Living the Life of Ingratitude

Rev. Kerry Kiyohara reflects upon the reality-as-it-is that he is “Living the Life of Ingratitude” in this Dharma Talk for Adults at Makawao Hongwanji Buddhist Temple on August 15, 2021.

Living the Life of Ingratitude

Lacking even small love and small compassion,

I cannot hope to benefit sentient beings.

Were it not for the ship of Amida’s Vow,

How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?

—Shinran Shōnin, Gutoku’s Hymns of Lament and Reflection, CWS I, page 

In today’s Dharma Story Time, the wonderful book “We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga” by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Frané Lessac, we learn about how the Cherokee people express gratitude for all things: the changing seasons, changes in life stage, and the clan/tribe/community that is the Cherokee Nation.

I’d like to introduce the Japanese word, “arigatai” which is very similar in usage to “otsaliheliga” and perhaps is a bit easier to pronounce. (CHANGE SLIDE)

“Arigatai” is composed of two roots: the verb “aru” (to be, to exist), and “katai” (suffix that mean “difficult/impossible”.

Thus, something that is “arigatai” is “impossible to be”… (CHANGE SLIDE)

For the most part, I don’t live the “life of gratitude” … because I am Ego-Self-Centered, I live the life of ingratitude.

ME (MY EGO) insists, “I deserve to live in Maui!” because I am such a wonderful person, who is entitled to live in paradise!

In reflection, I have done nothing to deserve living in Maui. 

ME (ME EGO) insists, “I deserve to live in Maui!” because I work hard, I’m brilliant, and because I’m spiritually superior to all by virtue of my priestly robes, chanting voice, and mastery of ritual.

In reflection, I just like the attention I get when dressed like a priest. 

I also love the sound of my own voice, and the brilliance of my words.

But when my Ego-Self insists “I deserve to live in Maui!” I am forced to encounter my true self, and it’s not very pretty.

When I get angry and vent my frustration, I see myself crying like Cadence, our one-year-old grandson, who can’t talk yet so he gets frustrated when adults don’t understand what he wants!

I’m the baby in the room!

Now, babies are allowed to cry. Grandpa is supposed to be able to control his impulses!

When I get depressed over the reality-as-it-is that parts of my body are decaying fast, and hurt all the time, I feel sorry for myself.

Why ME?!

And then, I see the ocean, the sky, the clouds, and aina of Maui.

It is as if Maui say, “Aloha, kotonk dude! Open da eyes!”

(CHANGE SLIDE)  “I am not worthy of living in Maui!”

How many times do I take the sheer beauty of this place for granted?

Every day.

How often do I just assume everyone in the Makawao Buddhist Temple ‘ohana will be kind and gentle to me, even if I am Mr. Grumpy?

Every day.

How often do I judge critically the ideas and efforts of other people?

Every day.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, spent my professional career in Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, and eventually ended up in Hawaii.

“I’m not worthy of living in Maui! And yet, here I am…”

This is “arigatai” — it is impossible for me to be allowed to live in Maui because I have don’t nothing to deserve (in fact, I actively think, say, do things that disqualify me from living here!)… “and yet, here I am…”

(CHANGE SLIDE) “Gratitude comes from being humbled every day.”

Mahalo, Maui, for whacking across the head with rainbows, blue oceans, and white clouds EVERY DAY!

Mahalo, Makawao, for showing me how fruits and vegetables grow from seeds to plants to things you can eat!

Mahalo, Makawao chickens, for waking me up before sunrise every morning … so I can experience the sun rising over Haleakala every morning…


The realization that I am not capable of discipline, practice, self-denial, or being virtuous, thus I will never become Buddha on my own, is a shock to my Ego-Self, who believes I am Superman.

My failure to maintain discipline, to control my urges and cravings, my fundamental inability to “think, say, do pure and beautiful” is humiliating.

“Why are you here?” my Ego-Self asks.

“What did you do to deserve being here?”

You cannot lie to yourself forever. Eventually, you realize that the Ego-Self is a total sham. 

Fake ME.

The dream of ME that I’ve been pursuing is “empty.”

ME is “empty.”


And here, the words of Shinran jump out at me.

Lacking even small love and small compassion,

I cannot hope to benefit sentient beings.

Were it not for the ship of Amida’s Vow,

How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?

