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    BULLETINTEL (310) 477-7274 FAX (310) 477-6674

    Email: westlabt@verizon.net Web: www.wlabt.org


    Vol. 54, No. 5 May 2011

    2003 Corinth Avenue West Los Angeles, CA 90025

    In Memoriamto all those who died in the Great Earthquake of March 11, 2011 in Japan.

    To those who endured and continue to suffer through this unspeakabletragedy, we send our heartfelt thoughts for healing and recovery.

    Namo Amida Butsu.

    Katsuo Maiya, 73, inconsolable in front of the rubble where his sister-in-laws house stood in Rikuzentakata,Japan. His sister-in-law and her husband were killed in the March 11 earthquake. (AP Photo)



    West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple May 2011

    Once again we have witnessed

    great uncertainty and the inter-

    connected relationship of all

    things with the tragic earth-

    quake and tsunami in Japan

    that occurred on March 11. As of

    this writing, people everywhere

    are in awe and saddened by this terrible disaster

    resulting from the enormous power of nature that

    is hidden in every part of the universe. There are

    no words to describe or console those who are

    still in great despair at this very moment. I can

    only share the above words I often read during

    memorial services. As we continue to pay our sin-

    cere respects to all those who have lost loved ones

    or homes, we can only hope that they may recover

    as soon as possible and return to their normal


    Although we try to plan our lives and hope that

    they will be peaceful, happy, and trouble-free, we

    are always cognizant and mindful of the reality

    that these catastrophes can happen anywhere

    and at anytime. It is often when they hit close to

    home and affect us directly that we come to truly

    wake up to their power. This tragedy has been felt

    by many of us because we or someone we know

    may have family or friends in the areas affected.

    Recall the great tsunami of December 26, 2004

    in Southeast Asia. A 9.1-magnitude undersea

    quake occurred off the coast of Sumatra and trig-

    gered a tsunami that killed some 220,000 people

    in countries around the Indian Ocean, including

    168,000 in Indonesia and scores in India and Sri

    Lanka. At that time we were in disbelief as we

    watched videos of the huge wave coming ashore

    and carrying inland everything in its path. Al-

    though the Japanese tsunami did not take as

    many lives, the scene was just as devastating due

    to the large number of towns clustered directly on

    the coast. Boats, houses, cars, debris, as well as

    victims, were carried up to six miles inland. In-

    stant video and media coverage enabled us to wit-

    ness and feel the magnitude of the destruction

    firsthand. Technology has brought us even closer

    to actual events in real-time. As a result, I felt

    overcome by crushing and indescribable emo-

    tions when I first saw the event on television. This

    has surely brought everyone in every corner of

    the globe closer, and the vastness of the world we

    used know has been reduced to local proportions.

    With this tragedy the world is also witnessing the

    true character of the Japanese people in a way

    they may never before have known. All of a sud-

    den, they have been exposed to international

    scrutiny and speculation about what makes them

    so noble, courageous, humble, civil and orderly.

    It seems stoic and odd to foreigners. Some have

    said that it is due to their long cultural and reli-

    gious history

    Japan Disaster

    Life is a sea of suffering and a valley of tears where flowers are subject to wither,

    the full moon soon to wane, where pleasure goes hand in hand with sorrow, and meeting

    spells of parting.

    Though the sea of life is stormy, and deep the valley of sorrow, even as the moon

    sees its reflection on troubled waters and its image in each drop of dew lodged on blades

    of grasses.

    So will the Light of Amida Buddha shine upon all sentient beings in the ten directions

    of the Universe and embrace all with his Compassion and forsakes them not!

    Our sufferings and sorrows are eradicated by His Wisdom. Our tears are dried up

    by His Compassion. And the darkness in our hearts is dispelled by His Light.

    There are many Buddhist explanations of

    why calamities happen: from collective

    karma to seeing calamities as signs of apoc-

    alypse, says Jimmy Yu, an assistant profes-

    sor of Buddhism and Chinese religions at

    Florida State University...

