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Cleveland Buddhist Temple Newsletter

Dharma from the Forest City

Supervising Minister Rev. Ron Miyamura, 
Midwest Buddhist Temple

Contact Rev. Anita, Resident Tokudo Minister, CBT at:

October 17, 2020 Edition

Wasan 40

Trees of seven precious
materials fill the land,
Mutually reflecting each
other’s brilliance;
The flowers, fruits, branches,
and leaves all shine thus,
So take refuge in Amida,
the store of virtues fulfilled
through the Primal Vow

(Excerpt from A Pure Land Teaching Jōdo Shinshū Song of True Shinjin… Compiled by Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii 1999.)


Due to Covid–19, The Cleveland Buddhist Temple has suspended in person Shin Buddhist Services until further notice. Please contact us to request a special service. We look forward to resuming in person services soon!


No doubt about it - if I were a fish I would be hooked.  This hook didn’t come out of a tackle box.  This hook is of my own making.

It was the hook that caught me because of my inflexible attachments to my desires, expectations and my deep-seated need to be “right,” all the time.

I was out on the Atlantic Ocean off of New York’s Long Island last week to fulfill a request to scatter ashes of a special person in my life. And as all things, it was not as easy a request to fulfill as I first thought.  New York State requires you to be out at least 3 nautical miles off the coast of the United States to scatter ashes. No scattering of ashes off the Staten Island Ferry or the Statue of Liberty Ferry…

I went to two small marinas on the south shore of Long Island looking for someone who’d take me out the three miles.  The second marina was the success.  I bet when Adam, the owner of a 17 foot boat, woke up that morning, he had no clue he’d be taking a complete stranger out on his boat.

In fact, the only reason he was there was to install a radio in the boat for his daughter who was taking it out.  Ray phoned his daughter to ask if it was OK to delay one hour, and we were off into international waters.   

The day was perfect, the ocean calm and scattering the ashes with flowers fulfilled my final service to a dear person.  But where does the hook come in?  Well, on that Saturday morning there were more people out fishing on boats, from the shore, over bridges and on the beaches than I have ever seen on Lake Erie.  That made me think of fishing hooks and how awful they are to be caught by one…

And that thought, being caught by a hook with no way out no matter how hard one struggles made me realize why Jōdo Shinshū is so important in my life.  I am always caught by that hook of my own doing.  If I were “perfect” (we won’t even go into what a perfect person would look like…), and believed it, then I’d be in real trouble. 

In Shin, we know we are bonbus (foolish human beings) who are filled with greed, anger and folly and that we are still accepted to “come as you are.”  It is almost like a “catch and release” fishing experience.  I get caught, again and again, and each time I am released and hopefully with a bit more wisdom and compassion each time.

A little bit at a time I may learn to not take the bait of my own greed, anger and folly.  Because what I do here, in this life, has an impact, an impact I may not be aware of. 

Just like Adam, in his wildest imaginings had no plans to take his boat out, or meet a stranger from Ohio that morning and take her out to scatter ashes.  Adam was a bit bewildered and happy with the little cash gift for his troubles and now has a story that may be retold many times.  I was grateful to meet Adam, a kind person willing to stay out longer for my final goodbyes.

We will go for the bait and get hooked; the point is we come away each time knowing we may “come as you are” and when we do, do it with a bit more compassion and wisdom.

Namo Amida Butsu.

In Gassho,
Rev. Anita

Please email me at Would really like to hear from you, your comments, thoughts, or just to say “Hi.”

Jewels: An Introduction to American Buddhism for Youth, Scouts, and the Young at Heart by Kenneth Kenshin Tanaka BKD American, 2020.



Kenneth Kenshin Tanaka

Excerpts from Chapter 6 – Karma…

A Stolen Car

Let’s begin with a humorous episode between a Buddhist named Stephen, a relative newcomer to Buddhism, and his Buddhist minister.

STEPHEN: Can you bless my new car?

BUDDHIST MINISTER: What benefits do you hope to get from a blessing?

STEPHEN: I want nothing bad to happen to my brand-new car.

BUDDHIST MINISTER: We don’t usually do blessings since they go against our teachings, but if you really insist, I can do it as a pastoral service to give you peace of mind.

(A few weeks later, Stephen returns, really upset, to tell the minister that the car was stolen.)

STEPHEN: Reverend, my car was stolen yesterday! I feel that your blessing didn’t work.

BUDDHIST MINISTER: I’m very sorry to hear that, but that blessing doesn’t work for stolen cars; it works only for preventing the car from getting into an accident!

This episode is meant to point out the following relying on religion to prevent bad things from happening to us. Buddhism, or any religion for that matter, cannot control or determine what happens to us. What is important in Buddhism is not what happens to us but we experience life. So in this case, religion cannot prevent the car from being stolen or also from getting into a car accident but can help us mentally and spiritually to deal better with the misfortunes of life.

