A Dharma Message by Rev. Candice Shibata
“How joyous I am, my heart and mind being rooted in the Buddha-ground of the universal Vow, and my thoughts and feelings flowing within the dharma-ocean, which is beyond comprehension!” 
January is a month that marks many events in my life as a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, as a minister and in my secular life, which all definitely intersect. This month is also synonymous with new beginnings as we start a new calendar year. With each new year, we are able to reflect upon our experiences and those we have had the pleasure of interacting with and friends and loved ones who have gone before us within this last year.
In January we observe Hoonko, which is a gathering to express our gratitude in memory of our founder, Shinran Shonin. This very special service allows us to reflect upon Shinran Shonin’s life and the Nembutsu teachings he shared that we are able to follow today. Shinran Shonin emphasized the power of the Amida Buddha’s reassuring call to us that we are embraced just as we are. Through the recitation of Namo Amida Butsu, we answer with our sincere gratitude for Amida Buddha’s Wisdom and Compassion.
January is also the month of my mother’s birthday and January 14th would have been her 76th birthday. As I celebrate her birthday each passing year, I am grateful for the 25 years that I had with her and feel so fortunate that I am able to call her my mother. I often wonder how different my life would be if she were still alive today and if I would have been a minister if she didn’t pass away so suddenly 16 years ago. Nonetheless, it is because of her birth and also because of her death that my existence is possible and I have encountered the Buddha-Dharma in such a way that inspires me to share the gift of the Nembutsu with others.
Although I began my orientation as a Kyoshi minister in September 2015 under the supervision of Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto, I became the resident minister of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple on January 1, 2016. It was a huge step for me, as I no longer had Rev. Matsumoto physically present at the temple to hold my hand as I took my first steps in my ministry. Although Rev. Matsumoto was just across the fence at the Jodo Shinshu Center, he allowed me the space to grow and spread my wings to navigate my life as the new resident minister. However, I was also always grateful to be able to return to the nest (his office) when I needed support and had questions and self-doubt.
Now in January 2020, with the support of my teachers, countless members, my family, friends and the Buddha-Dharma, I am happy to be celebrating the anniversary of my fourth year as a minister.
These various and significant events in January have impacted me in such a way that is also beyond my own comprehension. Countless seen and unseen connections, circumstances and conditions were essential for Shinran Shonin’s teachings to vastly spread from Japan, for me to be born as Tad and Jackie’s daughter and also, to encounter the Nembutsu teachings in such a way that has inspired me to share them with others. It is my hope that with the start of the new year and throughout 2020 that we continue to be mindful and grateful for the conditions of our lives that allow us to walk together as Jodo Shinshu Buddhists. Happy New Year!
With Gratitude and in Gassho,
Rev. Candice Shibata
 Shinran Shonin, “The True Teaching, Practice and Realization VI” in The Collected Works of Shinran, Vol. 1, (Kyoto: Jōdo Shinshū Hongwanji-ha, 1997), 291.
 Following the lunar calendar, it is also observed in November at other Jodo Shinshu temples.