Happy New Year everyone! 2014 promises to be a very exciting year for the Venice Hongwanji. Because 2015 will be the 60th Anniversary since the founding of our Dharma School, we will be starting a year-long program getting ready for the anniversary. In 2015, for example, we are in the preliminary planning stages of sending our Dharma School to Japan to visit the Mother Temple in Kyoto, Japan. In preparation for this pilgrimage tour, 2014 will focus on one very important aspect of the life of Shinran Shonin or the founder of Jodo Shinshu. 2014 will use as a theme Exile.
We chose Exile as a theme because Shinran Shonin was exiled and banished from the populated areas of Japan because of the religious persecution he had to endure. Although Exile suggests that one is being shunned from society and isolated from everyone, Shinran Shonin was still able to discover through Nenbutsu that even in exile he was always affirmed. Even after he was pardoned, he chose to stay in the area where he was exiled and began his life of propagating the Nenbutsu teaching. He was able to transform his exile into something that is even now helping us to find meaning in our lives.
Most of us probably don’t have to worry about being exiled, but we still find ourselves sometimes being made to feel isolated, unwanted, or unnecessary. This may be the “modern” way we exile ourselves from our true lives. Throughout 2014 we will be exploring this theme and how the Nenbutsu teaching as clarified by Shinran Shonin can help us to discover that instead of being exiled we are embraced and never forsaken.
As part of the Exile theme, please look forward to programs like our VHBT Buddhist Film Festival that will use Exile as its theme this year, our Dharma School outing to Manzanar Relocation Center, and other programs that we will be scheduling throughout the year.
Rev. John Iwohara