Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Dissemination in U.S.
In the presence of President and Mrs. Nichiko Niwano, on July 31 and August 1 Rissho Kosei-kai held commemorative events at a hotel in Las Vegas marking the fiftieth anniversary of dissemination of its teachings in the United States. Some 630 members took part from Rissho Kosei-kai's five U.S. Dharma Centers of Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Oklahoma. Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, deputy director of the General Affairs Bureau, and Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of Rissho Kosei-kai International, also came from Japan to take part.
In June 1958, the year in which Rissho Kosei-kai affirmed the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni as the focus of devotion, Founder Nikkyo Niwano toured the United States and Brazil. He traveled to Brazil to attend the fiftieth-anniversary celebration of Japanese immigration to that country. After that he visited San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Hawaii, where he met and gave spiritual guidance to Japanese immigrants who had joined Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan. These Japanese members went on to become local leaders and share the Buddha's teachings, mainly with fellow Japanese immigrants. In 1959 Rissho Kosei-kai opened chapters in Hawaii and Los Angeles.
New Sanghas were also formed in other parts of America, including San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and San Antonio, where English-speakers also played active roles in the practice and dissemination of the Dharma. Some of these Sanghas were designated by Rissho Kosei-kai as Dharma Centers: San Francisco in 1979, New York in 1982, and Oklahoma in 2007. Rissho Kosei-kai in the United States now comprises eight corporations and 1,742 member households.
Beginning in 2007, Rissho Kosei-kai made international dissemination a top priority under its tenth basic plan, to be carried out in the next five years. The organization established Rissho Kosei-kai International at its Tokyo headquarters in 2007 and Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America (RKINA) in Irvine, California, in 2008. RKINA is supporting American Dharma Centers' efforts to disseminate the teachings in English through translating Buddhist materials, providing online seminars, holding symposiums on Buddhism, and organizing many other projects.
The fiftieth-anniversary events served U.S. members as an opportunity to renew their determination to disseminate the Dharma to more people throughout the United States. The reception was held July 31 and a commemorative ceremony took place August 1.
The ceremony began with a performance by a string ensemble of young members from the Dharma Center of Hawaii. A video reviewing the fifty years of Rissho Kosei-kai in the United States and its current activities was followed by an offering and chanting of the Lotus Sutra. Mr. John Michael Schuh of the Dharma Center of New York testified to how his Buddhist faith had turned around his sour relationship with his parents. He declared the importance of every member of Rissho Kosei-kai individually and collectively striving to make the slogan "Many in body, but one in spirit" a reality in American society. Then, following a speech by Rev. Koichi Nagamoto, head of the Dharma Center of San Francisco, and the chanting of the o-daimoku by all participants, President Niwano gave a Dharma talk.
President Niwano explained the significance of the installation of the focus of devotion and the Dharma titles of the founder and cofounder at the home altar of every member, which Rissho Kosei-kai began in 2008, the year of its seventieth anniversary. He said, "It is no exaggeration to say that on reaching this milestone, Rissho Kosei-kai has shed its former image as a Japanese religion and has emerged as a world religion. For Buddhists, whose trust is in the Lotus Sutra, this brings us back to the original and essential form of Buddhism as a global faith."
Touching on the Rissho Kosei-kai Members' Vow, he explained the concept of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni and the significance of a verse in the Lotus Sutra, "I am always abiding here, teaching the Dharma." He said, "Although the physical Shakyamuni did die, Shakyamuni's teaching will never perish, and I believe what is being taught today is the teaching of the Dharma-body Shakyamuni. . . .' Always abiding' refers to the fact that he is forever living with us, existing for eternity."
The president's Dharma talk was followed by speeches by Rev. Kotaro Suzuki and Dr. Gene Reeves, an international advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai. Members of the five Dharma Centers then joyously performed a play, a hula, and songs, followed by the singing of "We Are the World" by all participants. Youth members' vigorous twirling of matois, or Japanese firemen's standards, added to the festive atmosphere, uniting the participants in one spirit. At the end of the ceremony, Mr. Nicholas Ozuna of RKINA pledged to the participants to devote himself further to the Dharma.
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