Missing Buddhist statue a loss in more ways than one

By Cynthia Kaneshiro, Kauai Garden Island News, June 12, 2006

Hawaii, USA -- The Lihu‘e Hongwanji temple was burglarized last month and the Rev. Midori Kondo wants a white porcelain statue of Shinran Shonin back.

“It was a gift from our mother temple in Japan,” she said. Shinran is the founder of Shin Buddhism. The 15-by-10-inch statue shows him sitting.

On May 28, the temple celebrated the priest’s birthday and Kondo took the statue out of its glass case for the celebration so the children could feel closer to him.

A lei was made for the statue, and a youngster presented a floral offering during the service.

After refreshments and fellowship, Kondo and others left for lunch.

Later that afternoon, Kondo discovered the statue was gone and called the police.

Now, she’s had enough.

“It’s of our founder, who lived over 700 years ago, from the late 1100s to the 1200s,” she said. “The statue gives us an idea of what our founder looked like.”

Kondo did some checking to see if she could get another one from Japan, but because the statue and others like it were specially made and sent to all the hongwanjis in the state more than 20 years ago, a replacement would be next to impossible.

Kondo called the statue a “special gift” and estimated its value at between $500 and $1,000.

But it’s not the money that concerns Kondo. The statue’s religious significance takes precedence.

“For us, it’s spiritual,” she said.

Kondo also expressed concern that the statue could break if not properly treated.

“It’s not that heavy — it’s hollow inside,” she said. “It’s porcelain, so like glass items, if you drop it, it might break.”

As to a motive, Kondo has ruled out hate crime.

“I think maybe they thought they could sell it and make money, or maybe they needed something to help them spiritually,” she said.

Kondo said she just wants the object back, even if it shows up one day at the temple’s doorsteps.

“No questions asked,” she said.

Anyone with information should call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 241-1887. All calls will kept confidential, and a monetary reward may be given.