This is a Blog of the 2012 Federation of Dharma School Teacher's League Conference at the Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, CA on April 27-29. Like many blogs this runs chronologically backwards. (new on top). Hopefully, equipped w/ a better camera, Mas can record an upload videos as well as still shots of the events.

9:37 AM

And that's the wrap!

I'll be updating (including the rest of the video) as soon as I get home.

What a great conference! Thank you, Northern District! See everyone at Bay District (San Mateo) next year!
Namo Amida Butsu!
Good bye, Thunder Valley!

9:34 AM
Yumi Hatta on Upcoming CBE programs
Yumi announced that the Center for Buddhist Education (CBE) announced that in August, it will be presenting the:
  • ABC of Dharma School for both experienced and new Dharma School teachers.

Lots of other programs at the CBE site

9:00 AM
Morning Service

Entrance of the ministers


Installation of FDSTL 2012-14 Cabinet
President, Carl Yanari (Palo Alto)
Vice President, Koichi Sayano (LA Betsuin)
Recording Secretary, Maya Lawrence (Oakland)
Corresponding Secretary, Bessie Tanaka (LA Betsuin)
Treasurer, June Kondo (LA Betsuin)
Historian, JoAnn McLennan (Palo Alto)
Ex-Officio, Tad Shibata (Stockton)

Carl Yanari
I'm honored to be the new FDSTL President. FDSTL is about new ideas. Please forward any ideas to me or to the District representatives.

Richard Kai and Ken Furukawa, Conference Co-Chair
HUGE Thanks to the Committee and all their efforts.

NC FDSTL Conference Committee
Treasurer: Tad Shibata
Secretary: Carol Tamai
Registration: Harley & Judy Inaba, Yvonne Ishimoto
Hotel: Richard Kai
Program Booklet: Ruby Kato
Publicity: Steve Hiromo
Recognition Awards and Workshops: Patti Oshita
Transportation: Walter Menda

8:31 AM
A plug for the BCA Bookstore
Just a quick plug for Robert & Gayle Noguchi and their daughter for staffing the BCA Bookstore at the Conference. It really is a great service and it is so nice to see all the new books there.Thank you very much!

A couple of recommendations for new books:
  • Broken Tile: Essays of a Shinshu priest by Rev. Sakamoto
  • How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays MD
  • Life Simple by Rev. Yamaoka

Last I checked, the Bookstore had several copies still available.

8:22 AM
The conference committee set up a continental breakfast.

The danish was yummy and the croissants had a hint of lemon (which is what a classical croissant is supposed to have).

Here's Rev. Akahoshi... I caught him as he was balancing his morning coffee on his knees.
The man has no business being *that* smiley in the morning!

6:46 AM, Sunday 4/29
Uploaded some of the Video last night (Please see below) Unfortunately, the first half of the skit is too long for you tube and the laptop doesn't have video editing software. It'll have to wait till tonight.

Here's the view from my room...

Yesterday was clear and I could see Sacramento, but not today... Reminder to "Live for the moment" and to capture that picture when you have it! Yes. that is a Namo Amida Butsu moment!

8:11 PM
That's a wrap for the banquet!
Claudia Nakata says please say "Hi" to your dad!

7:59 PM
Bay District's Motion of Appreciation and invitation to next year's FDSTL Conference in San Mateo
By Maya Lawrence.

Flash mob sequence. Very neat! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera ready. Sorry about that... It started w/ Rev. Bridge playing his guitar and people from Bay District slowly starting to dance and moving to the front.
Conference theme is ICE =Ignorance, Craving,Ego; Interdependence,Compassion,Enlightenment; Interaction, Communication, Engagement

7:45 PM
Rinban Oshita's wrap-up

The meaning of the opening play was that the Evolution has been Revolution at times. Rev. Umezu said that Shakamuni Buddha and Shinran are no different from us in that they were searchers. Banthe said that being a DS Teacher is planting the seeds of Buddhism in our children. The first workshop was "Evolution" what was our Sunday School's like. Revolution was the second workshop and how to innovate to respond to the challenges that our children are facing. Hopefully was a brainstorming on what we can make our children's DS experience more meaningful. We were also asked to stretch our thinking and make the whole world our classroom. Nobuo Haneda: "Dharma is like water. Tradition is like a container for the water." The theme could have been "the future of Buddhism in ME." Finding intuitive path should be the same for all of us. Thanks to all and the Conference Committee.


