The start of each New Year places many of us on common ground, as we express gratitude for the cherished memories we hold of years past. Like many, I hold precious memories of growing up in Wailuku in the 1950s and 1960s and attending Wailuku Hongwanji’s Sunday services. I also recall my many years of absence from the Temple, through my college and young adult life.
It was in 1987, with family in hand, that I stepped back into the Temple. Returning to Wailuku Hongwanji brought back memories which otherwise would have remained forever buried. Childhood memories of first generation immigrants (the generation of my grandparents) and their second generation children (the generation of my parents) filling the seats of the Hondo or Temple hall were vivid. Upon reflection, I realized that I had lived through a part of Wailuku Hongwanji’s history where the children at that time (myself included), were a part of the vision of our Temple founders. That vision being, having Wailuku Hongwanji live beyond the generation of its immigrant founders so that our Shin Buddhist teachings would be passed on to future generations.
As a youngster, it didn’t occur to me that the Sangha and their leaders back then must have been quite proud of the unique beauty of the Temple building (a converted former YBA hall), the new minister’s residence (current on-campus rental), the original Social Hall, and the Japanese Language School building and judo annex. After all, they possessed a Jodo Shinshu center that symbolized years of perseverance and hard work, and years of struggling through the reality of inequities brought on by plantation camp living and subsequently, by World War II.
Our founders and their children have handed us a gift. That gift is a place to listen to the Dharma, a place to gather with fellow Jodo Shinshu followers, and a place where the youth of our island community is loved and nurtured. What can we do to sustain the value of this gift so that children of today may one day in the future recall what Wailuku Hongwanji was like in the year 2023? Will they express wonderment that it all started in the year 1899 with the vision of travelers from Japan seeking a better life for themselves and their families?
Keeping the value of this gift alive for the future is just as important today as it was generations ago, when our founders created a Shin Buddhist campus to hold, cherish and perpetuate. With this in mind, Wailuku Hongwanji’s Board of Directors has confirmed its vision to provide new spaces for our martial arts programs, other affiliate organizations and community organizations. Planning for the removal of the Old Language School Building (built in 1938) is ongoing, and formulating concepts for a new facility will soon get underway. A multi-year effort, this project will replace a less than functional and efficient structure with a facility that will serve generations to come. The progress of this project and its attendant fundraising campaign will be reported to our members and friends over the next several months.
In the meantime, let us celebrate the New Year with expressions of gratitude to those who came before us to hand down the gift of a perpetual Shin Buddhist Dharma center.
Happy New Year!