—Shinran Shōnin, Gutoku’s Hymns of Lament and Reflection, CWS I, page 

Shinran’s intense self-reflection leads to the realization that his human love and compassion are not capable of benefiting all sentient beings; and simultaneously the realization that the ship of Amida’s Vow is his only hope, and that he is already on the ship!


“otsaliheliga!” We are grateful!

NamoAmidaButsu! Mahalo, Amida, for embracing me, of all people, just as I am, and allowing me to live in Maui!



The essence of Shin Buddhism is the Faith of Shinjin, the Great Love and Great Compassion of Amida embracing us, assuring our Birth in the Pure Land, and thus becoming Buddha. The Faith of Shinjin empowers us to live this unrepeatable life with strength and serenity. In profound gratitude, we put our palms together, bow our heads, and say NamoAmidaButsu, entrusting in All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion.

Mahalo for listening this morning. May your day be filled with aloha!


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.


SHINJIN IS A VERB, NOT A NOUN: Arigatai, Mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu

Today, I would like to talk about … the “F” word.

No, not that “F” word!

I would like to talk about “Faith” — which is one of the ways the expression “Shinjin” is translated into English.

“Shinjin” is the key doctrinal tenant of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, the core of Shinran’s thinking, and often described as undefinable in English so best to leave in Japanese.

Faith with a capital “F” is something greater than yourself, a higher power, a deity, a creator who will judge you at the end of life but this is “not Jodo Shinshu”.

“Blind Faith” — is being naive or innocent, a negative in American Culture.

I guess that’s why we never seem to talk about Shinjin very much, even in the Hongwanji.

In my journey, I’ve come to my own understanding of Shinjin and I’d like to share that with you today.

Arigatai, Mottainai, and Namo Amida Butsu

The Japanese expression arigatai expresses how I feel, standing before you this morning.

It is nice to be back at Kailua Hongwanji, which my wife and I, and our granddaughter, visited three years ago, when we first moved to Honolulu

At the end of this month, Mimy and I are moving to Kyoto, where I will study at the main seminary of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha to become a kaikyoshi minister.

Ah! Arigatai! 

Many Japanese-Americans are familiar with the expression arigatai.

ari comes from the verb aru or to be, to exist;

gatai comes from katai, or hard, difficult;

So arigatai is something that is difficult to exist, something that is inconceivable in being.

Arigatai is the original form of arigatou or thank you in Japanese.

But the Buddhist nuance is also very important.

Arigatai means “to be humbled and grateful for something that is so inconceivable, so rare, so difficult to receive.”

Humbled because it is inconceivable, arising from immeasurable causes and conditions.

Grateful because it happening to me, someone who doesn’t deserve such wonderful things.

Thus, arigatou as “thank you” has its origins in the Dharma, the Teachings of Buddhism.

The Jodo Shinshu nuance of arigatai is being truly humbled and profoundly grateful for the Teachings of the Buddha, the Compassion and Wisdom of Amida Buddha, this chance for liberation from the bondage of selfishness.

In the Kikyōmon, the Three Treasures, or The Homages, we say

Hard is it to be born into human life, now we live it.

Difficult is it to hear the Teachings of the Buddha, now we hear it.

In more modern expression,

I am humbled and grateful to be living this life!

Lucky we live Hawaii, yeah?

I am humbled and grateful for this chance to be free of my selfishness!

We’re not worthy!

But why do we feel humbled?

As Americans, we don’t like to be “humble” — Humble is not the American way.

Our American upbringing teaches us to be proud of our accomplishments, our success, our power, our money, and the material things we possess.

To believe we deserve everything we get.

To blame others when things don’t go the way we want.

To want MORE.

To feel superior to those who don’t have nice things.

The “self-made” billionaire is the American Dream.

But is anyone truly “self-made”?

Without a mother and father, none of us would be here.

Without parents, uncles & aunties, teachers, and kind & gentle people, none of us would have learned life’s important lessons.

Without friends, none of us would have survived the bumps in life’s road.

Without being loved, we would only hate ourselves.

Without living beings, plants, animals, and the blessings of the ‘aina, we would have no food, no water, no way to sustain our lives.

Without countless unseen people laboring every day, we would not enjoy the comfort and convenience of modern life.

