An article on our virtual sangha was published on Feb. 10, 2021, in the Hongwanji Shimpo, the newsletter of the Nishi Hongwanji temple in Kyoto that is distributed to over 10,000 Jodo Shinshu temples around the world. The English translation of the article, as provided by the publisher, follows the scanned image.
Look at those smiling faces of the Venice sangha (California, USA) sitting in the Hondo. People of all ages are facing forward with placing their hands together in Gassho. But looking closer, you will find that they are life-size cutouts?!
It is “virtual Sangha” that was created based on the suggestion from a temple member and president, Jerry Iseda (59). Under a ‘shelter in place’ order given to the entire state of California, the temple minister, Rev. Kory Quon began holding live-streaming service on Sundays. Hearing Rev. Quon saying he missed seeing actual faces of the sangha when conducting services alone, Mr. Iseda who also missed them, hit upon an idea of creating virtual sangha by placing cutouts. He says, “When Major League Baseball resumed its season, teams filled their stadiums with virtual fans. Seeing that, I got the idea. If baseball can do it, why can’t we?” He promptly made a move by addressing the sangha: “Let’s fill the Hondo with our panels. Submit digital photos to wall graphics manufacturer. Be sure to smile in a pose of hands together in Gassho while wearing a Monto Shiki Sho.” The response was tremendous. One after another, members responded to his appeal by ordering their cutouts. Soon members’ life-size cutouts filled the Hondo. The unique scene of Venice Hondo has become known to many, and even received several inquiries from neighboring temples.
Still missing actually seeing them, Rev. Quon is now surrounded with smiling faces of the sangha and it allows him also smile. Being encouraged by the members’ positive way of thinking, he says “With our Virtual Sangha, we can join together, even when we are apart.”Hongwanji Shimpo, Feb. 10, 2021