It was at the end of last year’s JSBTC directors meeting at the Steveston Temple that I heard from Brenda about a plan for this Living Dharma Center project. They hoped to gather temple members’ feelings of gratitude that came out of their daily lives, in essay form.
Around that time, a year and a half had passed since my husband, Rev. S.K. Ikuta returned to the Pure Land and I was gradually coming out of my deep sorrow. I was starting to realize how fortunate I was to be able to live my daily life so peacefully and comfortably. I thought this was a good opportunity to express and write my feelings of gratitude which I feel day and night.
I also wanted to tell everyone how my husband felt during the latter part of his life. From about a year before he passed away as he was losing his physical strength, his feelings of gratitude for the days he spent as a minister got deeper every day. He felt from the bottom of his heart that his life as a minister was allowed to happen solely because of the many people who surrounded and supported him. He wanted to thank each one of these members and I would like to relay his deep gratitude to all the people in this Canadian Buddhist sangha.
In 1956, Sus was studying Buddhism at the Ryukoku University in Kyoto. He was hoping to become a Buddhist minister in Canada after graduation. I was introduced to Sus by his teacher, Professor Naobayashi and eventually came to Canada as the wife of a young Buddhist minister in 1958. I had just graduated from University and I came here very young and embarrassingly conceited, thinking that I could be a leader and would guide people. With these thoughts I left my homeland far behind and jumped into a new life in a foreign country.
But the reality of my life was not that simple. We started our new life in Vancouver. Adjusting to a new country, a new environment, learning the Canadian way of life, raising four children who were born so close to each other, I was simply over whelmed with daily life. Such thoughts to be a leader of our temple and members were long gone. I had to face how immature, inexperienced and inadequate I was and became downhearted. When I was almost at the very bottom, there were some elder members in the Vancouver Fujinkai who warmly took this immature and foolish me into their community.
They took my hand and very kindly taught me how to find my way in the day to day life in Canada.
For sixty years, I found that compassion wherever I went: in Steveston, Calgary, Toronto, and elsewhere, just as at the Vancouver Temple, kind, experienced and wise people were always there to help me. Thus I deeply feel that every day of the sixty years I spent with my late husband in the temple world was a precious learning experience.
After my husband passed away I moved from Lethbridge to Steveston where our youngest son Grant is the resident minister of the Steveston Buddhist Temple. I was searching for the place where I would likely spend the rest of my life. Looking at things from every angle, I came to the conclusion that this was the most suitable place for me.
First of all, I could live very close to the temple and attend the Steveston Buddhist Temple’s services and activities as often as possible. I feel that at the present time of all things, to go to Otera is the most joyous thing I can do. When I am at Otera I am at peace.
Secondly, of course compared to Alberta, the weather in Steveston is very mild. I was shocked when many flowers started blooming at the end of February. I could go for walks anytime without worrying about ice or snow.
Steveston still retains the old fishing community values of warmth and kindness, so it is more comfortable to live for an old person like myself. Also, my parents in law, Rev. Shinjo and Mino Ikuta, lived in Steveston for their entire retired life and several of my husband’s siblings and families live there. When our children were young and we lived in Vancouver, we spent lots of weekends and holidays there.
My husband was very involved when the new temple in Steveston was built over fifty years ago so in these many ways I feel that our family has a long standing relationship with the people of Steveston. When I moved here, the people welcomed me with warmth and kindness as if I was a family member coming home after a long absence. I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude.
Over one year has passed since I was welcomed as a Steveston Buddhist Temple member. Here again, I realized there are many many members quietly supporting and holding up the temple like many stars shining in the dark. When I was the wife of a minister my position did not let me see the many people supporting their temple activities with such selfless dedication.
I now see how many people worked tirelessly and that their force was the most important factor that made it possible for our teaching to take root and blossom on our Canadian soil. I wonder how many countless people over the years supported and devoted themselves to the temples quietly without complaining to anyone. Their work gave us a chance to live now as Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in Canada and for the next generation to carry on with the work of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada.
Before I close, I want to explore one more important point. Where did this selfless devotion come from? Isn’t it because the Onembutsu was the way of life for our temple ancestors and it was Amida Buddha’s teaching that motivated their daily life?
My heart is full of gratitude to these people because they have given me the chance to live every day in tranquility on this Canadian soil, embraced by our precious teaching together with our warm hearted Sangha. I can’t help but bow my head to say thank you and Namu Amida Butsu to everything and everyone that made this possible.
Namo Amida Butsu
April 5, 2016