On Wednesday, December 11, 2013, my wife Shoko gave birth to a healthy baby boy Shoma (pronounced “SHOW-ma”) Jesse Adams-Ichinomiya at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame. Throughout the delivery and post-partum period, Shoko and Shoma received excellent care from the doctors, nurses, and other staff at Mills-Peninsula. In a time when we hear so much in our public discourse about the problems facing the medical system in this country, the conscientious and compassionate treatment that our family has received inspires a deep feeling of gratitude in us for the quality of care that we have access to.
When people first learn Shoma’s name, they are often curious about its meaning. In Japanese, the name Shoma 證眞 is written with two Chinese characters: “Sho 證” and “ma 眞.” In the “Verses in Praise of the Buddha (Sanbutsuge)” from The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life Delivered by Sakyamuni Buddha, the character “Sho 證” appears in Dharmakara Bodhisattva’s request to have Lokesvararaja Buddha verify his aspiration to become a Buddha and guide all beings to liberation from suffering. Sho 證 may be translated as “verify” or “realize.” The character “ma 眞” means “truth,” and refers to the truth of the Buddha’s teachings as a guide for living with wisdom and compassion. Shoko and I chose these two characters for the name of our second son as an expression of our wish that throughout Shoma’s journey through life, he will realize what is real and true in each situation he encounters.
Shoma’s middle name Jesse comes from his great-great-great grandfather Jesse Melver Adams, Sr. (1844-1909), who lived in Bradley County, Arkansas. In writings preserved by historians in Bradley County, one of Jesse’s good friends says he “knew Mr. Adams from his boyhood and can say that he never knew a better man or had a better friend.” With the arrival of Shoma in our family, our first son Ryoma now has a brother. As one of our good Dharma friends commented after Shoma’s birth, “Later on the two boys will have fun . . . as well as “fights.” It brings us great joy to know that Ryoma and Shoma will enjoy a lifelong friendship as brothers, so we chose Shoma’s middle name inspired by a man who was known and loved as an exceptional friend.
As there is no established custom of monastic practice in the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition, our practice of the Dharma is deeply rooted in family life. For those of us who practice Buddhism in the midst of home life, our family is our Sangha. When I reflect the following words from a letter written by our true teacher Shinran (1173-1262), I am reminded of how living in the nembutsu deepens our feelings of appreciation and affection for those close companions in our lives: “Signs of long years of saying the nembutsu and aspiring for birth can be seen in the change in the heart that had been bad and in the deep warmth for friends and fellow-practicers. . . .” (Collected Works of Shinran, p. 551). Just as our family is our Sangha, we have found that the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha is our family. We thank you for all the kindness and generous care you shared with us in 2013. We look forward to deepening our friendship in the Dharma in the coming year!