Without doctors, nurses, technicians, and caregivers none of us would have recovered from illness, or been cured of disease.

Without a Sangha of kind and gentle people, our friends and fellow travelers on the path of Nembutsu, we wouldn’t be here in this Temple.

Without immigrants, without Japanese plantation workers laboring in the hot sun, who then raised their children to be hard-working Americans, the Hongwanji in Hawaii would not have survived 125 years to be the place where we can find refuge, learn, grow spiritually, and pay it forward through compassionate service to others.

When we pause and reflect, we realize that the engi—the causes and conditions—of our life are an inconceivable chain of events, people, and situations that have guided us to this moment together, in spite of our stupidity, our limitations, our selfishness.

This realization is humbling because in our heart of hearts, we know “we’re not worthy” of such blessings, good fortune, and advantages.

In Japanese, one would say, “mottainai.

Mottainai is translated as “wasteful” but, again, the Buddhist nuance is very important — a feeling of awe and appreciation for this unrepeatable Life.

Being born, being alive today, hearing the Teachings, having this chance to awaken to the Truth, to walk the path of liberation from the bondage of selfishness, is “wasted” on someone as egotistical as I am…

Being surrounded by the kind and gentle people of this Sangha, the people of this Temple, is “wasted” on someone as selfish as I am…

Enjoying refreshments and fellowship every Sunday is “wasted” on someone as greedy and ungrateful as I am…

Ah, mottainai!

Ah, arigatai!

This realization, this awakening to reality-as-it-is, this moment is when Namo Amida Butsu pops out of my mouth.

Namo Amida Butsu!

The realization that I too am embraced by Great Compassion and Wisdom, never to be abandoned, is so mottainai that my heart is filled with arigataiNamo Amida Butsu!

This is a shinjin moment: awakening to the Truth, becoming able to see the world-as-it-is, not the world-as-I-want-it-to-be—when the Heart-Mind of Amida, All-Embracing Compassion and All-Inclusive Wisdom, takes over my selfish heart and egotistical mind, and frees me from the bondage of selfishness.

Let’s try a meditation exercise.

Sit back, relax, get comfortable, place both feet flat on the floor.

Close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Breathe in and out naturally. Just breathe.

Now think back to a moment when you surprised yourself by being caring and understanding, kind and gentle, loving without conditions or expectations.

Travel back in time to when your father and mother held you, comforted you, loved you without conditions, when you knew without doubt you were safe, happy, and loved.

Think back to a moment when you held your baby or held the hand of a child; or comforted a friend; when you were kind, gentle, and loving without conditions; when all you wanted in this world was for this baby, this child, this friend to be safe, happy, and loved.

Think back to a moment when you lived aloha and offered a helping hand to an elder; offered a friendly smile and a kind word to a stranger; or, when you let go of your pride and offered forgiveness.

Think back to the moments when your heart went out to the suffering people of the world: the refugees, the homeless, the victims of famine or war, elders with dementia and the people who care for them, or addicts and alcoholics — their pain was your pain, their suffering was your suffering.

A time when your heart cried out for any suffering of any human being or animal, anywhere, when you felt a deep connection to all living beings.

Think back to a time when you wished with all your heart that you could change the world, you could protect those who are weaker than yourself, you could stand up against injustice.

These are shinjin moments.

This is what it feels like when you return to who you truly are.

This is when shinjin, the Heart-Mind of Compassion and Wisdom of the Buddha Amida, illuminates the true and real you from within.

Shinjin has always been in your heart, shinjin has always embraced you, and shinjin has never abandoned you.

Now open your eyes.

“Welcome to the real world.”

How many times have we turned our backs on the homeless?

How many times have we discriminated against others, thought or said hateful things about tourists, haoles, Micronesians, Mexicans, Blacks, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Portuguese, Hawaiians, Hapa, or Kotonks; or resented poor people for using food stamps; looked down on families living in public housing; or hated on people driving big expensive cars?

How often have we expressed outrage on Facebook but not actually done anything about it?

In the real world, at some point in our lives, we “grew up” and our hearts & minds become hard, cold, unfeeling in the pursuit of the American Dream, chasing the illusion of superiority through wealth, happiness by acquiring more things, and eternal life by looking “forever young”?

That is when we started suffering from depression, anxiety, and fear.

