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Rev. Yugo Fujita leads the Salinas Buddhist Temple

by Joe Truskot, The Salinas Californian, July 28, 2017

Salinas, CA (USA) -- The bronze statue of Shinran Shonin, founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, stands in the garden outside the Salinas Buddhist Temple on California Street.


<< Reverend Yugo Fujita reads a scroll detailing the life of Buddha (Photo: Joe Truskot/The Salinas Californian)


The sculptor captured both Shinran Shonin’s profound wisdom and his simplicity. Characteristically, the great master holds a long walking stick.

It is a symbol that helps to demonstrate that life is a path to walk, that there are many troubling things one must encounter while on life’s path and that there are many happy and beautiful things available to all who travel it well.

The Salinas Temple is part of the Buddhist Churches of America. Jodo Shinshu, also known as Pure Land Buddhism, is practiced there. It’s through the Buddhist Churches of America that Reverend Yugo Fujita, 28, came to Salinas.

“I wrote to them,” Fujita said on Wednesday, “and they accepted me and assigned me to Salinas.”

In the foyer outside Fujita’s office are photographs of all the former pastors of the Temple. Like all such displays, the portraits fade the further back in time one goes but their memory is treasured still by the congregation. Current events are pinned below them.

Fujita pointed to the portrait of his immediate predecessor and said, “He was much better than me,” and laughs.

He walks down a corridor and enters the shrine. A temporary plywood stage has been built in front of the elaborate altarpiece in preparation for a segment of the Obon Festival, scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 30.

“Services are on Sundays at 10 a.m.,” Fujita said and walks over to a painting on a scroll. “He’s our founder, Shinran.” Flowers and candles decorate the alcove where the portrait, hand painted on a silk scroll, hangs.

“Usually I sit here during the service and wear a robe. Would you like me to wear a robe?” he asked and suddenly disappeared to put one on. In a minute, he returns wearing a neatly pressed, blue pattern robe.

“Would you like me to chant?” Soon he strikes an inverted bell which resonates throughout the sanctuary.

The chant is beautifully done.

Later, Fujita removes a scroll from an elaborate rack. He undoes its bindings and spreads it out before him. He reads a passage in Japanese.

“It’s the story of Buddha,” he explained, “It’s about his way of life.”

Fujita arrived in October, knowing a little English but his knowledge of the language has increased quickly in the past nine months. He says that about 50 people in the congregation still speak Japanese, many know some words but the younger generation speaks only English. The services are conducted in both English and Japanese.

“Once a month we have a big service,” he said. At those services, guest ministers often address the congregation and communal chants are sung.

The gold in the altarpiece glistens. A row of jewels hang in front of the gold Buddha’s face. “It is considered rude to look directly at the face of Buddha,” he said.

Fujita was born and raised in the Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku Island, in the southern part of Japan.

“It’s a small town, more country like, with lots of agriculture,” he said and laughs.

“Many members are taking care of me,” he said. “I’m very happy to live in Salinas.”

The Buddhist Temple of Salinas was founded in 1924 to promote Shin Buddhism in America. Over the years, it has also been home to many cultural activities. This Temple is one of the five temples/churches that make up the Coast District of the Buddhist Churches of America.

Membership to the Temple is open to everyone interested in Shin Buddhism and in the cultural activities that are practiced here.

Members receive a monthly newsletter describing the events of the Temple and its affiliates, and a subscription to the Wheel of Dharma, a monthly newspaper produced by the Buddhist Churches of America.


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