7:34 PM
10 Years Service Award
Tracy Amioka - Sacramento
Carol Castle - Saramento
David Chin - San Mateo
Joni Hiramoto - Oakland
Debby Inenaga - Mountain View
Cindy Kawahara - San Mateo
Robert Noguchi - Oakland
Hishi Oto - San Mateo
Dave Scattergood - Seattle
Susie Taketa - Seattle
Julianne Tosaya - Seattle

25 Years Service Award
Mas Horiuchi - San Jose
Toshiko Uyehara - Mountain View
Laura Yamamoto - Orange County

50 Years Service Award
Bruce Shinohara - LA Hompa Hongwanji Betsuin

Congratulations and Thank you to all!

7:19 PM
Tribute to Chiz Kakiuchi
Koichi Sayano, "The most fitting tribute to Chiz is to commit to be the ones to make things happen in our Dharma Schools, District level and at all levels. Encourage the other 350 teachers that did not come to attend next year."
Nanayo Silver gave an empassioned words for Remembrance of Chiz.
Kaz Kakiuchi made words of gratitude on behalf of the Kakiuchi family.

Personal note: The last that I saw Chiz was at the FBWA Conference several days before. She was the happy, calm, supportive person that I always knew. I definitely miss her profoundly.

7:10 PM
Koichi M. did his voice impressions of famous people reciting Golden Chain, 3 Treasures, etc.: Sean Connory, Jar-jar Binks, Yoda and Shrek
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Verry funny! Unfortunately, he didn't want to do the Governator!

7:05 PM
My plate. The salmon was very yummy.

The dinner options included Wild Mushroom Rissoto, Chicken and Pork Tenderloin as well.

Delicious Raspberry Mousse also.

Table decorations by the Sacramento Betsuin Dharma School students

7:00 PM
Koichi Mizushima, the chairperson for the banquet, introduced the Kakiuchi Family and to warm up the crowd told us some Buddhist jokes.
Here are his jokes:
What does the Buddhist say to the Hot Dog vendor? Make me one with everything
Why did the Buddhist did not vacumm under the sofa? He didn't have any attachments
What did the Hot Dog vendor say to the Buddhist when asked for change? Change comes from within
How many Buddhist monks does it take to chang a light bulb? Same answer, Change comes from within

5:14 PM
Actually, it's the FDSTL General Meeting time...

Discussion on raising the process of raising the dues by $2.
Historian (Carl Yanari) Report: 535 Teachers, 2,543 Students 1~2% drop from last year. Copies of Stone Soup available. Please ask your superintendent. (I've posted a copy here)
Bishop's Project: Reiko Kondo as a candidate for the Bishop's Project Fund committee.
President's Report re: BCA's proposal to not have FDSTL be a voting member at the National Council. This was strongly rejected by Koichi Soyano, Acting President of the FDSTL.

That was it.

5:00 PM
Dinner time... The Workshop was pretty good. Lots of good ideas. The committee has notified me that I'll get their summary report. Also Judy Inaba told me that she will send me the script from the skit from this morning. I'll post both here when I get them.
Here's Judy's picture:

1:19 PM
Workshop I & II
I'm in the Team Lumbini. The room leader is: Shirley Scheres. The Team leader is Ken Furukawa.