That is when we started eating too much, drinking too much, becoming addicted to legal or illegal drugs, buying more things we don’t need, or venting on people who can’t vent back.

These are samsara moments, when we live in the world of delusion, anger, and ignorance.


Because the Heart-Mind of Bonnō—the blinding passions of Selfishness, Greed, Hatred—has covered our hearts with darkness and clouded our minds with delusion.

Because, in our heart of hearts, we know the material things we so desperately chase are actually “empty,” devoid of true and real value.

Because, in our heart of hearts, we know we are living a life that is “empty,” a life without true and real purpose and meaning…

Because, in our heart of hearts, we know we have become “empty,” totally lacking in true and real humanity, empathy, caring and understanding…

Because, in our heart of hearts, we know our lives have become “empty,” that we are selfish when we should be serving others.

What happened to the kind and gentle, loving and loved child with a pure heart we used to be?

Buddhism, Jodo Shinshu, the Hongwanji, this Temple, this Sangha, the ‘ohana of Life gives us refuge from the world of delusion in which we live, gives us a chance to awaken to the Truth, and offers us a path to liberation from the bondage of selfishness, a way to return to who we truly are.

That is why I am leaving to study in Kyoto, to return as a minister, to serve the Hongwanji, its temples, and all people suffering in the world of delusion, to live the Truth of the Dharma Teachings, to share the joy of liberation from the bondage of selfishness.

Me, of all people!

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

I am humbled by the inconceivable chain of events, people, and situations that have led me to this point in my life.

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

I am grateful to have a loving wife, a strong son, a lovely daughter-in-law, a smart and cute granddaughter who let me follow my innermost aspiration.

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

I am incredibly lucky that the Sangha of the Hongwanji in Hawaii has supported me, encouraged me, and wished me the best on this journey.

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

I am blessed to have the people of Hongwanji Hawaii as my teachers, my guides, my mentors.

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

I am not worthy of this chance to devote my life to studying and sharing the joy of Nembutsu, the life-changing experience of Shinjin.

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

I am an evil, self-centered, silly human being and yet this chance to serve others is given to me, of all people.

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

I have been hurtful to so many people who did not deserve it, and yet I am given a chance to redeem myself.

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

In the Shōshinge, the Song of True Shinjin and Nembutsu, written by Shinran in the 13th century, it is written:

The person burdened with extreme evil should simply say Namo Amida Butsu.

Although I too am within Amida’s grasp, the bonnō of Selfishness obstructs my eyes and I cannot see the light;

And yet, great compassion is untiring and illumines me always.

When I struggled with my addiction to my ego, Rev. Bert Sumikawa taught me, “It is easy to see shinjin in others but impossible to see shinjin in yourself.”

Rev. Bert taught me to work hard, be humble, and be grateful.”

Rev. Bert taught me, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do.”

And that’s how I learned that Shinjin is a verb, not a noun.

Shinjin is not something to understand, grasp, or achieve through religious practice.

Shinjin is simply being grateful for this Life, for this moment, for the ‘ohana of Life.

Shinjin is simply living this unrepeatable life humbly in joy and gratitude.

Shinjin is simply being who and what I truly am.

Shinjin is simply being.

Ah, arigatai, mottainai, Namo Amida Butsu!

As I prepare to move to Kyoto, I don’t say Sayonara or Good-bye.

I say, “go-en ga arimasu you ni” 「ご縁がありますように」

May the causes and conditions of Life allow our paths to cross again!

Please join me in putting our hands together in gasshō:

May we say Namo Amida Butsu in joy & gratitude for this moment together,

May we say Namo Amida Butsu in joy & gratitude for this chance to be who we truly are,

May we say Namo Amida Butsu in joy & gratitude for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, truly the Three Treasures!

May our days be filled with aloha and mahalo for the great ‘ohana of Life!

Namo Amida Butsu


Nembutsu ga deru ka ne?

All Buddhists seek Enlightenment—awakening to the Truth, seeing Life as-it-is, not as-we-want-it-to-be.

Unnecessary suffering in life is caused by the gap between reality—Life as-it-is—and perception—the self-centered delusion that Life should be as-we-want-it-to-be.

When Life doesn’t unfold the way we want it to, we get angry, blame others for our disappointment, or whine about it on Facebook.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the goal of Enlightenment is to alleviate suffering of other people and all forms of life.

