By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
ANAHEIM — More than 750 people turned out Oct. 8 for the long-awaited dedication of the newly renovated Hondo (main hall) at Orange County Buddhist Church in Anaheim.
The invitation-only ceremony marked the completion of OCBC’s 50th Anniversary Project. Phase 1 was the new Social Hall; Phase 2 was the Hondo as well as the onaijin (altar area) and courtyard. The total cost, raised over the last 10 years, was $9.3 million.
Guests included members of OCBC’s pioneer families, former church presidents, ministers from other Buddhist Churches of America temples, and the bishop of the BCA, which is headquartered in San Francisco.
Jim Pollard, OCBC religious chair, called the occasion “a notable moment for Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in America.”
Pointing out the altar furnishings, Pollard said, “Nearly everything you see on the naijin was placed here by the pioneer members more than 50 years ago. The furnishings have been restored to their original brilliance and given modern illumination by the Wakabayashi Company in Kyoto. Also, next door in the Nokotsudo (columbarium), you will see the beautifully restored butsudan that was used by the Orange County Sangha in Stanton prior to locating here.”
The ceremony included presentation of flags by the Boy Scout and Girl Scout Color Guard; kansho (tolling of the bell); a chigo procession, in which children 12 and under, wearing traditional kimono, hakama and headdress, walked to the accompaniment of gagaku (ancient Japanese court music); the entrance of the bishop and ministers; the chanting of “Sambujo” and “Juseige”; and a musical offering by OCBC Dharma School and Choir.
“It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to be standing here with all of you at the culmination of our wonderful 50th Anniversary Project,” said OCBC’s Rev. Marvin Harada.
“In 1965, about 75 families built the Orange County Buddhist Church,” he noted. “It was a monumental task, but those pioneering members had the dedication, determination and vision to establish the OCBC, building the original Hondo, Classroom Building and Social Hall … My thoughts first go to our pioneering members and our pioneering minister, Rev. Satoshi Hirata, for all that they did to establish and build OCBC … Those members, despite starting their own businesses and farms, gave tremendously to build this temple and to build this sangha (congregation).
“Fifty years later … this sangha took on just as monumental of a task, to build a new Social Hall and remodel the Hondo, to create a facility that will serve the needs of this sangha for the next 50 years and beyond. The sangha today has the same spirit, the same dedication, the same vision as the pioneering members 52 years ago. That is why we were able to complete this tremendous project that took the efforts of everyone, from Dharma School kids, who filled their donation cans with loose change and maybe their personal allowances, to our major donors, some who contributed even in the millions of dollars.”
Harada gave special thanks to four individuals who “truly went above and beyond the call of duty” — Phase 1 project managers Sus Iwamasa (who was unable to attend) and Louie Yamanishi and Phase 2 project managers Howard Nakagiri and Bill Sakahara.
“I know all of you shared in the warm, joyous feeling of fulfillment, knowing that we did something very valuable, something very special, very meaningful, not just for our sangha today but for our sangha of tomorrow, for generations to come,” Harada said. “I have no doubt that this sangha of ours will continue to grow …
“To all of our young people here today, I would like to say that 48 years from now OCBC will be celebrating its centennial … All of you will be leaders of OCBC by then. You will be board members or officers … Then it will be your turn to do something special for the future of OCBC … because that is the character of this sangha, from young to old. We take upon ourselves a huge task … because it needs to be done, because it is our privilege to do so.”
While he doubted that he will be present at the centennial celebration, “I can see it now already because I know that our younger generation of Jr. YBA, Sangha Teens, Dharma School students, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts … will do something meaningful, something significant, something valuable for future generations of OCBC sangha members.”
Rev. Kodo Umezu, BCA bishop, joked about the size of the crowd. “So many people here this afternoon. I have bad news for you. You need a new Hondo. This Hondo is too small.”
“The founders of your temple, they were inspired by the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings),” the bishop told the congregation. “They didn’t want just a building, they wanted a place where they could get together with their friends to listen to the universal vow extended to all beings … We are not living alone. We are not here just to live my life, but we are living in this world together with all beings.
