A Place for Awakening

This past month the San Mateo Buddhist Temple had the honor of hosting a tour group from the San Francisco Foundation that was visiting sites in North Central San Mateo to learn more about the history of our neighborhood, how it is changing, and the current challenges faced by its residents.  The tour organizers were eager to include SMBT on the tour to highlight the important role that the Japanese-American Buddhist community has played in our neighborhood over the past 120 years.

During the visit, our guests heard from four SMBT Sangha members and longtime residents of North Central about their memories of life in the neighborhood and their hopes for the future.  Each shared a moving story of how their family had overcome challenges to establish meaningful lives here in San Mateo.  I’d like to share one of those stories, as I find it particularly relevant as we prepare to observe our Bodhi Day service on Sunday, December 1, 2020, at 9:30 a.m., in celebration of Sakyamuni Buddha’s realization of enlightenment seated beneath the Bodhi Tree:

The most significant event that happened as a child was the U.S. evacuation order in Feb. 1942.  I was 6 years old then and vividly remember the black-out drills the city had where all lights in the homes and streets had to be turned off until the all-clear sirens would go off and curfews were set at 8:00 PM. 

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Giving Thanks

During this month of November, we have some special opportunities to express our gratitude for all the precious gifts we receive in our lives.  On Sunday, November 17, we will observe our Eitaikyo Service, which is dedicated to grateful remembrance of those temple members whose families felt inspired to donate to the temple Eitaikyo Fund, which exists to ensure that the San Mateo Buddhist Temple will continue to be a place where we can gather to hear the Dharma and joyfully recite the Nembutsu.  On Sunday, November 24, we will hold the Shichigosan Observance at the temple for the families of children ages three, five and seven to express our gratitude and wishes for continuing healthy growth of the children.  On Thursday, November 28, many families and friends will also come together in their homes to celebrate the wonderful American holiday of Thanksgiving.

While gratitude is a theme that we return to throughout the month of November, living in the Nembutsu, we find that gratitude is a daily practice that brings peace and joy to our hearts.  One of the ways in which we cultivate gratitude in our daily lives is by pausing to join our hands in gassho and utter the word “Itadakimasu (I humbly receive)” before beginning a meal, and “Goshisosama deshita (It was feast created through great effort)” at the conclusion of the meal. 

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How like the voices of the Buddha

At the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, October is the month in which we celebrate Buddhist women of the Nembutsu, including Shinran Shonin’s wife Eshinni and their youngest daughter Kakushinni, who worked tirelessly to ensure that the joy of the Nembutsu would be passed on to future generations. During our Sunday Services this month we will be learning about important women poets of the Nembutsu, including Mrs. Wariko Kai and Mrs. Misuzu Kaneko, who were active in Japan during the early part of the twentieth century.

Mrs. Tomoe Tana, the wife of Rev. Daisho Tana who served as the first assigned minister to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple from 1952-1955, was an inspiring poet of the Nembutsu writing here in the United States. Mrs. Tana was born in Hokkaido in 1913 as the daughter of a Buddhist priest. She married Rev. Tana in 1937 and moved to the United States in 1938, where they lived in Berkeley and then Lompoc.

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The Seed of the Buddha

On April 8, 2018, we warmly welcome you to join us for our Hanamatsuri Service, a joyful celebration of the Birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama 2,641 years ago in Lumbini, Nepal.  After realizing awakening seated under the Bodhi Tree at age 35, Siddhartha dedicated the rest of his life to teaching the path to liberation from suffering.  From that time, down to the present he has been revered as Sakyamuni Buddha, the Awakened One, Sage of the Sakya Clan.

Sakyamuni Buddha is a great hero to all those whose lives are guided by the wisdom and compassion of the Dharma he taught.  His teachings have provided the strength and clarity needed to face great challenges for people of all walks of life through the generations.  When I reflect on the difficulties we face in our world today, I am guided by those who, inspired by Sakyamuni Buddha’s presence here in our world, have walked the path of the Nembutsu before me.

Rev. Daisho Tana, the first full-time minister to be assigned to our San Mateo Buddhist Temple is one of my heroes.  Tana Sensei was living in Lompoc on the Central Coast of California in December 1941 when the United States declared war on Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

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Ohigan 1942

Last month we observed the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, authorizing the forced evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. As we recall these important events for our Nembutsu community here in the United States, I have encountered precious insights in the diaries of Rev. Daisho Tana, who was serving the Japanese Buddhist community in Lompoc, California when the war broke out.   In later years, Rev. Tana was assigned to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, where he cared for our Sangha from 1952 to 1955.

On February 24, 1942, FBI agents accompanied by three local police officers went to Rev. Tana’s home to investigate his activities.  When they arrived at his door, he asked them straightaway if he was to be taken into custody.

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