The goal of Jodo Shinshu is to “settle one’s birth in the Pure Land” in this life so that when we die, we are born in the Pure Land and, in Oneness with the Buddha Amida,  return to this world as Great Compassion and Wisdom working to save all beings by guiding them to the Truth.

To settle one’s birth in the Pure Land, Jodo Shinshu teaches the Path of Nembutsu—saying Namo Amida Butsu in gratitude for, and in response to, Life as it unfolds, accepting reality as-it-is, which empowers us to make the most of each moment in this unrepeatable life.

The Path of Nembutsu provides the way for unexceptional, totally average, self-deluded people—like me—to liberate themselves from the bondage of selfishness.

Jodo Shinshu helps people cope with the undeniable stresses and inevitable disappointments of modern life by igniting change—a ‘change of heart’ and a ‘change of attitude’ so we may see Life as-it-is.

If we believe fame, fortune, intellect, youth, or beauty make us superior to others, we despair when confronted with the truth that we are merely human.

If we believe we are the exception, that we will never grow old, decay, and die, then we are terrified by death, afraid of being a compassionate presence for people at the end of life.

If we believe we deserve only the sweetness of life, then we are devastated by the inevitable moments of bitterness of life.

In a single thought-moment, when we realize that we are not exceptional; that we are, in fact, deluded, ego-centric, and all-too-human average people incapable of any spiritual practice leading to awakening to Truth in this Life, that is when Jodo Shinshu reveals the working of Great Compassion and Wisdom in our lives.

We realize that no matter how good our intentions may be, we are simply incapable of helping others as much as we would like to believe.

We realize our inherent Selfishness blinds us so that we insist upon seeing Life as-we-want-it-to-be, not Life as-it-is, setting us up for disappointment, despair, and depression.

We realize that, despite our pretensions, we despise those who are different from us, we turn away from the hungry and homeless, we do nothing to prevent injustice.

We realize that we are not able to live up to our own ideals, our aspirations, our self-image.

This realization crushes the delusions of our ego-self, which is why we avoid true self-reflection; in our heart of hearts we know are we nothing like we would like to think we are.

We are not worthy.

And yet, our lives are filled with kind and gentle people.

Our lives are “pretty good” compared to so many people who are truly suffering, fellow human beings who don’t have enough to eat, a safe place to sleep, who face discrimination and hardship every day.

In a single thought-moment, we realize that Great Compassion and Wisdom has always embraced us, never to abandon us. And that Awakening liberates us from our attachment to the ego-driven “self”.

When we become free from the bondage of selfishness, we begin to live a life that is true and real.

When we reflect upon our lives, when we see Life-as-it-is, we stop believing we deserve all the “good” things that happen to us, and, we stop believing we don’t deserve the “bad” things that happen to us.

In that moment, we see kind and gentle people have always been in our lives — our ‘ohana has always been there for us.

We begin to truly appreciate, and not take for granted, the friends who have stayed with us through thick and thin, the communities that accept us, the ‘Aina and the living beings that sustain our lives.

We begin to truly rejoice in the companionship of precious animal friends, our beloved pets, whose only desire is to love us without judging us.

We begin to truly cherish the Great ‘Ohana of Life, the people who patiently teach us life lessons, the strangers who show us kindness, the unseen people laboring so that we can enjoy the comfort and convenience of modern life.

Jodo Shinshu awakens us to the True Meaning of Life, that we are One with all people and all forms of Life, and thus we are never alone; that we are accepted just as we are; that this unrepeatable Life is meant to be lived to benefit others.

We begin to see even the painful, embarrassing, and humiliating episodes in our lives as meaningful, positive, learning experiences.

In Jodo Shinshu, we revere this Great Compassion and Wisdom as the Buddha Amida, the Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Light, Amida Nyorai, the Tathagata, the One who comes from Suchness.

Awakening to the Truth, we realize that we only delude ourselves into thinking we are fundamentally “good” people, that we will help others when we are not so “busy” or have accumulated enough money.

But we always seem to be “too busy,” always desperately seeking to acquire “more” because we are self-centered, totally average human beings.

In our heart of hearts, we know we are limited, weak, and unable to accept Life as it unfolds, that we are afraid to embrace Life as-it-is.

