Sunday Service, September 27th with guest lay speaker Mrs. Carrie Kawamoto: “Peace Journey”

Published October 1, 2020 by

On Sunday, we were very fortunate to have as our guest lay speaker Mrs. Carrie Kawamoto (Mililani Hongwanji Member). She kindly gave us permission to post a transcript of her talk. Her talk was titled “Peace Journey.”

Good morning everyone..and thank you Reverend Umitani … and to all of you out there… for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts with you through Zooming … which I have never ever done before.

When I was first asked to talk ..there was no pandemic going on…I was asked to talk about Peace …. and to tie it in with my 2 gatha compositions. … being that September 21st was Peace Day.

But ever since March .… we’re all living through his Worldwide Pandemic right here and now…something we’ve never ever experienced in our lives…Except maybe my mother…she was three years old during the 1918 pandemic.

My neighbor says, It’s like we’re living a dream… it doesn’t seem real..

But the truth of the matter is…it IS real!!

There is one most meaningful dharma message I learned from one of my most influential Buddhist teachers, Reverend Taitetsu Unno, that I have taped to my wall to help me walk in peace.

Reverend Unno said…..

“Wisdom comes…
when we are able to see reality,
we come to understand the reality,
we accept the reality and we live our lives the best we can.
That is BuddhismThat is Buddhism.”

To see reality, to understand it, to accept it and to live our lives the best we can!!! And right now…. Living in this world wide COVID-19 pandemic… is our reality.

We have seen our dear friend being asymptomatic with Covid 19 while in the nursing home, then being sent to Kaiser Hospital and after being quarantined for 14 days…she passes away…one day later…

We have a relative who had COVID, that advanced to pneumonia ….

And after being released from the hospital is now rehabilitating at Hale Nani Nursing home..but after 4-5 steps…he’s out of breath… We pray that he recovers well.

Another friend’s one year old granddaughter had COVID. Now both mom and dad have Covid……all of this … so close to home.

I remember Mrs. Umitani’s sister , Keiko Toro, at the 2019 BWA World Convention in San Francisco . She said to have dharma time everyday… …not only on Sundays ……so I have been trying to do that… during this pandemic… by reading some of my Favorite Buddhist books…and most especially singing the dharma while playing the piano with some of my favorite choral festival gathas. I’m not part of our choir and You’ll understand when you hear me sing.

My favorite gathas have been translated from Japanese to English and I find them so Inspiring and so meaningful that the gathas have opened up my world of Buddhism.

Singing and Playing the dharma can bring tears to my eyes .. And music ….is…more than anything, a form of healing. Dr. Arthur Harvey did years of research on the healing power of music and said…simply live with music…be with music…music can be very healing…music is’s part of our lives, music connects to our emotions …to our brain, to our body. I even composed a haiku for my Japanese class …”utsukushii ongaku kiku to…yuuki ga deru” own translation is that…listening to beautiful music brings forth healing energies within me.

For example, Each Day Anew… “the Buddha’s Great Light, infuses me with a bountiful vitality, to do what day’s duty calls, to my best and to my joy…”

I used to play this CD everyday, as I drove my mom to Day Care…with the sun shining… symbolizing for me… Buddha’s Great me the courage to do what I needed to do to take care for her..… and to live my life’s journey.

So you probably guessed that’s how I got the title to my gatha…. Buddha’s Great Light. And thank you for playing Buddha’s Great Light on your White Way radio broadcast.

And saying Namo amida butsu which is so much a part of Buddha’s Great Light, helps me live my life.

I remember Reverend Sonam Bhutia who came to the Buddhist Study Center in 2017 ….saying that Namo Amida Butsu is a super duper power….I was so shocked when I first heard him say that… super duper power…

But you know what….I think he’s right!! Saying Namo Amida Butsu brings me peace and feelings of deep Gratitude especially when times are tough… like right now, during this pandemic.