And how we experience our lives depends on the quality of the jewel of wisdom within ourselves. This wisdom can also be expressed as “understanding,” “view,” or “insight.” Whatever we call it, Buddhism encourages us to cultivate it.

What Karma Is Not

Before we move on to discuss the ways of cultivating the jewel of wisdom within, we would like to discuss the teaching of Karma. It is a well-known word but often highly misunderstood and misused. Let’s use the example of the stolen car.

Around use of the word is to say that it was Stephen’s Karma that the car was stolen, meaning that the theft of the car was due to “fate” or “predestination.” So, based on this way of thinking, no matter how much Stephen had taken steps to secure his car by always locking and parking it in safe places, this car was “fated” or “predestined” to be stolen.

Another wrong understanding of Karma is to think that Stephen was being punished for something “bad” he had done recently. Actually, a few days before his car was stolen, Stephen was so upset over his team’s loss in overtime in an important basketball match that he took out his frustration on others. He purposely stepped on a on the sidewalk and yelled at the family dog! However, these did not directly cause Stephen’s car from being stolen. The stolen car was not a punishment for his bad behavior.

In my understanding of Buddhism, there are two basic categories of cause and effect: 1) objective conditions and 2) personal Karma. Stephen getting his car stolen was a result of the first category but not the second. The objective conditions point to a myriad of circumstances that contributed to the act of being stolen.

These include the fact that Stephen’s car matched perfectly with the burglar was looking for and the burglar happened to have exactly the right tools for disarming the alarm system on Stephen’s car. So, the causes bleeding to Stephen’s car getting stolen are so innumerable that we are unable to identify them all. However, one thing is clear: the car was not stolen due to Stephen’s personal Karma.

The Real Meaning of Karma

What then is personal Karma? Karma means “action.” This action takes three forms or Three Actions: 1) intentional thoughts, 2) speech, and 3) bodily action. In other words, Karma refers to what a person does, says and thinks, primarily in the religious context of cultivating oneself. 1 Actually, Karma is very optimistic, because it encourages us to cultivate ourselves religiously and morally to be the best we can be. This clearly differs from the notion of fate, which is clearly pessimistic.

Second, Karma is applied primarily to oneself (first person). It should not be a means of judging others (third person), especially to explain why other people find themselves in unfortunate situations. So, we should not be saying to Stephen, “Oh, too bad, but that was your Karma,” implying that he was fated or that he was being punished. Karma should not be the tool for judging others.

Unfortunately, in the long history of Buddhism, Karma was used to explain the reasons for the plight of others. For example, the outcasts, the poor, and even the disable were told to accept and resign themselves to their condition because they were told they were suffering due to their past actions, including in previous lives.

We have so far talked mostly about personal Karma is not, so let us now discuss in greater detail what personal Karma is. As previously said, Karma refers to what a person does, says and thinks, primarily in the religious context of cultivating oneself toward the realization of Awakening.

When applied to Stephen’s case, had he been cultivating himself he would have been better able to cope with the loss of his car. Instead, he was extremely upset, felt victimized and even blamed others, including the minister even though the minister had explained to Stephen that blessings do not play any part in the main purpose of Buddhism.

Is Stephen had been studying the teachings to cultivate his thoughts, speech and bodily actions, he would have responded to the stolen car without being as upset and blaming others, and he might even have felt grateful that the situation wasn’t worse. He was not physically hurt, which was a real possibility had he been around the car during the burglary. So in the spiritually mature personal Karma, Stephen would have shown greater calm, understanding and even gratitude.

If you like, imagine a diagram that looks like a cross, with a horizontal

axis and a vertical axis. The horizontal axis represents the objective conditions in which we live, our daily lives of family, school, work and society. This axis is wavy to represent the bumpy nature of our existence. Many people that only this axis or dimension, which makes them subject to the ups and downs of their bumpy lives.

With those who cultivate their personal Karma possess a firm and stable vertical axis. They are better able to deal effectively with the ups and downs on their horizontal axis or their objective conditions. For example, if he had had a firm vertical axis, Stephen would not have become so upset, and he wouldn’t have felt victimized or blamed others. He would naturally have been unhappy for having lost his car, but his anger would not have been so intense and lasted so long, and it wouldn’t have impacted the rest of his daily life so negatively. In other words this individual would have shined brighter.

1 This does not mean that there is a religious realm separate from the everyday realm but rather points to the importance of one’s motivation and the manner in which the actions are carried out. Karma needs to be framed within one’s attempt to polish the jewel within for spiritual Awakening and to improve oneself by behaving ethically.

To be continued with excerpts from Chapter 6 – The Eightfold Noble Path

Wisdom from calendar page for October


Ara Ryokan

Wise people listen carefully while Ignorant people chatter mindlessly

Cleveland Buddhist Temple

21600 Shaker Blvd, Shaker Heights
Ohio 44122 United States

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