In fact, we are constantly running away from admitting our utter average-ness to anyone, much less ourselves.

We deny the Truth of what we really are.

This delusion, this denial of reality, is the root cause of all unnecessary suffering in our modern lives: fear, stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, discontent, unhappiness, anger, discrimination, and hatred.

How do we become free of these delusions?

The only practice in Jodo Shinshu is the Path of Nembutsu, mindfully saying the name of the Buddha Amida—Namo Amida Butsu—in gratitude for Amida’s great compassionate vow to save all beings, beginning with silly, deluded, self-centered, unexceptional, and all-too-human people…just like me.

The Path of Nembutsu is the simplest practice in Buddhism.

Nembutsu can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, anytime, and doesn’t require any “thing” beyond the heart-and-mind that responds in gratitude to Life as it unfolds—good, bad, or ugly—Just Say Namo Amida Butsu.

My grandmother, Toku Nakawatase, was famous for confronting lay people, ministers, and even bishops, by saying, Nembutsu ga deru ka ne? which can be translated as “Namo Amida Butsu still doesn’t just pop out of your mouth?”

In other words, you haven’t realized that you are a deluded, silly, all-too-human self-centered being?

Haven’t you awakened to the truth, Life as-it-is, the reality that Great Compassion and Wisdom has always embraced you, never to abandon you?

That the Great Compassion of the Buddha Amida has created this opportunity to encounter the Nembutsu, allowing you to walk the path of liberation from the bondage of selfishness?

Aren’t you humbled and truly grateful that you have been saved from your Ego-Self?

“Nembutsu ga deru ka ne?!”

You still haven’t learned to just say Namo Amida Butsu in gratitude for life as it unfolds, for reality as-it-is?

Haven’t you acknowledged your debt of gratitude to the kind and gentle people who nurtured you in the past, and the countless people and living beings who sustain your life today?

You aren’t trying to repay this debt of gratitude by thinking pure and beautiful thoughts, saying pure and beautiful words, and doing pure and beautiful deeds?

You aren’t trying to be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all those who are weaker than yourself?

“Nembutsu ga deru ka ne?!”

In Jodo Shinshu, you don’t have to believe anything, give up anything, or change your life in any way.

You are all right just as you are.

In Jodo Shinshu, you listen to the Dharma, pause and reflect, and look inward to find the Truth that is inside of you.

You are all right just as you are.

In Jodo Shinshu, you simply awaken to the Truth that Great Compassion and Wisdom has always embraced you, never to abandon you.

You are all right just as you are.

In Jodo Shinshu, you learn to entrust everything, just as you are, to All-Embracing Compassion and All-Inclusive Wisdom, the Buddha Amida.

In Jodo Shinshu, you accept that your birth in the Pure Land, just as you are, is already assured. You accept that your return to this world to help others in the way you truly aspire, is already assured.

In the single thought-moment when you awaken to the Truth, you transcend the Ego-Self and shinjinthe Heart-and-Mind of Compassion and Wisdom of Amida—comes to you, and you become what you truly are.

The hardest thing to grasp in Jodo Shinshu is that you can’t do anything to “achieve” shinjin—the heart-and-mind of the Buddha Amida comes to you naturally, as Life unfolds.

Shinjin comes to you, just as you are.

In fact, the harder you try to “achieve” shinjin, the faster it slips from your grasp!

To paraphrase the myōkōnin Saichi,

“You do not become Amida—Amida becomes you,” just as you are.

In Jodo Shinshu, we say Namo Amida Butsu in gratitude for the Great Compassion and Wisdom that saves us from ourselves not in spite of our limitations, but precisely because of our fundamental selfishness, our silly humanness, our Ego-centric belief that we are the exception.

Shinjin—the heart-and-mind of Amida’s Compassion and Wisdom—saves you, just as you are.

That’s why every morning when I look in the mirror, I ask myself:

Nembutsu ga deru ka ne?!

And that’s why Jodo Shinshu is for me.

Please join me in putting our hands together, bowing our heads, and saying Namo Amida Butsu,

Mahalo Amida for the blessings of the ‘Aina,

Mahalo Amida for the Aloha in our hearts,

Mahalo Amida for the great ‘Ohana of Life that always supports and nurtures us, never to abandon us,

Mahalo Amida for saving us, just as we are.

