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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A story of two priests

By Katsuko Metzger
Hahalu'u, Hawaii

On August 20, 1966, the groundbreaking ceremony for the first Nichiren Shoshu temple was conducted in Hawaii on land donated by President Ikeda. The following year, on May 13, 1967, the Gohonzon Enshrining Ceremony was conducted by High Priest Nittatsu Shonin.

The third priest to arrive at the temple was Chief Priest Gensho Nishino. Mr. Nishino had a pet bird that he loved very much. There were times when the bird got out of the cage and flew all over the Gohonzon room. I was very surprised at Mr. Nishino's careless attitude toward keeping the Gohonzon room clean.

On August 18, 1979, the Soka Gakkai donated a new temple located in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The Gohonzon enshrining ceremony held there was conducted by the fourth chief priest, Mr. Sugano. In 1980, Nikken and twenty-four priests visited Honsei-ji on their way back to Japan after a trip to the mainland.

After evening gongyo, the priests went to change their clothes. The conversation overheard among the priests was surprising. They said things to each other like: "Hey! You stupid bald head! Throw my clothes to me!" Here you go, you dumb priest!" I could not believe my ears. I never imagined priests spoke to each other with such disrespect. That night there was a dinner party for the priests and I was very surprised to see the amount of liquor they were drinking. It was then that I lost all respect for the priesthood.

In 1983, my husband and I moved to the island of Maui as managers for the Maui Community Center. The fifth chief priest, Tokudo Takeda, visited Maui several times for the Gohonzon conferral ceremony. He didn't want to stay at any of the convenient hotels, saying they were too cheap. He chose to stay in the most luxurious hotel on Maui. He also requested the best restaurants for meals.

My husband made it a point to always be at the airport early whenever Mr. Takeda came to Maui. On one occasion, the plane arrived earlier than scheduled and unintentionally my husband was a few minutes late. As soon as Mr. Takeda saw my husband, he yelled at him. "I was about to find a taxi!" My husband was very surprised at his impatience and rudeness regarding this situation.

In 1984, Shido Takahashi was assigned to Hawaii. On one occasion, while visiting Maui, he became inebriated. He then began boasting about a situation that had recently occurred. "Last month, I got a speeding ticket in my sports car. I enjoy racing cars," he said, "so as soon as I'm in my car I'm tempted to speed." As he drank a little more, he talked about how he enjoyed karaoke and suggested having a karaoke party during Christmas. He said he had purchased expensive karaoke equipment soon after he had arrived in Hawaii.

On another occasion, one early morning my husband and I went to the hotel to pick up Mr. Takahashi as he was to conduct the Gohonzon conferral ceremony. Upon our arrival, Mr. Takahashi said, "I overslept this morning," and went to the car with his face unwashed. We thought he would go directly to the site of the ceremony, but instead, he insisted on eating breakfast first. After the ceremony, on the way back to the hotel, he went shopping. I wondered when he planned to do morning gongyo.

Mr. Takahashi became deeply involved with ham radios. He even brought his radios to the Maui Community Center and made the members set up an antenna so he could communicate with other operators.

In my opinion, his behavior was like a spoiled son of a rich family playing with his toys and spending his time and money on his hobby.

One day Mr. Takahashi talked to my husband and me about his car, which was only a year old: "I'm bored with my sports car. I'll sell it to you for a good price. How about $10,000?" It was like a dream for us, since we were driving a ten-year-old dilapidated car. We really wanted it but didn't have the money. He said, "How about you pay me whenever you have the money?" We declined the proposal. I still can't understand his easygoing attitude toward money.

When the present priesthood problem arose, we had already moved back to Honolulu. At a temple service on January 13, 1991 Mr. Takahashi said to the audience: "As you may know, there is a conflict in the relationship between the priesthood and the Soka Gakkai. It is you who had the hardest time without a temple, and it is you who know this difficulty best."

The atmosphere in the room became serious and gloomy. Indeed, there was a time when there had been no temple in Hawaii, and a priest would visit once or twice a year from California to perform ceremonies.

Then he said, "You have supported this temple for a long time and I feel grateful. Therefore, I'll protect you even risking my own life. No matter what may happen between the priesthood and the Gakkai, at least in Hawaii, let's advance together in unity." We felt moved by his words but the truth was, he had previously mailed out hundreds of letters to the members of Hawaii slandering President Ikeda and instructing them to leave the SGI. When I found out about this, I became angry. I thought, "What did he mean by 'even risking his life' he would protect the members of Hawaii?" It is the Gakkai members and President Ikeda who have been protecting the temple and supporting various services at the temple, as well as donating money.

Now Mr. Takahashi is working steadily to increase his temple members through phone calls and letters without much success.

[This experience is from a book titled "Voices of the New American Renaissance. Vol. 6] 

Contrast their behavior to the Daishonin's or Reverend Kubota's. When we met in Oregon we all stayed at the same motel, ate the same food, and discussed nothing but Buddhism. In New York, he stayed at our house for four days. He did gongyo every morning at 6:00 am and then again when we woke up at 7:00 or 8:00 am and he was 79 years old. His clothes, though impeccably clean, were 40 years old. When we went out together he always chose to eat the least expensive thing on the menu, first looking to see what everyone else ordered so as to not be extravagant. When we went out to the street fares, he would eat Pizza and hot dogs along side of us. The "gourmet" food he most enjoyed in New York was bagles and lox. He was as overjoyed as a child to receive trinkets such as the empire state building and the statue of liberty and he had presents for everyone. When John Watt had a baby, he sent him two hundred dollars. He would try his best to shakabuku everyone, the concierges, the people in the street, the porters, our friends and neighbors. Rev. Kubota is a true priest and a humble human being.

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