Ground rules: be polite, be open, ask questions

Introductions via bean bag. (We got to throw a bean bag to a person who should introduce next)
  • Ken from Sacramento
  • BJ from Hawaii
  • Eiko from LA
  • Vickie from Reedley
  • Steph from Seattle
  • Lenny from Florin
  • Yuki from Florin
  • Nanayo from SF
  • Mas from San Jose

  • Changing roles of BCA Temples
  • Challenges facing BCA Temples

"What was the role of the Buddhist church when you were young?"
  • Ken: grew up in Guadalupe area. Service in Japanese only. Rev.Futaba drove the DS bus. Stay there most of the day. Extension of family. Santa Barbara was really different. More cultural. Didn't explored Jodo Shinshu until I was in the Army.
  • BJ: only been a Buddhist for 10 years. Thing that drew me was that it was not much of a religion as a way of life.
  • Eiko: my dad was the DS teacher and the bus driver. there was no question of what I was going to do on Sundays.
  • Nanayo: Dad didn't get many weekends off, so we only attended when my dad was free. Didn't have friends in Sunday School. My dad talked to me about Buddhism when my friend tried to convince me to convert to being Baptist. What wanted was feeling comfortable in a church.
  • Vickie: Didn't understand Buddhism until High School. Church was a great social occasion.
  • Tyler: Social. Church was a given. Brother stopped coming, that's when I first realized that it was a choice. Felt like I was a member of the community.
  • Steph: Had our nursery there. Was an identity, social and community focal point growing up.
  • Lenny: My baachan lived right next to Church. Having that hot dog right after church was a highlight of the weekend.
  • Yuki: My house was the temple. My father had to work at Tokyo, Kyoto, etc. It was fun

"Role of the Buddhist Church today?"
  • Nanayo: Community Center. To my family, center of our community. Multi-generational. Support throughout the years.
  • Steph: Cultural. Flower arrangement. Food, etc. Connect to "Being Japanese"
  • Mas: Point of Interest
  • Ken: Influx of students
  • Tyler: Effective way to imbue "good" morals. Safe environment.

"What did you learn in DS?"
  • Ken: Things started to take shape in Jr YBA. Annual meetings. First met Rev. Bob. "I don't care if you ever get to a temple again",
  • Steph: Learned Junirai, Golden Chain, Oshoko, Gassho
  • Eiko: Learned Shoshinge; Learned Jodo Shinshu later.
  • Mas: Which one is Rennyo and Shinran (in the Onaijin)
  • BJ: Public speaking from being chair person
  • Vickie: Basics of Buddhism

"What do our children face?"
  • Ken: World is too distrcting. No way to disconnect from the rest of the world.
  • Tyler: Buddhism seems too ideal w/ all the other things going on in the world
  • Eiko: Too many choices.
  • Nanayo: World says "do more things, then you'll be a better person" Buddhism says you need quiet time. No time to look up at the clouds. No time to just "be" which is what Buddhism is all about.
  • Lenny: Want to expose your kids to everything. Might be tough for the parents.
  • BJ: Need for balance. Take the time to think.
  • Steph: Internet and technology. Need to discern "truth" (parents as well as children)

"What do we want to teach?"
  • Ken: maybe not the terms, but how to use the Buddhist concepts
  • Tyler: putting Jodo Shinshu concepts into terms that understandable to students today.
  • Vickier: in school, teaching the vocabulary. Each student took a term and made a powerpoint.
  • Nonayo: at certain ages, kids want something concrete. Christianity offers "answers." Attaching concepts to more concrete and graspable. Concepts and ideals not within reach.

"What steps do we take?"
  • Ken: kids do have "ah-hah" moments
  • BJ: 95% of the issues is getting the students to come.
  • Ken: maybe the DS need to focus on the parents
  • Tyler: need to specify what it means to be spiritual, why is it important to be there, importance of spirituality
  • Mas: Parental participation in classroom
  • Nanayo: Friday ice create social to connect w/ parents
  • Ken: Teaching assistant getting credit
  • Tyler: Integrating new media

12:56 AM
Lunch time. While waiting for the line to subside, I'm uploading pictures.
My apologies in advance for my typos and errors. Hopefully I've captured the spirit of the discussion as well as some of the words. As noted earlier, the videos will have to wait as all the sessions are coming in longer than 20 minutes and I don't have video editing capability on this laptop.

