Minister's Corner

Rimban Shindo Nishiyama
Buddha said, “We were born alone, come alone, and leave alone.” This sounds a little sad or negative; however, this is a very strong message for us to live by in this real life: In Japanese, “ICHIGO ICHIE”; in English, “One life time and one meeting”.
  There is a first meeting and there is a last meeting because life is impermanent. However we have the Onembutsu, which we can recite anytime and anywhere with everyone.

The Nembutsu is given by Amida Buddha’s Infinite Wisdom and Compassion to all living beings without any conditions. Shinran Shonin said, “The Nembutsu is true and real.” When we were born, the Buddha’s mind also began with us. It stayed with us, lived together and went together wherever we went. We were not  born  alone  nor  do  we live alone. The Nembutsu, “Namoamidabutsu”, is always living together with you and me anytime and anywhere, like our mother’s love.

I am often asked about the Nembutsu, Namoamidabutsu.  Most people ask, “Sensei, why do we recite the Nembutsu? Or, “What does the Nembutsu mean?”

Do you remember when you first said, “Mother, or Mom, or Mommy, or Okaasan?” When we call “Mom”, there is no question who we are calling.

“Mother” is understood by everyone. We have our own memories about our mothers.  The word “mother” brings loving care, sad tears, delicious bentos, cheerful smiles, and encouragement. We remember with a deep sense of gratitude. Someone told me that when he was in the service in WWII, he found that most soldiers, upon facing death in the battlefield, called out,  “Mom!” before they died. (Sorry but they didn’t call their wives). They all wanted their Mom or they wanted to have their moms as they faced death.

Jikoen Hongwanji’s long time very dedicated member, Mr. Kiyuna passed away on January 1, 2017. Last year in March, I was called by his daughter, Joyce, to visit  Mr. Kiyuna because he wasn’t eating, and the doctor told her Mr. Kiyuna has only a few days to live. So I went to see him and conducted bedside service with chanting. He was sleeping, but when I held his hands, he woke up and looked at me and said, “Sensei, I don’t go yet. I still have jobs at Jikoen”.

The day before he passed away, he told Joyce, “Mom is coming”, so she thought he meant his wife, Sally, so she said,  “ Mom is here”. But he said, “No big Mom is coming to me”.

The Nembutsu is like our “Mom, Mommy, Mama, and Okaasan” for everyone to say or recite easily anytime and anywhere.  When we recite, Namoamidabutsu, full of compassion and unending vows come to us.

We were born alone, come alone, and die alone, but my life and your life are always embraced by Amida Buddha’s great Compassion and Infinite Light and Life. We just recite Onembutsu with deep gratitude and receive it as we are. Namoamidabutsu has every- thing that we need. It’s the calling of the name, which is the path to be reborn into Nirvana. 

As your new Rimban, I am looking forward to seeing all of you Hilo Hongwanji Betsuin members and friends at our Sunday Service. Aloha and Mahalo in Gassho,


Rev. Bryan Siebuhr

Follow Rev.B@bsiebuhr on Twitter

(Rev. Siebuhr has two articles, please scroll down for 2nd article)

Thoughts on Las Vegas and Prayer Vigils

Rev. Bryan Masashi Siebuhr 

I cannot even begin to express the profound sadness I feel each time a new community, this time Las Vegas with 59 killed and 527 wounded, all within a period of just ten minutes, grieves and endures the same pain that brought Orlando, FL to its knees just 4 months ago killing 5 people; on Jan 6,2017 in Fort Lauderdale, FL killing 5 people, injuring 6; on September 23, 2016 in Burlington, Washington killing 5 people; on June 14, 2017 in San Francisco, CA killing 3 people; on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, FL killing 49 people and injuring 58 people; on Dec 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, CA  killing 14 people and injuring 22; on Nov 29, 2015 in Colorado Springs killing 3 people and injuring 9; on October 1, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon killing 9 people and injuring 9 more; on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga Tennessee killing 5 people and injuring 3; on June 18, 2015 in Charleston, SC killing 9 people; on May 23, 2014 in Isla Vista killing 6 people and injuring 7; on April 2, 2014 in Ft. Hood, Texas killing 3 people and injuring 16; on September 16, 2013 in Washington, D.C killing 12 people and injuring 3; on June 7, 2013 in Santa Monica, CA killing 5 people; on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut killing 27 people (20 first graders and six adults) then the mother of the killer at the home they shared; and finally an additional 307 killed and hundreds injured from the day of the Newtown killings going back to July 18, 1984 by mass shooters alone in the United States.

