Listening and learning

My wife Shoko recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Tokuma Monju Adams-Ichinomiya, at the Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center. Throughout the delivery and post-partum period, Shoko and Tokuma have received excellent care from the doctors, nurses, and other staff at Kaiser. The conscientious and compassionate treatment that our family has received inspires a deep feeling of gratitude in us for the quality of health care that we have access to.

When people first learn Tokuma’s name, they are often curious about its meaning. In Japanese, the name Tokuma 徳眞 is written with two Chinese characters: “Toku 徳” (virtue) and “ma 眞” (truth). During our Bodhi Day Service in early December, we chanted the “Verses in Praise of the Buddha (Sanbutsuge)” from The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. At that time, we were still thinking about possible names for the baby, and during the chanting the character “Toku 徳” in the following verses caught Shoko’s eye:


Your observance of precepts, learning, diligence,

Meditation, and wisdom—

The magnificence of these virtues (toku 徳) is peerless,

Excellent and unsurpassed.


Deeply and clearly mindful

Of the ocean of the Dharma of all Buddhas,

You know its depth and breadth,

And reach its farthest end.


In these verses, Dharmakara Bodhisattva recognizes and praises the virtues of Lokesvararaja Buddha. This passage from the Sutra reminds us that our path to awakening is fulfilled when we live with the humility to recognize great virtue in others and learn from their example. 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 the characters Tokuma 徳眞 for the name of our third son as an expression of our wish that as he finds his own path on the journey of life, he will be guided by the virtuous truth of awakening.

In our family, we have a custom of choosing the middle name of our children taking inspiration from the wisdom of the lives of those who have come before us. Our two older sons have middle names from ancestors on my side of the family. When we found out that we were pregnant with our third child, Shoko shared with me a Japanese proverb that has been passed down in her family over the generations and that she often heard from her mother growing up: “When three minds come together, they have the wisdom of Manjusri (Monju 文殊) Bodhisattva. (Sannin yoreba Monju no chie.)” In Mahayana Buddhism, Monju is revered as a bodhisattva of profound and penetrating wisdom. In the Amida Sutra, Monju appears as a representative of the beings of awakening who gather to hear the Buddha’s teaching. The truly wise recognize the importance of listening to others. The proverb above expresses the truth that three ordinary people who come together and listen to one another are able to realize great wisdom and insight. With the birth of Tokuma Monju, our wish is for our three sons to listen to one another and come together to realize profound wisdom, drawing on their unique perspectives to realize a greater depth of insight than they would each be capable of on their own. We are truly grateful to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha for all your support and friendship as our family grows together in the Nembutsu.


Namo Amida Butsu