The Vandalism at Higashi Honganji: Waking Up to Our Interconnection

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By REV. PETER HATA

The Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple was vandalized on Thursday evening, Feb. 25. The story was covered in The Rafu Shimpo, as well as on various local TV stations.

In most of the coverage, the vandalism was linked to the widespread rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. At the temple, lanterns were knocked over, wooden lantern stands set on fire, and one of the large front windows was broken by a rock. It’s being investigated by the LAPD, and steps are being taken to better secure the temple and prevent this from happening again.

Although we’ve had to remove graffiti from time to time, this is the first incident of serious vandalism and so it’s very disturbing to all of us. In the aftermath, we are so appreciative of all of you who’ve expressed your support for the temple and have offered to help.

Of course, this incident is what many might term a “wake-up call”; in this case, it has made us aware of the threat of anti-Asian hate. But in our Buddhist tradition, we often speak of a different kind of “call,” one that is “calling us to listen” to the Buddha’s teachings.

The essence of these teachings is the reality that all our lives are not only unpredictable and in constant flux — something certainly in evidence on the evening of Feb. 25 — but all our lives are also interconnected. And that especially in times of difficulty, in the shock and dismay we all felt upon seeing the damage to the temple, we are most able to sense this interconnectedness of our lives.

This interconnectedness has many layers of meaning. On the one hand, the vandalism has brought us closer to our fellow temple members, but on the other, the public outpouring of support has also underscored our ties to the community, locally, nationally, and internationally.

In addition, I believe we’re more aware of the connection between our temple and its teachings and the larger socio-political issues at stake, and that we must join together with others to speak out about the destructive nature of racially motivated anger and hate.

Also, because our community has long witnessed the violence that this anger and hate brings, we are grateful that in this particular incident, no one was injured.

It is this understanding of the fragile and precious nature of all our lives that the reality of the vandalism is calling us to wake up to. With this understanding, with this concern, how is it possible to lash out at our perceived enemies with anger and hate? And, in the deepest sense, because of the underlying interconnectedness of all life, when we inflict suffering on others, we’re also inflicting it upon ourselves.

Ultimately, the Buddha’s wish is for us to realize that we are intrinsically bound together with all life in one ever-changing and interconnected reality.

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