    Indeed, where Christianity, Judaism or Islam

    are often preoccupied with causes of disas-

    terthe questions of why God would allow

    an earthquake, for exampleEastern tradi-

    tions like Buddhism and Shinto focus on be-

    havior in reaction to tragedy.

    Its very important in Japanese life to react

    in a positive way, to be persistent and to

    clean up in the face of adversity, and their re-

    ligions would emphasize that, says Univer-

    sity College Cork's Bocking. Theyll say we

    have to develop a powerful, even joyful atti-

    tude in the face of adversity.

    (contd on page 3)

  • West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple May 2011


    Shinshu Corner

    The Family Altar (Butsudan) - Adornments(From Traditions of Jodoshinshu Hongwanji-ha

    by Rev. Masao Kodani and Rev. Russell Hamada, 1984, pp. 99-100)


    - Buddhist Handbook for Shinshu Followers,

    Rev. Shoyu Hanayama

    Traditionally, only white candles are used during

    the religious service. On specially designed occa-

    sions such as Shinran Shonins birthday

    (Gotanye), red or specially colored candles are

    used. Following the end of all religious services,

    the candles are extinguished by a quick fanning

    motion of the hand or by using a candle snuffer.

    The flame of the candle must never be extin-

    guished by the blowing of ones breath.


    Throughout the sutras, there are countless refer-

    rals to the offering of flowers. It is said that to

    offer even a single flower, one creates a connec-

    tion with the Buddha. Therefore it is not neces-

    sary to offer an entire bouquet at all times.

    Flowers are beautiful, and in this sense almost

    anything can be offered in substitution. But,

    flowers are very symbolic of the impermanence of

    this life and serve as a reminder of the necessity

    to awaken to the Ultimate Truth of Wisdom and

    Compassion. The flowers we offer are cut from

    the stems. Although we place them in water and

    they continue to live for some time, they are nev-

    ertheless dying. But yet, we are able to appreciate

    their beauty. The flower is very beautiful, vibrant,

    and full of life. As human beings, we too are dying

    from the instant we are born. Therefore, flowers

    are not offered as mere decorations, they are a

    constant reminder of our human existence.

    Traditionally, any flower in season may be used

    as an offering. However, poisonous and thorny

    flowers should be avoided if possible. In some of

    the larger family Butsudan, there are upper and

    lower shelves with vases. This corresponds to the

    arrangement found on many temple altar set-

    tings. In the vases on the upper level, evergreens

    are customarily placed symbolizing longevity. If

    at all possible, artificial flowers should not be of-


    At the moment there has been no closure. Japan

    is still in the first stages of accounting for all

    those who have died, disappeared, and been dis-

    placed. Much needs to be done in terms of recov-

    ery and moving on to the next stage. We can only

    observe how their strong character once again be-

    comes the backbone of their resolve to rebuild, as

    we continue to send our sincere well wishes.

    Rev. Fumiaki Usuki

    No one can see anything in the darknesswithout light. Candlelight is the symbol ofthe wisdom and compassion of the Buddhawhich illumine the darkness and ignoranceof human beings. The candle flame is al-ways flickering and moving in the breeze.If the breeze is strong enough, the candlewill be extinguished. Like this, the breezeis ignorance or darkness which alwaystries to destroy wisdom, or light. In thissense therefore, it is better to have candle-light than electric light, since electric lightwill never be extinguished by mere breeze.Because of the wisdom of the Buddha, weshall be able to be freed from our passionsand be enlightened. Candle lighting is thesymbol of spiritual light or wisdom, in thedarkness of life.

    (Next Bulletin: continuation of Adornments)

    Butsudan (continuation from last issue)

  • 4

    West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple May 2011



    In the past several weeks as we have watched the multiple catastrophes

    in Japan unfold before our eyes, we are left stunned and speechless. The

    scale of human suffering is beyond what many of us have ever witnessed.