I also cannot begin to express too the profound sadness I feel for those who live in the South Side of Chicago which has seen 543 people murdered so far this year, an average of approximately 54 people per month; 751 people murdered in 2016, an average of 62 people per month; 495 people murdered in 2015, an average of 42 people per month; and 428 people murdered in 2014, an average of 36 people per month.  Where is the outpouring of compassion for the people of the south side every single day?  A problem which it seems no one cares to place as a priority since it is happening in the black community and not in our backyard.  The fact of the matter is black lives do matter just as much as the lives of people of any race.

The fact of the matter too is that regardless of circumstances, no one deserves to die.

I was recently assigned to attend a Christian prayer vigil for those who had lost their lives in the Las Vegas tragedy.  Though we do not have prayer in Buddhism, it would seem that the purpose of any prayer should not be to influence some omnipotent god, but to deepen the self-understanding of the one who prays by reflecting inward.  Even if we constantly pray, whether for social or personal issues, and we ourselves cease to change, then you should re-examine the nature of your prayers and the reason for your prayer.

Do we simply hold a prayer vigil after a tragedy then move on with our lives as normal, vowing to hold another prayer vigil after the next tragedy?  We must instead finally start the conversation on how to end these tragedies.

This conversation must begin with a discussion we have with our own self, for as human beings we each possess the capacity to inflict cruelty and kill sentient beings on a massive scale.  In order for us to live, we are responsible for killing millions of living beings such as plants, animals, and even insects that enable us to continue to receive human life  All life is sacred, not just those of human beings. As for other human beings, we do not kill one another not because we are good people, rather we have never met the causes and condition to kill even one person none the less 100 people.

Such that the truth of interdependence is one of the immutable laws of the universe, any change that has a chance of being effective is one that begins with seeing one's own true nature.  Anything else is the projection of our egotistical self.  Should we not look inward, then we have done nothing to stop the perpetuation of ignorance in our world.

As for thoughts and prayers, your thoughts should be about steps to take to stop this carnage, beginning with yourself.  As for prayers, should you believe in the efficacy of prayer, your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing — again.

 In Gassho,

Bryan Masashi Siebuhr

Associate Minister

Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin


Rev. Bryan Masashi Siebuhr

During my lifetime, I have come into contact with two people who later took their own lives. The first was a colleague with whom I worked at the Cape, and the second was the husband of a member of the temple to which I was assigned. To this day I grieve for them wishing there was something I could have done to prevent them from taking their own lives. Unfortunately, my complete ignorance contributed to an unwanted outcome though contrary to popular belief, not all suicides are preventable.

Suicide affects people from all age groups.  In 2015, suicide was the leading cause of death in people 15 to 34 years of age, and the third leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14.  Just today I read an article by the Associated Press (AP) that 50% of college students have contemplated suicide during their undergraduate program.  If you have a child in college, it is particularly important to listen for signs of despair, anxiety, or depression.

I have read different interpretations by as many ministers of the Buddhist teachings on the topic of suicide with wide interpretations including one who said that to take one's life is to take revenge on one's negative karma. Buddhism teaches that life is invaluable, our life being one of limited time and occurrence.  Buddhism uses the parable of the tortoise swimming in the ocean that, every thousand years, comes up for air.  During that time, a wreath is floating in the water, traveling with the ebb and flow of the tides and currents.  The chance of the turtle, which comes up for air only once every thousand years, and happens to come up for air in the middle of the wreath, is the same as the likelihood of being born into human life.  I have taken certain liberties with this story without changing its original meaning.  Though the probability of being born into human life is immeasurable, and living this truth has profound life-changing implications, I am not certain that relating this story to one who is contemplating suicide would have much effect.

