of the longest-serving Japanese Buddhist ministers in Maui, shares the story of how the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Makawao Veterans Cemetery, which is now a large ceremonial occasion, actually began with a Japanese immigrant mother’s tears.

The story is universal. It is a story of “a mother’s tears”…

A son or daughter marches off to war, a mother’s tears.

A son or daughter marches home again, a mother’s tears.

A son or daughter does not march home again, a mother’s tears.

This experience is shared by all parents of sons and daughters that march off to war; and by brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties, cousins, and the ‘Ohana of life.

Shakyamuni Buddha taught that being born human, one of the greatest sufferings in life is the loss of a loved one. 

The pain, grief, sorrow of bereavement comes to all people without discrimination because all things arising from causes and conditions, including ourselves, eventually and inevitably cease to exist.

Thus, Memorial Day serves to remind us as Buddhists of the Truth of Impermanence, the Dharma reality-as-it-is, applies to all things, all people, without exception.

When we “listen to and hear” the deeper meaning and significance of Memorial Day, we pause for a moment to reflect, remember, and express our shared sadness for those mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends, community, the great ‘ohana of life, who lost a loved one to war.

Tomorrow, Memorial Day 2021, when you see an American flag, pause for a moment and reflect upon the Dharma, the reality-as-it-is, that you, of all people, are embraced by Great Compassion and your path in life is illuminated by the Light of Infinite Wisdom, that Namo Amida Butsu, Amida, is working in your life, right here, right now.

Namo Amida Butsu!

How sad, when we reflect upon Memorial Day as beginning and ending with a mother’s tears.

Namo Amida Butsu!

How grateful, when we remember the sacrifice of others so that we may live today.

Namo Amida Butsu!

How joyful, when we realize that this moment of this unrepeatable life is given to us!

Namo Amida Butsu!

This Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to remember a mother’s tears…

Namo Amida Butsu!

Now, let’s fire up the BBQ! Please be safe out there!

The essence of Shin Buddhism is gratefully receiving the Faith of Shinjin through the working of Amida’s Great Compassion and Infinite Wisdom in our lives in every moment of each day of this unrepeatable life!

Then, in gratitude, we put our hands together, bow our heads, and say Namo Amida Butsu!

Just Say It. Namo Amida Butsu

Just Say Mahalo.

Mahalo for joining us this morning.

May your day be filled with aloha!

Namo Amida Butsu!

Baby Buddha’s Birthday Party: The Story of Hanamatsuri

Dharma Talk for Children at Makawao Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Historic Makawao Town on the beautiful island of Maui in the great State of Hawaiʻi.

Ever wonder why we pour “sweet tea” over a statue of the Baby Buddha in a “flower palace” for “Hanamatsuri” every year?

Rev. Kerry explains the meaning and significance of Hanamatsuri, the “flower festival” in Japanese Buddhist tradition, which celebrates the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, the human being who awakened to reality-as-it-is and became known as Buddha, “awakened one”, and whose teachings became known as Buddhism, encompassing the Buddha, Dharma teachings, and Sangha community.

The Pain is ME: You’re Only Human

Dharma Talk at Makawao Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Historic Makawao Town on the beautiful island of Maui in the aloha state of Hawai’i.

Aloha kakou! Aloha everyone! Ohayo gozaimasu! Good morning!

Let’s begin with wisdom of Shinran Shōnin, the founder of Jodo Shinshu.

My fervent wish is this: Whether monk or layperson, when on board the ship of the great compassionate Vow, let pure shinjin be the favorable wind, and in the dark night of ignorance, let the jewel of virtue be a great torch…”

Shinran Shōnin
Passages on the Pure Land Way, Conclusion
Collected Works of Shinran, Vol I, page 303

Recently, the causes and conditions of this unrepeatable life required an “emergency” root canal procedure, which is a bit less fun than a “regular” one!

And, duh, I completely forgot to take a sweater and wear socks—three hours without moving in a freezing cold dental office is an excellent way to perfect the Bodhisattva practice of “endurance,” which our Bachan used to call “gaman”.

Having reached “kanreki” or age 60, the “return to childhood” in Japanese tradition, the time it takes to go from “Do I need to make shi-shi?” to “I need to make shi-shi now!” is two seconds.

Old guy jokes aside, I’m forever grateful to Dr. Kevin Omuro and the staff of Pukalani Dental Group for seeing me on an emergency basis, quickly diagnosing the problem, referring me to a specialist, Dr. Randall Yee and his staff, who bent over backwards to perform an unscheduled root canal procedure that alleviated my pain.

How grateful that healthcare professionals are working so hard under such difficult conditions at great risk to the health of themselves and their ‘ohana.

But, “It’s about ME!” It’s about my pain! Yes, MY PAIN! ARGGGH! It’s about ME!

