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  • Writer's pictureRev. Eko Noble

Interconnectedness In Spirit

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

by Rev. Ekō S. Noble

A protest by a coalition of groups at Fort Sill, Oklahoma took place on July 20th, 2019, opposing the transfer of 1,600 imprisoned asylum seeking migrant children to this prison facility and a moving Buddhist Memorial Service was held as part of the protest.  This joint effort focused the eyes and conscience of our citizens and the world on the unjust and injurious actions towards innocent children perpetuated by current US Government policies and the transfer of those children was halted. 

Here is background information about how two protests were organized by Tsuru for Solidarity and the gathering of many Buddhist sangha supporters:

Fort Sill, historically, is the site of much suffering and a living part of my personal extended dharma history. Koyasan Los Angeles Betsuin Archbishop of North America, Seytsū Takahashi, from whom I received early Shingon blessings and initiation was imprisoned at Fort Sill during WWII. He co-officiated a joint funeral service, together with 89 other Buddhist priests, at Fort Sill in 1942 for three men who died there including one individual who was killed by a guard under questionable circumstances. I believe that the spirit of Archbishop Takahashi, who at the end of his life generously and with an open heart offered Bodhisattva Precepts and blessings to Shingon students of all backgrounds, Japanese, Japanese-Americans, Europeans and European-Americans in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and a number of cities in Europe in 1983 at the invitation and with the support of my first Shingon teacher, Rev. Jomyo Tanaka.  

Here are photographs of the initiation in NYC, held at the NY Japanese-American Association Hall in 1983, if my memory is correct. Archbishop Takahashi then returned to Mt. Koya, on the anniversary of the completion of his 1982 service as Hōin - daikajō-i for Kongobuji Temple at Mt. Koya, a one year period of service for the highest ranking Dento Dai Ajari in the Koyasan Shingon Lineage where the officiant symbolically represents the presence of Kobo Daishi Kukai wearing brilliant crimson robes during a complete cycle of liturgical observances on the mountain. Once this service is completed, these Dento Dai Ajari receive the rank of Zengan (前館), and are formally freed from obligatory liturgical service for the rest of their lives.    

Shortly after his return to Mt. Koya in 1983, Archbishop Takahashi unexpectedly passed away of heart failure, and many of us who had just received the Bodhisattva Precepts from him felt this loss very poignantly. I do not know for certain, but most likely Seytsū Takahashi was the first Japanese Shingon Buddhist priest to ever receive the honor of assuming the position of Hōin after spending the majority of his priestly career outside Japan as a missionary in America begining in 1931. He was a close friend and classmate of my teacher at Mt. Koya, Zengan Kogi Aratano of Yochi-in Temple, one of the temples there that historically have supported the practice of non-Japanese students of Shingon. Archbishop Takahashi did not formally head a temple of his own on Japanese soil, an expected requirement to be eligible for the service of Hōin. During his decades of service in America, Archbishop Takahashi faced the challenges of discrimination, building community, established many Koyasan Shingon temples and Daishi-ko (community associations who honor the Shingon founder, Kobo Daishi) and founded the first Japanese American Boy Scout Troop which was honored by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Like other persons of Japanese ancestry, both Japanese nationals and native born American citizens of Japanese descent, he was imprisoned by the US government during WWII. As a community leader and "enemy alien,” he was sent to camps that were particularly severe but always maintained great calm and dignity in face of the circumstance and provided spiritual guidance and comfort to fellow internees. This sorry period of our American national history is now repeating again with religious based discrimination against those of the Muslim faith and migrants seeking asylum on our southern borders. Archbishop Takahashi, together with his Japanese born wife Suzue Takahashi, was the father of five American children and left one of the most complete and moving diaries (see Seytsū Takahashi, Amerika kaikyō: Shōwa no mikkyō tōzen (Osaka: Tōhō Shuppan, 1990), and an oral history account documenting his direct experience in the internment camps. Scholar, Soto Buddhist priest and author of American Sutra,Duncan Ryuken Williams translates and includes excerpts of Seytsū Takahashi’s experiences at Fort Sill when he was imprisoned there.

Please do consider supporting Tsuru for Solidarity in their heartfelt efforts to protect these innocent children:

Archbishop Seytsū Takahashi and Shingon dharma student William Jōgen Marrazzi (artist). Photo credit, Rev. Jomyo Tanaka.

Archbishop Seytsū Takahashi and Shingon dharma students Adora Taichō Campo (Columbia University) and Eko Susan Noble (New York University). Photo credit, Rev. Jomyo Tanaka.

This was reportedly one of the proudest moments of Archbishop Seytsū Takahashi’s life, standing before the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia in his formal robes, a fully empowered Buddhist in America. Photocredit, Rev. Jomyo Tanaka.

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