Living as a Buddhist in a Christian Society

Voices of the Nembutsu Echoing in America, No. 5

From Hongwanji Journal, No. 3366, Thursday, February 20, 2020

(Translation by H. Adams)

Michael Ishikawa (age 57) is a third generation Japanese American.  Apart from the two days a week when he receives dialysis treatments, he begins each morning by chanting Shoshinge at the obutsudan Buddha shrine in his home in San Mateo, California.  On Sundays, he also attends services at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple.

              He says, “Shoshinge is the most important chanting practice for me.  I find the opening lines ‘I take refuge in the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life! / I entrust myself to the Buddha of Inconceivable Light!’ to be deeply meaningful.  To me, these words contain Shinran Shonin’s feeling of gratitude toward Amida Tathagata.  I deeply appreciate the heart of Shinran Shonin who expresses his gratitude to Amida Tathagata at the start of the Shoshinge.”

              Born to Christian parents, Mr. Ishikawa was baptized as a young child.  He attended church until the age of sixteen but did not feel at home with the Christian teachings. 

              At that time, on the encouragement of his Wakayama-born grandmother, who was a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, he attended a summer camp organized by a temple in the Buddhist Churches of America.  While he was there, he awakened to the Jodo Shinshu teachings while hearing a Dharma talk by a Buddhist minister.  At a time when Mr. Ishikawa was grappling with his own human imperfections and shortcomings, he found himself repeatedly nodding his head in appreciation as he listened to the message that “Amida does not abandon such a foolish being as myself.”

              “The way I had been living my life up to that point was being described in the Dharma talk.  I thought ‘This is the teaching I’ve been searching for.’  I am grateful to have been able to spend the 40 years that have passed since that time living in the Nembutsu.” he says.