By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
RAFU STAFF WRITER
While issues of religious tolerance and cultural acceptance are nearly as old as humankind itself, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 brought a new emphasis to those challenges in the United States.
This modern focus on the differences that often divide people was in part the reason for this year’s theme at the commemoration of the birth of the Buddha, held Sunday at the Jodoshu Buddhist Mission in Little Tokyo.
“We wanted to focus on the idea of compassion,” said Rinban Noriaki Ito, the president of the Los Angeles Buddhist Church Federation, which hosted the celebration. “We need to be mindful of everyone’s feelings, and to remember to help others find meaning in their lives, while we celebrate our own.”
More than 100 attendees filled the temple hall for the afternoon service, which featured classical bungaku dance performed by Kinnara Gagaku, chanting and service from more than 10 priests from Federation churches, awards for the winners of this year’s art and photo contest and a speech by guest lecturer Dr. Glenn T. Webb, professor emeritus from Pepperdine University and one of the country’s leading Buddhist scholars.
For the 2,535th anniversary of the birth of the Buddha, Rev. Ito said now is a good time to reaffirm where we all stand in life, and that regardless of race, religion or nationality, we ultimately are not separated by countries.
“What we try to emphasize is the interdependence of all life. We are all part of one big life,” he explained. “We expend our love to all people, all over the world, and to all living things.”
In his remarks, Dr. Webb noted that the theme of the celebration, “compassion,” can be interpreted to fit several situations, from feeling for someone who has suffered a loss or injury, to the kind of compassion displayed by figures such as the Buddha or Jesus Christ. Rev. Ito said the term can also be defined as mindfulness, consideration, thoughtfulness or empathy.
Rev. Ito later addressed the challenges of fiscal health in economically depressed times, challenges which have not left religious organizations untouched.
“Buddhism is historically not a proselytizing religion. The tendency was always to set up temples and wait for people to come,” he said. “We try to keep to that idea, but we also realize that we need to reach out to communities.”
Sunday’s celebration was preceded by the annual Hanamatsuri Golf Tournament, held March 26 at California Country Club. The funds from that event go towards maintaining the annual LABCC Buddhist Summer Camp program.
The art and photographs from the children’s contest will be on display at Jodoshu through April 19.
For more information, contact (213) 626-4200 or email.