Many people have differing opinions on suicide to include labeling people who take their lives “cowards” or worse.  Even some Emergency Room nurses who receive people who have injured themselves through attempted suicide become irate saying, “We spend our entire careers trying to keep people alive and you want to die.”  The fact of the matter is that to commit suicide takes a lot of courage, and the majority of people who attempt suicide suffer from some form of mental illness, particularly major depressive disorder.  The brain is like any other organ – if someone has a heart attack or stroke, we do not blame or shame them.  So why should those who have mental illness leading them to contemplate suicide be stigmatized or rejected?

Let's take the example of one who has a major depressive disorder.  If we have a computer and the Central Processing Unit (CPU) is not working correctly, regardless of the data you try to push through the computer, it is incapable of registering or being processed correctly.  Thus, even if we use parables or talk about the immeasurable value of human life, I don't believe these ideas can be understood by those who are close to taking their own lives.

However, if we look at this from a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist perspective, the fact that we are embraced by the active workings of infinite compassion and infinite wisdom is to mean that because of the actions we have taken, all of the thoughts we have thought, and everything we have said, we are unconditionally embraced by the Buddha of Infinite Compassion, Infinite Wisdom, and Eternal Life without exception.  If in the moments of deep despair, or when we experience the effect of our negative karma, and it seems like we are in hell, where is Amida Buddha?   Amida Buddha is within us sitting in hell and out of compassion shedding many tears seeing us in suffering.

What brought this to mind is that I recently had an opportunity to attend a seminar on suicide here in Hilo where they taught how to recognize and approach those who are contemplating taking their own lives.  This doesn't mean that We were not trained to stop suicide, but to help those who are suicidal to get qualified help.

  Some of the warning signs of someone who is contemplating suicide are:

·      Feelings of hopelessness or desperation

·      Insomnia

·      Panic attacks

·      Social isolation

·      Feeling overwhelmed

·      Irritability

·      Rage

·      Feelings of being a burden

Also included in the list is change in dress or cleanliness, i.e. someone who is normally clean and wears fresh clothing wearing rumpled clothing or they appear to not have personal hygiene.

If your child or anyone you know exhibits such symptoms, take them seriously.  Do not make light of their suffering.  They are calling out for help.

The vast majority of those contemplating suicide do not want to die.  What they do want is a relief to their problems and for them they believe that suicide is a viable option.  If it is possible to intervene, then you may have saved someone's life.

Imagine if we were all able to recognize those in distress and be catalysts for connecting those contemplating suicide to qualified help.  Together we can make a difference.

I am not a Mental Health Professional, What Can I Do?

Again, unless we are trained mental health professionals, we are limited in our ability to help another.  However, we are not powerless.  We can intervene and in so doing possibly save a person's life by following steps outlined below:

The key to remembering these steps is the acronym “TALK.”

T – Tell – Approach the person and tell him/her that you have noticed certain changes in their behavior, dress, attitude, or mood, and that people who exhibit such symptoms are often contemplating suicide.  Do not be afraid to be blunt; do not use the words “seeking to harm themselves” as this takes on a different connotation from the word “suicide.”

A – Ask – Ask if they themselves are contemplating suicide.  Just asking can help bring them back from the edge.

L – Listen – Just listen.  The majority of people who are contemplating suicide want someone who will listen to them. Do not be judgmental or critical and don't offer your own advice.  Just listen attentively and don't look at your watch or greet passers-by.  It could be 30 minutes, an hour or two hours; just sit and listen.

K – Keep Safe – Tell them that you know of someone who can help “us” and make sure that they are safe from danger.  Ask them if it is okay to contact your resource and wait with them until that resource arrives.  Then bring the resource person up to date in the presence of the one who was contemplating suicide, and ask them if there is anything you might have missed.  Tell them that they are in good hands and you will check in on them later.  It is also important for you to keep safe.  If they say they have a weapon within reach then while speaking to them, back away from the weapon.  You do not want to endanger your own life.

Don't limit your help to just people in the temple community or your circle of friends.  If you see someone crying or looking despondent on a park bench for example, go up to that person and use the TALK methodology described above.  They may not have been contemplating suicide, and if this is the case, then great!  If on the other hand they were, you might just have saved a life.