And Revered Unno says, when we say Namo Amida Butsu, it is the Buddha calling us , it is our loved ones calling us …wishing for us to live a rich and meaningful life…wishing for us to live a life of peace…wishing for us to live a life of gratitude…

And parts of the final verse…of Buddha’s Great Light…

Spreading spirit of living with brave hearts, spreading spirit of caring, helping others…”

These lyrics are a tribute to our ancestors who brought Buddhism to Hawaii.. There’s a Memorial to Pioneers in Mililani Mortuary Park and the late Reverend Toshio Murakami translated the Japanese inscription to English when we had gathered at the Memorial to open the O Bon season, many years ago.

“In l897, about 900 immigrants came from Japan to establish new lives in Hawaii on the sugar plantations. Inspite of living with harsh living conditions, they overcame these conditions to make better lives for their families. And they brought with them, a great spiritual Treasure of Buddhism. Because of this spiritual treasure, they were able to live with endurance, live with a caring attitude of helping others with compassion and Love.

“And it is their wish that we all carry on…to live our lives with this guiding light… this great spiritual treasure of Buddhism. And to spread that spirit of endurance and to live with a caring attitude of helping others with Compassion and love to all people of the world.”

As I walked around the memorial looking at all the names of the pioneers on this memorial, I saw my family name, YASUI …but I couldn’t read the other kanjis connected to it. There was a voice in the back of me that said….”Hiroshima Ken, Yasui Heitaro” And I said, “Oh my goodness, that’s my Grandfather !” (who I never met). I called my best friend and told her about it and she said, “Carrie, your grandfather’s spirit is in you…no wonder you’re so devoted to your church.”

And I also discovered through Reverend Murakami, that my maiden name, Yasui…means Peace..can you imagine how joyful I felt…to know that Yasui didn’t only mean cheap and inexpensive as I had thought all these years…but it means Peace… the kanji means …through the well…springs forth Peace.

I am so grateful for all the causes and conditions, known and unknown that brought me to the Hongwanji …most especially to my dear mother who sent me to temple as a little child. I asked my mom, What made you send me to temple ? And she said that the temple was such a big part of her life…in fact…throughout her life…. she’ll be 105 on October 7. And she wanted the same for me. She lived across the road from Waialua Hongwanji and her mother was always helping at the temple and my mom was always “tagging along”. 

Another gatha, Because I Met you…

Fully I will live, many times my heart feels deep within such meaning in each day as a life I am blessed to live…”

Singing this gatha has truly helped me to realize that I have been so blessed to be able to live this life…. while singing this song during the pandemic..…I was awakened to my father telling me…decades ago…that he was so grateful that I was able to live. .. because I was breach baby…and the doctor told him that he didn’t think I would be able to survive……so while singing the dharma words… my tears kept flowing… so grateful to be alive.

Another gatha…Let’s live, live and light the world, ever kind, ever brave..

Let’s live, live and light the world …with each and every day…

And these lyrics have become part of my daily aspiration…

When I go before the obutsudan in the morning and upon retiring for the night.

And finally, May Peace Prevail…People have asked me…what inspired you to write the lyrics ? I truly believe with all my heart, that the lyrics to May Peace Prevail …and everything connected to it…all came together through the Light of Other Power …and not through my own self power… When I first learned about the contest, I felt deeply compelled to write Peace lyrics.. having been living through a most difficult period in our lives… trying to live in peace, was most important…above everything else. Writing the lyrics has definitely been an instrument of peace and healing for me and my family for which I am most humbly grateful for.

Here’s more words by Reverend Unno.. that made me light up …when he said…

“Buddhism won’t survive unless
women of the temple spread their arms open to others…
because women feel from the ground up.
Women…are the basic form in which Buddhism will grow.
Women …are more connected to life…
to earth…to people…
women are nurturers…by their very nature…
We need to make Buddhism available to the wider public.”

I can never forget Reverend’s words because just when he finished speaking..… my husband stood up in front of everyone at the seminar and said that he was brought to Buddhism through my influence.