“And the Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived and died 2,500 years ago, he’s still here, his wish is still here. Your founding fathers and mothers, they are sitting here together with us. You may not see them here physically, but they are here. I can sense them. Their smile, their joy, their recitation of ‘Namu Amida Butsu.’ They are putting their hands together in gassho, encouraging each and every one of us to come here and humbly accept the wish of the Buddha extended to all beings …
“The onaijin that you see here is the Pure Land described in the sutra. People today, they often ask, ‘Sensei, does Pure Land really exist? … To that question I like to say, ‘Yes, it does exist. What doesn’t exist is the world you and I see’ … The Buddha’s realm, the realm of nirvana, is true and real, embracing all beings equally … We forget, we do not practice Buddhism, we practice ‘I-ism’ … ‘I am right, you are wrong.’ That’s the way this world is, has been and will be. That’s the sadness of human conditions.
“Namu Amida Butsu is coming from our real home … from the Buddha’s true and real realm, and asking, wishing all beings to live harmoniously, showing respect and extending kindness to all beings, though we have different ideas and views. So this Hondo represents Amida’s vow, Amida’s realm, the world of oneness and this world, community, country … We need to open the door, open the gate for people looking for the true and the real where we can be one … as fellow travelers to the Pure Land. When we end our life, we go back to the home that my parents … that your parents returned [to]. They are here with us in the spirit of Namu Amida Butsu.”
Umezu expressed “my deepest appreciation to all the members and the future members of this temple who will receive the benefit of the Dharma.”
Dr. Alan Endo, OCBC board president, thanked members and ministers past and present. “We are grateful to the founding families who had the foresight and vision and resources to build this temple over 50 years ago. Many of our youth programs, cultural classes, religious programs were developed by our past leaders. Many of the original pioneers are no longer with us, but their presence can be felt. We thank the members of those families that originally established OCBC who are here today, and there are quite a few of them …
“This church is surely a village of families and individuals, young and old, who have a special commitment to OCBC. We have all worked very hard to raise the needed funds and to make many accommodations during the past eight years of construction. Those eight years included the tearing down of the Social Hall, the zoning of the Social Hall, to today’s completion of the remodeled Hondo. The strength and support of our members has been an inspiration to everyone …
“Please rest assured that OCBC will continue to be a family-oriented church inspired by our ancestors and our culture.”
Umezu and Harada conducted the certification of OCBC’s newest minister’s assistants, Janis Hirohama and Matthew Stolz.
Incense offerings were made by representatives of the Mindfulness Center (Nancy Clifton Hawkins), Endowment Fund Board (Howard Nakagiri), Buddhist Education Center (Ron Taber), Dharma School teachers (Nancy Suzuki), Dharma Wheel Club (Wyatt Mio), Sangha Teens (Taryn Noda), Girl Scouts (Emma Wakabayashi and Courtney Yada), Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts (Michael Nishimoto and Trevor Sasaki), Daion Taiko (Daryl Doami), Jr. YBA (Montgomery Hamabe), OCBC Sports (Nicola Furumoto), Project Kokoro (Lori Kosakura and Judy Terao Uyema), Orange County Japanese School (Toshiki Hara), Adult Buddhist Association (Margie Mio), Buddhist Women’s Association (Jodi Hisamoto), BCA (President Ken Tanimoto), Southern District Ministers Association (Rev. Kazuaki Nakata), and OCBC Board (Alan Endo).
The ceremony was followed by a group photo and dinner in the gym. Entertainment was provided by Daion Taiko, who performed “Totemo” and “Keiko no Uta”; singer Sayuri Nishi, who sang “Kawa no Nagare no Youni”; and the Ukulele Jammers, who played “What a Wondeful World” and “Paniolo Country.” Craig Ishii and Megan Ono served as emcees. Shokuzen no gassho was led by Rev. Mutsumi Wondra and shokugo no gassho was led by Rev. John Turner, who recently became a full-time minister at OCBC.
Special recognition was given to four individuals who were instrumental in completing Phase 1 and Phase 2: Jeff Folick, Aaron Nagayama, Louie Yamanishi, Bill Sakahara, Howard Nakagiri and Rev. Harada. Beth Fujishige and Rumiko Nakatani were honored for co-chairing the Hondo Dedication Committee. Also serving on the committee were Lynn Black, Lynn Chang, Alan Endo, Rev. Harada, Chris Hirata, Jodi Hisamoto, Joanne Ishii, Amy Iwamasa, Arlene Kato Lynn Morita, Howard Nakagiri, Rick Oishi, Diana Ono, Jim Pollard and Rev. Wondra.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo (except where noted)