A Legacy of Hope

February 3, 2007

Source: Star Bulletin


The sound of chanting sets a serene scene at the Buddhist temple. But the low volume at the Honpa Hongwanji Betsuin Sunday services is not a thoroughly wonderful thing, since it reflects the diminishing energy of an aging congregation whose numbers are shrinking.

The good news is that it gets boomingly noisy on the grounds of the Pali Highway landmark on weekdays when students at the Pacific Buddhist Academy work to master the art of taiko drumming. Bishop Chikai Yosemori pins his hopes for regeneration of island temples on the high school, which will graduate its first class in May.

"After I retire, I will try to make the high school stronger," said Yosemori, 75, who will step down at the end of the month as administrator and spiritual leader of the largest Buddhist sect in Hawaii. He has been bishop for 11 years and a Shin Buddhist minister for 42 years. The Honpa Hongwanji denomination has about 8,000 members and 36 temples in Hawaii, many of which were built in sugar plantation villages by early Japanese immigrants and serve tiny congregations.

In common with several other Japanese-based Buddhist sects here, almost all the ministers called to serve Honpa Hongwanji temples still come from the old country.