To help them Keep Safe, Call 911 and wait with them for help to arrive or drive them to the Hilo Medical Center emergency room for psychiatric evaluation.

Though we may possess limited compassion and limited capabilities, this does not mean that we cannot try to express compassion and concern no matter how limited they may be.  Together we can make a difference in our community.


In Gassho,

Bryan Masashi Siebuhr

Associate Minister

Rev. Daido Baba                                                                 

 The gatha, “Ondokusan”

     First of all, do you know the gatha “Ondokusan”?  Ondokusan is the most famous gatha in Jodo Shinshu in Japan. In Hawaii we sing the Nembutsu as the closing gatha.  However, in Japan, you may not know that we don’t sing the Nembutsu all the time.  In Japan, the Sangha sings Ondokusan II as the closing gatha. 

Let’s move to the meaning of the words of Ondokusan.  In Japanese, 「如来大悲の恩徳は 身を粉にしても報ずべし 師主知識の恩徳も ほねをくだきても謝すべし」or “Nyorai daihi no ondoku wa, Mi wo ko ni shitemo houzubeshi, Shishuchishiki no ondoku mo, Hone wo kudakitemo shasubeshi” means “Such is the benevolence of Amida’s great compassion, that we must strive to return it, even to the breaking of our bodies; such is the benevolence of the masters and true teachers, that we must endeavor to repay it, even though our bones are crushed”.  You may feel that this is a very strong statement of a religious mind.  I have sung Ondokusan since I was a child.  At that time, I didn’t understand the meaning of that lyrics.  When I learned the meaning, I was surprised.  “Even if we must crush our bodies and break our bones, we should repay our debt in gratitude”.  I felt I couldn’t do it.  Shinran’s mind of gratitude is shown in these words and we can strongly feel Shinran’s expression of gratitude. 

The kanji of “On” from “Ondokusan” is like this .  This Kanji consists of two parts, and .  Fisrt Kanji “In” means “cause” while second Kanji “kokoro” means “heart or mind”.  Therefore, the word “On” means to keep in mind the cause.  That means knowing what I was given and what I received, I should return or repay with gratitude.  If you don’t know what you received, you can’t express gratitude.  So first we should know Amida Buddha’s hard work for each of us and how it was passed down to the seven masters.  If one of them were missing, we wouldn’t have received the Nembutsu teaching.  That is a wonderful baton passed on over two thousand years from India, though China to Japan.  And now you have come in contact with the Nembutsu teaching in Hawaii.  For the Nembutsu teaching to reach us, all work was completed by Amida Buddha, our founder Shinran Shonin and the seven masters.  Shinran Shonin can’t help but express his gratitude from his sincere heart.  We should focus more on and understand what we received and follow Shinran Shonin’s example of expressing gratitude for the Nembutsu teaching.

    We should think about how we can maintain a healthy body, a joyful daily life, and a meaningful Nembutsu life.  To do so, it is very important to know what I was given and what I have received.  Please think about it.  And let us express our gratitude with reciting the Nembutsu.

Namo Amida Butsu.


There are basic ways to let others know who we are, who to contact and what our situation is, etc., in case of an emergency in the event we cannot communicate our needs. This is especially true for elders and those with medical challenges living alone. Here are some suggestions c/o of our Project Dana we should always have in our wallet or bag another can go to immediately in an emergency:

1. Photo Identification

2. Medicare/Insurance card(s)

3. Medical Prescription Drug card

4. Emergency Contact Name(s) & Phone

5. Doctor’s Name & Phone 

6. List of Medication(s) & dosages (include OTC)

7. Allergies to drug(s), others

If such items can be put TOGETHER in a laminated jacket so anyone needing the information won’t have to look all over for them, it would be certainly helpful. Let a capable family member or advocate help you keep these items together and readily accessible to those who need to know. One day at a time – take care.

Contact the ministers

Contact information: Office phone: 961-6677

Cell phones for emergencies only:

Rev. Bryan Siebuhr: 339-5250

all our office at 961-6677 for arrangements.