The Spread
The Line (that's Rev Rye in the middle)

11:43 AM
Imagine sitting in a hondo during a service next to someone who is new to Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu. They ask you "what are they saying when they say Namo Amida Butsu?"
Rev. Umezu: I don't know much about Namo Amida Butsu. Is "taking refuge" acceptable? How about "Taking refuge in the incomprehensible compassion and wisdom." A good comparison is to the digital camera and its sensor: If the sensor is broken, then nothing good can come out of the camera. Buddhism gives us the space to reflect on hours selves by listening to the Buddha's teachings taking refuge in the the Buddha of infinite love and compassion.
Rev. Ogui: What is Shinjin?
I'm thinking atout Namo Amida Butsu. It's an expression of "Wow-ness." Melding in to the joy of life. Rivers to Ocean of life. Why study a lot? To me , Shinjin is something that makes me filled with arigatai. Joy of life. Hmmm.. more than that something beyond the appreciation of life. more I explain, more I get farther away from essence.
Bhante: What Hongan?
I would also like to say something about Namo Amida Butsu. This is a very important questions. This was actually a new word for me. How do I understand it from the .... To me it means Keep my eye on the the Amida Buddha. What does that mean? Shipwrecked man in the ocean. hanging on to a log, each direction is the same. Then I see a light from a lighthouse. Keep your eye on the light. It is important to keep the keep Amida Buddha in mind.

Hongan is very difficult for me to define. If you are struck by the Dhrma, instantly suffering is reduced Dharma is knowledge that enhances one's quality of life. Hongan is the power of the Dharma to reduce the suffering/frustration. More you pay attention to the arma, the less you pay attention to yourself. Less and less self-centeredness.

11:20 AM
From left, Bhante, Rev. Ogui, Bishop Umezu. On podium, Rev. "Bob" Oshita

What made you want to come to the USA?
Rev. Umezu: Did not have a family temple because I was the 2nd son. Also did not want to become a business man or work in the Hongwanji system in Japan. Uncle told me that I should think about overseas program. There was a special program for overseas with great teachers. Initially didn't have a place to be sent. There were 70 ministers in the BCA at the time. Ended up in Fresno Betsuin.
What would you do different if you were to do it again?
Rev. Umezu: I can't think of aaything. Enjoyed being the minister here.

What made you come to US? what was the most difficult?
Rev. Ogui: "God came to me and told me to come to the US!" Only Christians say such things. Honestly, I was impressed by Gen. McArthur and by such a large country. Impressed by B-29 bombers that burned his temple. Influenced by missionary ministers who had gone to Hawaii. What's difficult is making my wife happy! Joking!.... English pronunciation, recently I went to Tacoma and had trouble convincing people that he wanted "jip lock" (he was trying to say "ziploc")

What made you come to the US? What was the most difficult?
Bhante: Conditions lead you to certain things. Conditions led me to being a monk. My teacher was one of the best teachers in Sri Lanka and explaining things to people easily. My teacher however could not explain the Dharma to English speakers.So sent Bhante to the English speaking school. Teacher came to US to start the first Theravada school in US. esp. Washington DC. I had to study Buddhism, English, Buddhism in English. Finished masters thesis in English. One summer session met Rev. Bob, Kobata, etc at the IBS. The IBS class got me a "Beautiful California" book and looking through it. I didn't want to go to Washington DC; wanted to stay in California. My teacher wanted me to stay in Berkeley and work on a PhD instead.

While studying, seeing the Dharma and it started to make sense. In Singhalese, Nirvana, Karma, etc. all have the meaning (because they are common parts of the language). In English, I have to know exactly what means. Now I feel like I know much more that many Sri Lanken experts because I appreciate the Dharma more.

Rev. Oshita introducing the Panelists. Bishop Umezu, Rev. Ogui, Bhante.
Asking the panelists for words re: the theme.

Bishop Umezu: Thank you for inviting me to be a panelist. So much to say but nothing to say. Really enjoyed the play. Shkyamuni Buddha & Shinran Shonin shared similarities in their paths of their lives. They are identical to me. As I see my own, the life we live. We are living our lives, then come to some issue, then looking for some answers. I can see this in lives of other members. They are looking for something in the Buddha-Dharma. So many people looking into Shakamuni Buddha. I know that Shinran Shonin offer so much.
When growing up, I was the 2nd son. (spare tire). Most of the timeat the temple (in Japan), was in "kodomokai" on Saturday night. Raised as a minister's son. Hating and sleeping. at 18 started to see a different kind of Buddhism and decided to become a minster. We want children to nurture children and be fond of the temple. Future of Buddhism in America is bright.