And Reverend’s words made me reflect very deeply… because it was through the women of the Hongwanji that brought me to Mililani Hongwanji nearly 30 years ago. I was a drowning sailor, my self-power was bankrupt…. and it was my 3 women teaching partners….who happened to be all Hongwanji members…all BWA members… from Waialua, Wahiawa and Mililani … all three of them urged me to return to my family religion….the Hongwanji…which I had left during my college years. I am truly, truly grateful that I listened to them. they were all my elders. And I remember saying to them…how can I ever repay you for all your Kindness and concern….and they said. Carrie…pass it on.

I remember when I first came to Mililani Hongwanji, sitting all alone, Reverend Motoyoshi’s mother, would come and sit next to me…talk with me… making me feel welcomed and comfortable. And I can still remember that first Sunday at MililaniHongwanji, singing the gatha Namo Amida Butsu…my tears kept flowing throughout the song and I felt I had come home….to my spiritual home.

After going to temple for about a year…Dennis wakes up one morning and says he’s going to temple with me. I told him he doesn’t have to but he said..I want to. Dennis was raised a Catholic so when we were going to get married, he said, “ Carrie, I’m not going to be a Buddhist” and I said, “ …I’m not going to be a Catholic.” Now, he’s more active than I am at our temple. I call him a Catholic-Buddhist! And my mom and I are most grateful for all that he does to help the temple.

After being a part of Mililani Hongwanji temple for a few years, it was our then minister’s wife, Mary Fujitani, who encouraged me to join the BWA. And Mary does not take no for an answer. And that was the beginning of being a part of the BWA.

I’m sure that you can see all the women of the Hongwanji that opened their arms to me for which I am so very, very grateful for.

More words by Reverend… He says…that our task in life is to open our hearts and minds to the world around us…. to treasure our relationships…

Many health research reports..including the Blue Zones Project have found that being being socially connected is the number #1 factor to living healthy, happy lives…and there’s research that says..going to church is one of the most effective ways of being socially connected.

With this pandemic, we haven’t been able to go to church and talk with one another..…so I try to connect with family and friends through telephone calls, and emails.

The pandemic has given Dennis and me time to walk everyday…and something very nice has been happening….on our walks, we try to acknowledge people we meet along our way…. And we have been coming to know some of them……we’ve been talking to our neighbors we see working in their gardens, in their garage… and with the children playing on our street……we’ve even come to know some of our neighbors whom we’ve never ever seen before…

Reverend goes on to say that our task in life is to take good care of our bodies…with the pandemic, I’ve had time to study videos that friends have sent about being healthy…one in particular…Eating to Fight Disease by Dr. William Li…so we try to cook healthy .. ……eating more vegetables, nuts, Seeds, whole grains… fruits, some animal protein..especially fish…… limiting our sugar and simple carbs…taking our food supplements…

Doing what we can to strengthen our immune system .

We’re also spending more time working in our yard.. our yard has never looked this good in years…plus getting our Vitamin D through sunshine.

And finally… Reverend says to live fully and gratefully. …which I believe is our spirituality… I have truly come to believe, that going to the Buddha for guidance,going to the dharma for guidance, going to the sangha for guidance…are truly the path to Peace…to living a rich and meaningful life…to living a life of gratitude.

Ruth Tabrah said …”listen to the dharma as though your life depended upon it” …and I had to do it…to help me walk in peace. Reverend Makino said, “listen to the dharma and you will be able to live through any adversity in life…” Reverend Unno said “when our self power goes bankrupt, there’s only other power left to help us.

Continue to listen to the Dharma so the Buddha’s Light can continue to penetrate within us, helping us …to live meaningful lives….helping us… to create a more peaceful and harmonious world.”

Such powerful dharma words… that have stayed with me.

So in closing, I’d like to repeat Reverend Unno’s words that have become part of my daily aspiration…

“Our task in life, is to open our hearts and minds to the world around us,
To treasure our relationships,
To take good care of our bodies,
And to live fully and gratefully.”

And my health guru, Dr.Terry Shintani says it this way…”take good care of our spiritual, physical, social and emotional health.”

Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu.

Thank you very much.

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