Namo Amida Butsu!

Everything I Needed to Know about Buddhism, I Learned in Dharma School

I just love the song, “Buddha Loves You”…it’s supposed to be a children’s song but it makes Buddhism so easy to understand for anyone!

Fly, fly, little bird,

Buddha loves you little bird,

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet tweet!

Run, run, little pup,

Buddha loves you little pup,

Bow-wow, wow-wow-wow-wow wow!

Don’t cry pussy cat,

Buddha loves you pussy cat,

Mew, mew, mew-mew-mew-mew, mew!

Swim, Swim, little fish,

Buddha loves you, little fish,

(just open mouth like a fish)

What does this song teach us? It’s okay to be who and what you are.

Birds fly, so fly!

Dogs run, so run!

Cats are hard to understand, so be hard to understand!

Fish can’t talk, so don’t talk!

Why? Because Buddha loves you just the way you are!

Buddha is like your mommy and daddy put together.

Mommy and Daddy love you most of all, just as you are.

Mommy and Daddy will do anything for your happiness.

Mommy and Daddy will scold you when you deserve it.

But not because they want to be mean to you.

No, Mommy and Daddy get mad because they love you, they want you to learn important lessons in life.

Mommy and Daddy will always love you, always worry about you, always want you to be happy, always work hard to give you the good things in life.

All you have to do is be yourself. Be who you really are.

Be kind and gentle to every living thing.

Protect all who are weaker than ourselves.

Just say the magic words: “Please” and “Thank You!”

Have you ever been teased or bullied?

It’s not fun, is it?

But did you know that bullies are bullies because they are afraid?

Sometimes big kids are so scared that someone will discover they are actually afraid inside that they tease and bully smaller kids, weaker kids, kids who are different.
It hurts, it is not right, it is not fair.

Life is like that sometimes.

Your mommy and daddy would like the world to always be a safe and nice place for you.

But sometimes there are bullies in your life.

What should you do?

Sometimes being kind to bullies, trying to understand why they are bullies, will change their hearts.

Sometimes being gentle to bullies, not responding to teasing, will change their minds.

And sometimes, you must be strong and stand up to bullies, especially when they are teasing kids weaker than you.

Then you must have the courage to be called a tattletale or a snitch, and seek help from other kids, teachers, parents, or even the police.

Did you know the mommies and daddies of bullies don’t want their children to be bullies?

Is it easy to be kind, gentle, and strong?

No, it is not easy.

Being kind and gentle, protecting all those weaker than yourself is difficult, especially when you are smaller than the bully.

But, if you look inside your heart, you will find the Compassion you need to be kind and gentle.

If you look inside your heart, you will find the Wisdom to think of a way to protect all those who are weaker than yourself.

If you look inside your heart, you will find the Strength to be who you are.

Be Kind and Gentle.

Be the Protector of the Weak.

Be Strong and ask for help.

Be who you are.

Because Buddha loves you, just the way you are.

So, remember, Children.

Come to Dharma School every Sunday!

Remember that Amida Buddha is inside your heart.

Remember that you are kinder, gentler, and stronger than you think.

Be who you are.

Be proud to be Buddhist.

Just smile, be kind and gentle, and be strong, no matter what.

Just say, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every time.

Say mahalo to Amida Buddha, mahalo to mommy and daddy, mahalo to ‘ohana, mahalo to teachers, and mahalo to friends for loving you just as you are.

And don’t forget to make sensei happy by coming to Temple every Sunday, putting your palms together in gasshō, bowing your head, and saying Namo Amida Butsu, no matter what!

Namo Amida Butsu!


I will try to be grateful for this moment, aspiring to see the world as-it-is, not as-I-want-it-to-be, so that I may alleviate suffering for all beings.

I will try to be wise so that I can see both sides of conflict wth clarity, and not insist that I alone am right.

I will try to be compassionate so that I can help all people without discrimination or judgement.

I will try to be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all those who are weaker than myself.

I will try to allow the Aloha in my heart to manifest as Mahalo for the great ‘Ohana of Life and the blessings of the ‘Aina.

In the Hongwanji tradition, I express my profound gratitude for this unrepeatable life by placing my palms together, bowing my head, and saying Namo Amida Butsu, entrusting in All-Inclusive Wisdom and All-Embracing Compassion.