Placer Buddhist Church

3192 Boyington RoadPenryn, CA. 95663(916) 652-6139
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The 2021 Placer Buddhist Church Annual Golf Tournament results and pictures may be found here.

A Dharma Message by Rev. Matthew Hamasaki

May 2021

(This message was given for Spring Ohigan.)

I recognize that as a church whose ethnic roots are primarily Japanese American, I do not need to speak about why it is wrong to hate Asian Americans. However, I do feel that because of the recent media spotlight on violence against Asian Americans, it is vital for me to address it. I intentionally say recent because, sadly, this is nothing new. There has been violence against Asians in America ever since there were Asians in America. There have been small stretches of time that the violence has been highlighted less, but it has always been there. It is indicative of a larger problem in our nation. We are again entering a time where it is convenient to place blame on a group of people simply because of the way they look. This has happened time and time again and it is nothing new for Asians to be targeted. Obviously, we want this cycle to stop. So, if this history is cyclical, how do we change it?

As Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, we first look within. How are we feeling about what is happening to our community? I cannot speak for everyone, but perhaps you can relate to my feelings -- afraid for our safety, especially the safety of our elder population; angry at those who would condone and perpetuate such despicable acts; and sad from how our hearts hurt for the families who have had loved ones attacked and lost. It is imperative for us to take the time to recognize these feelings and emotions within ourselves. Because, as Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, after we look within, we must look out to the world and to the people around us.

When George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others died both in recent memory and throughout the history of this nation, the Black community’s hearts hurt together. When families were separated at the border, the Latinx and Hispanic communities were furious with the policies that separated them. When the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, the Muslim community was afraid for the safety of their population. To see the reality of our existence is to recognize that the emotions that we feel are the very same emotions of any minority group in the nation. That we all face discrimination, violence, and hate, and that we all suffer at the hands of a society that would be happy to ignorantly and mistakenly blame a particular group of people for the problems they’re facing.

To try to find a solution to this, how fitting is it that today is our Ohigan, the service of the Other Shore. The explanation of the name of this holiday is that the Other Shore is the shore of enlightenment, and the shore we’re on is the shore of this world of suffering. The teachings of the Buddha are the rafts that will take us there. I would like to focus on this raft and my interpretation of it in the enlightenment of all beings, hence the name Mahayana.

We are one of the many schools of Buddhism that belong to Mahayana and, in my opinion, the one that is most open to all people. In my mind’s eye, our raft -- the raft that will take us to the Other Shore to True Reality -- is the biggest. It has room for everyone. Looking at the other metaphorical rafts, some rafts may be big enough for one person. Some rafts may be big enough for entire communities. But our raft is big enough for everyone and the only way we can make it -- the only way we would want to make it -- is if we have enough people on board.

The lesson I believe we can learn from this teaching is that the only way for us to stop violence and hate against the Asian American community is if we stop violence and hate against all communities. To try to only protect one community is a vain attempt and will lead to only evanescent relief. It will temporarily relieve the symptoms, but not remove the cause and, inevitably, the pain will return. Should we speak out against Asian American hate? Absolutely. As Asian Americans, it is important for us to be the leaders and the loudest voices. But it can’t stop there. We must support other minority groups in their efforts to challenge systemic American discrimination. Like I mentioned earlier, if we truly look at ourselves and the feelings we have, we see that they are no different than those felt by other marginalized communities. And the only way we can make real, lasting change, is if we stand together against systemic racism. In the spirit of Ohigan, of Mahayana, of Jodo Shinshu, none of us are safe until all of us are safe and, in the words of Civil Rights Icon Fannie Lou Hamer, nobody is free until everybody is free.

In Gassho,

Rev. Matt

The Placer Buddhist Church is located at 3192 Boyington Road in Penryn California, County of Placer. It is located at the scenic base of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains just off Interstate 80. It is approximately half way between San Francisco and Reno, Nevada.

The Church was founded in 1902 in the small foothills town of Penryn. The original church was near the center of town approximately 3 miles from its current location. The church moved to its current location in approximately 1963. The church is well known in the community for the annual food bazaar which is always held on the 4th weekend of September. The annual food bazaar started in 1964, just after the church moved to the new location.

The church supports many organizations such as the Placer Buddhist Women’s Association (PBWA), Young Buddhist Association (YBA), Sierra Bonsai Club, Dharma School, and Placer Ume Taiko Groups. The church also holds various classes during the week including calligraphy, flower arranging, Tai Chi, Obon dancing and exercise classes. See the church calendar for class times.