Rev. Ogui: Thank you to Bishop Umezu and Bhante. Remembrance of YBA leaders such as Revs. Oshita and Kubota. Remembrance of issue about non-ministers up on the altar. Started calling Dharma Service for Sunday (children) service. Sangha Service for Adult Service. Around mid 70's people started using "Dharma School" instead of "Sunday School". Takes about 6-9 years for the change to take hold. Crying boy at the Sacramento Betsuin for being late so there's no seat. Asked Rev Ogui what makes parents bring their children to the Dharma School? Rev Ogui said that it even starts from funeral service. Memorizing the children names. Now used to living in Pacific Northwest. Nothing on snow or cold in Cleveland and Chicago.

His dog has lost vision due to diabetes. If going in circles, thinks that going straight. We need to be aware of this. We must not become a pool on a side of the river. Fish in the pool loses the ability to swim against the flow.

Bhante: Thank you to Rev Bob and the organizers for inviting me. Glad to be sitting w/ the new Bishop and the out-going Bishop.When I came w/ Rev. Kusada to US, I met Rev. Ogui. He laughed loudly and lot. Rev. Ogui started to bring in people to meditate in San Francisco. Meditation is not a religious or Buddhist thing; It's exercising the mind. Rev. Bob taught me Sho shin ge and Wasan. Rev. Umezu mentioned that the DS Teachers are doing the hard thing. In Sri Lanka, the government is Buddhist and publishes the books which are sent to Dharma Schools. The DS teacher certification helps for finding jobs.

DS Teachers in BCA work long hours and even w/o support from parents. DS Teachers do the most important job. Planting the seeds of Dharma is most important job. In Sri Lanka, Sunday School is very important. Some students walk several miles to come to the temple. Then they clean w/o breakfast. Sometimes, people faint esp. when it is hot. Bhante created a fund for members to get loans. Now members get cookie/biscuit and milk when they come to the temple.

Parents should be educated first. Sunday is slow. When he talks to the parents, he hears: I have to take my son to the soccer games, etc. A teenager wanted Bhante to come to talk to his class about Buddhism. Afterwards his parents told Bhante that the son is so enthusiastic because they made such as effort to go to Sunday School so often.He (son) is nice because he always go to Dharma School.

Another Dharma School child, father is Buddhist, mother is Catholic. But the kid are nice, but reserved. Our kids are more free.
We teach how to respect parents at our Dharma School. Before going to school or to sleep, our students are supposed to vowing to their parents to show their respect and to show their gratitude.

I am one of the few Sri Lankans who after becoming a monk who went back to regular school. Other students vowed to me when they come into the classroom.

In the US, we do not push the discipline so that we don't want to discourage the students too much.

Evolution of religion: Buddha has been the ultimate evolution of human existence. Being an Buddhist means evolving our mind. Final enlightenment is final evolution. Buddha has taught about evolving yourself. Getting rid of 3 poisons (toxic emotions). All emotions make you do something. Toxic emotions do harm. If we have toxic emotions, then we are not very further evolved. The Buddha used the word "cultured" to mean ones who have overcome the toxic emotions. There are cobras in Sri Lanka. When they are provoked, they instinctively react. The more evolved we are we are less likely to react. The tendencies for negative reaction is reduced. Seduction of our ego-centric-ness. Cultured behavior is less ego-centric. Religion reduces their self-centered-ness.

10:19 AM
Panel discussion coming up. Panelists are: Bishop Umezu, Rev. Ogui, Bhante Seelawimala Mathathera.
As noted earlier, if you are a member of this wiki, Use the discussion tab and enter questions and I'll ask your question for you..

9:47 AM
Stirring start w/ Also Sprach Zarusthura.

Play about the life of Siddartha. And history of Buddhism. Now of Shinran Shonin's life.

Tokudo, 3 Poisons, Meeting w/ Honen, Exile

Very entertaining!

