It was a magnificent event the 60th anniversary commemoration of Shinran Shonin statue that stands in front of the New York Buddhist Church, which once stood in a park in Hiroshima and witnessed the Atomic bomb exploding over its city. On September 11, 2015 the American Buddhist Study Center sponsored the rededication service and program which was held at the New York Buddhist Church. Rev. Earl Ikeda head minister of the NYBC was pleased that Bishop Kodo Umezu officiated over the service in front of the Shinran Shonin statue. Bishop Umezu gave a Dharma message not calling for peace because peace means war. The Deputy Consul-General Mr. Yoshizane Ishii gave a message for world peace and told the story of Shinran Shonin coming to America. Dr. Greg Kimura the president of the Japanese American National Museum, Ms. Susan Onuma, president of JAA, George Hirose, Vice President of JACL, and the NY City Council woman Ms. Helen Rosenthal were all in attendance. Dr. Kimura came all the way from Los Angles to take part in this historic event. There were many interfaith monks, reverends and community leaders as well.
The Shinran statue was covered in a bright red and white curtain, at the beginning of the ceremony Bishop Kodo Umezu, Rev. Earl Ikeda, Isabelle Bernard (board chair of the NYBC), Mr. Bon Yagi, and Ms. Hoshina Seki pulled the curtain down to revel Shinran with his new bronze walking cane. Mr. Bon Yagi, President of T.I.C. group a devout Buddhist arranged to have the new walking cane made of bronze to replace the original cane that was stolen back in the early 80's. Up until now Shinran was holding onto an iron bar which was all rusted and peeling apart. The cane was crafted by metalsmith Shoji Miyazawa who works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was also the first time in 60 years that the Shinran statue was given a shower for this special occasion. What a marvelous sight it was as the curtain came down.
However, what made this event so amazing were all the people that came, many for the first time coming to a Jodo Shinshu ceremony. Mrs. Josephine Seki closed the service with the Gatha "Nembutsu." After the service everyone entered the hondo for the program. Hoshina welcomed everyone. Ms. Bernard thanked all the interfaith and community leaders who attending. Hoshina then read a message from Mr. Seiichi Kido, Assistant Secretary General, Hibankyo. Ms. Mitchie Takeuchi, Hibakusha got up and spoke of her grandfather Dr. Ken Takeuchi who was the founding president of the Hiroshima's Red Cross. She gave a poignant account of the suffering survivors of the Atomic bomb.
The keynote speaker was Rev. Dr. Mark Unno who gave a moving and powerful talk referencing back to D.T. Suzuki who gave the first keynote address back on September 11, 1955. It was if Rev. Unno picked up from where D.T. Suzuki ended his talk by saying "here is the statue of Shinran Shonin but where is the man." Mark answered the question so eloquently. At the end of his talk you could hear a pin drop before the huge applause.
In closing Christopheren Nomura sang a beautiful song from "Allegiance" a new Broadway musical based on George Takei's experience being interned during the Second World War.
After the program a wonderful reception was held. Mr. Yagi who owns many Japanese restaurants in New York City also arranged for all the food and refreshments. The sushi was so delicious and there was Itoen cold teas, Kirin beer and special sake from Hiroshima. At the end of the program Ms. Seki introduced Yagi-san who made the toast to Shinran Shonin. All in all, it was a most success historic 60th anniversary for the Shinran Shonin statue.
We continue to provide meaningful Buddhist programs for the community on a consistent basis. Pictured here is Dr. Richard Payne, Dean of IBS (Institute of Buddhist Studies) from Berkeley giving a talk on the Buddhist practice. Others speakers we hosted include Roshi Gentoku Kobayashi a Zen master teacher from Kyoto, Dr. James Dobbins, Religious Professor from Oberlin College and well known Shin Buddhist professor and author, Dr. Alfred Bloom.
"What is most significant about this volume is Monshu Ohtani wrote it in the context of the various problems and crises that have beset humanity in Japan and the world during his tenure. He looks beyond the simply personal nature of religion and its otherworldly character to see the Buddha calling modern people to take the teaching seriously and grip their responsibility to care for the world and society." – Rev. Dr. Alfred Bloom