There is nothing like acute pain to make you Mr. Grumpy, a true pain in the okole to other people, and his buddy Mr. Whiner, who pouts because no one can see his pain, boo-hoo!

(CHANGE SLIDE: “Without the falling down, you won’t learn to walk.”—Kerry’s Grandson, age 1)

Pain, of course, is part of human existence.

Our grandson Cadence just turned one year old and has just started walking! And, of course, learning to walk involves falling down, and sometimes getting an owie!

When Cadence falls down, he gets up, he’s cautious, he grabs onto things so he doesn’t fall down, and smiles when he gets to where he wants.

Without the falling down, Cadence would not learn to walk.

Sangha friend Diane K asked a great question about my use of the metaphor “It’s not about ME!” vs. “It’s about ME!” to explain different schools and traditions of Buddhism.

“Don’t we sometimes need the Ego to survive?” —Diane K
The answer is “yes,” of course, the human instinct for survival, is what prevents us from walking in front of a truck on Makawao Avenue!

In the real world in which we live as human beings, the Ego-Self is necessary.

And it’s also not like we can easily get rid of the Ego on our own.

On April 8, Buddhists around the world mark the birth of the Buddha.

The Buddha’s insights and teaching of the way to the ending of suffering, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness became know as Buddhism and has inspired and guided human thoughts, words, and actions for 3000 years.

Nowadays, the Buddha doesn’t get any respect, to quote Rodney Dangerfield. Search online or in social media and you’ll quickly come across “Buddha-isms” like these that actually misquote or “improve” upon the Buddha’s words (“what the Buddha meant to say was…”):

“Life comes with pain. Suffering is optional.”

—The Buddha (never said that)

The Buddha, the human being who awakened to reality-as-it-is, simply taught that reality-as-it-is means born human, you live in a human body and think with a human mind, both of which grow older and function less well every day, and eventually your human body and mind reach the end of life.

The Buddha’s insight was that born human, we are also hopelessly attached to our “Self” —the false idea that there exists an unchanging, permanent “essence” of Kerry, that’s ME!, that lives on forever.

And because we are self-centered, we willfully ignore reality-as-it-is and we experience not only the natural aches and pains of an aging body and mind, but also dissatisfaction with everything we have now, burning desire for “winning,” and the narcissistic insistence on “It’s about ME!” (my ego).

The Buddha’s insight is the reality-as-it-is, the Dharma, that human nature is to be self-centered, egotistical, and selfish.

My self-centered and egotistical nature makes me delight in identifying other people’s foibles while deliberately ignoring mine!

The Buddha taught that this self-delusion is human existence in the Samsara world of confusion and delusion.

The Buddha taught the way to eliminate suffering is the Eightfold Path of the Nobles, which evolves over centuries into the Six (or Ten) Paramita Perfections of the Mahayana tradition, and countless other paths and practices, including early Pure Land practice

In the beginning, all Buddhist paths required becoming a monk: shaving one’s head, renouncing this world, turning one’s back on all duties and responsibilities, and total commitment to study and practice in isolation from the “real” world.

By doing so, Buddhist monks strive with single-minded dedication to eliminating attachment to Self, to shift their thoughts, words, and actions from “It’s about ME!” to “It’s not about ME.”

My ego likes to think I’d be a great monk but Self-Centered ME says, “But then you’d have to give up Mimy, the love of your life, and your son, your granddaughter, and your grandson!” and it is obvious the causes and conditions of my life don’t allow for me to choose that path.

And, just between you and me, I’m not actually capable of any disciplined spiritual or intellectual practice but don’t tell anyone, okay?

The strength and serenity to accept the inevitable aches and pains that come with a human body and mind come from the faith of Shinjin, which we gratefully receive through the working of Amida’s Vow to save all people without discrimination or judgement, as Namo Amida Butsu, entrusting in All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion.

The life of Nembutsu, the life of gratitude, the life of Dharma, is:

  • to study and embrace the Teachings;
  • to awaken to the Dharma, reality-as-it-is, in your unrepeatable life;
  • and to think, say, and act in accordance with the Dharma, reality-as-it-is, not, reality-as-my-Ego-wants-it-to-be

—all while carrying out one’s duties, fulfilling one’s responsibilities, doing what needs to be done to service, live long, and prosper.

This is the Way of the BuddhaDharma, the Path of Nembutsu, the life of Namo Amida Butsu, this is Amida’s Great Love and Great Compassion working in our lives and the lives of our honorable friends and fellow travelers on the journey that is this unrepeatable life.

This unrepeatable life is rare, wonderful, and precious because of the aches and pains that come with being born human, living in a human body, and thinking with a human brain.

And precisely because you are only human, Amida’s Great Love reaches out to you, embraces you, and will never abandon you.

This is Namo Amida Butsu, the Path of Nembutsu, the Life of Gratitude.

Mahalo for listening this morning.

May your day be filled with aloha!

Namo Amida Butsu!