9:41 AM
oh, oh, it doesn't look like I can post the video from this laptop.. It's too big. I'll chop up and post later.

9:24 AM
Room assignment for Workshop
Amida, Buddha, Compassion, Dharma: Room Salon A
Evolution, Gassho, Hongwan, Impermanence: Room Salon C
Jodo Shinshu, Karma, Lumbini, Mahayana: Room Salon D
Nembutsu, Obon, Pure Land, Revolution: Room Salon E

Each room has team names inside.

9:17 AM
Message by Bishop Umezu. Video below. (My apologies for the darkness)

He's talking about mission statement for a day care that he saw: "Your children are Ours"
Need to talk about what we need to do our guide our children for the future. The whole temple needs a Village. The entire Sangha needs to be a safe place. His 2nd daughter works for children suffering from domestic violence in Oakland. What can we do to deliver a place for spiritual safe place. Please join in joining "his" Team to do this. The mission statement is "Namo Amida Butsu" Salute the dedication of all DS teachers. Thanks to the NC Conference Committee. Last joke: the casino has a sign outside "Your money is Ours". (laughter & applause).

Welcome message from NC Conference Committee.

9:13 AM
Daihyo shoko to the Gatha, Arigato. (The choral version brings tears to my eyes every time!)

9:06 AM, 4/28 Mas
Service is underway. Opening Meditation. Juseige. Bishop Umezu leading.

8:30 AM
Visited the BCA Bookstore and the Registration Desk!
The Bookstore is being staffed by Robert Noguchi and his family.


Registration folks are great! (and really happy ... or is that a lot of coffee?) Just joking, they were very efficient and it was very nice to be greeted with a smile!

Harley (2nd from right) asked me to take a picture of Judy who organized this. (Now I have to find her!!)

7:25 AM, 4/28 Mas
It's *the* day! I'm excited to get going...! Please forward the URL to anyone that might be interested. If you have a login to this wiki, please forward me any questions at the discussion tab here. If you can catch me, I'll ask a question for you during the Panel Discussion. I'll also try to get pictures of the BCA Bookstore and the Registration desk folks (Judy and Harley) as well.

10:51 PM, 4/27 Mas
Just checked the statistics on who's reading this. 90% from US, but handful from Japan, UK, China, Ukraine, France, Russia, Germany and Czech Republic. Hope everyone enjoys this blog the next 2 days. If I get up early enough, I'll post theSchedule....

Oh, my room-mate is in the shower so I might as well spend the time with the Schedule.

Saturday, April 28
7:30 - 9:00 am
9:00 - 9:30 am
Opening Service
9:30 - 10:00 am
History of Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu
10:00 - 10:15 am
10:15 - 12:15 pm
Panel Discussion with Bishop Umezu, Rev. Ogui, and Bhante Seelawimala
12:15 - 1:15 pm
1:15 - 2:30 pm
Workshop I
2:30 - 2:45 pm
2:45 - 4:15 pm
Workshop II
4:15 - 5:00 pm
5:00 - 5:30 pm
FDSTL General Meeting
5:30 - 7:30 pm
Sunday, April 29
9:00 - 10:00 am
Closing Service

10:32 PM, 4/27 Mas
We're here! The traffic from San Jose wasn't too bad. We did take a "short cut" through Livermore, CA.
Yes, that's me holding the Conference schedule with my knees while trying to take the picture...No, I'm not driving!

Unfortunately, we came in late and didn't feel like too much of dinner. We availed ourselves to the yummy dessert plates in the Hospitality Room.

The rooms are really nice here. (This is not the hotel's promo pic... see the laptop on the desk?)

8:32 PM, 4/25 Mas
Just started this year's blog. Unlike last year, I'm not presenting so I'm not working on anything at this moment.

This year's theme is: "Jodo Shinshu, Buddhism in American, be a Part of the evolution." with the 'U' in the "shinshu", "S" in "Buddhism", and "A" in "Part" highlighted to form "USA". (See more in the conference flyer)
Not exactly sure what that entails, but I'm sure we'll find out! See you all there (or at least here!)