4110 N MLK Blvd, North Las Vegas, NV 89032

Bishop Rev. Harada with the recent Tokudo Ministers Rev. Devon Matsumoto, Rev. Blake Honda, Rev. John Mullins, Rev. Stacy Reardon, Rev. Jean-Paul deGuzman

On March 9, Las Vegas Buddhist Sangha had a special inaugural celebration called “Shining Lights.” Originally, this fundraiser was conceived by Dan Lee as an evening of elevated dining and a showcase for our sangha’s talented friend, vocalist Rita Lim. Over the same period that we were developing the event, I was training for tokudo ordination and sharing the rewards and difficulties of going through this process in my dharma messages. Sangha leaders told me I should extend an invite to my ministerial classmates, and they kindly broadened the fundraiser to include a celebration of our receiving tokudo.

Four of my newly ordained classmates traveled to Las Vegas to attend the event: Rev. Jean-Paul deGuzman (San Fernando) and his wife, Beatrice; Rev. Blake Honda (Fowler); Rev. Devon Matsumoto (Mountain View), his parents and extended family; and Rev. Stacy Reardon (San Fernando), her husband, Eric, and their two daughters. Guests walked into a beautiful scene in the sangha center that evening: hanging lanterns, tables set for fine dining and decorated with centerpieces, a wisteria photo booth, and sake tasting by Bottles & Boxes. During the first hour mixer, we cheerfully connected with friends old and new as we welcomed our guests from out-of-town.

The program opened with the introduction of city councilmembers Victoria Seaman and Francis Allen-Palenske, who read a proclamation from the City of Las Vegas that March 9 would henceforth be known as “Las Vegas Buddhist Sangha Day.” Rev. Marvin Harada, Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America, then introduced the tokudo recipients.

I asked each of my classmates to share one lighthearted and one meaningful memory of our time in Kyoto for tokudo ordination, and wow, did they deliver the goods. They brought to light such memories as chanting funeral nembutsu over a classmate’s bed when he fell ill; the lovely letter of support our chanting instructor wrote and had translated to English so she could read it to us directly; and other examples of how our spirits were challenged by our conditions and lifted by the guidance we received. I loved hearing the laughter and feeling the camaraderie my classmates had with each other extend to our sangha. Following a delicious dinner, Rita Lim serenaded the room with her soulful voice and kind observations as a fellow Buddhist. If the evening lifted off with the tokudo acknowledgment, it soared on the wings of the music and friendship we all felt listening together.

The next morning, Rev. Harada led the five tokudo ministers in the chanting of the Nembutsu Wasan, which comprise six poems written by Shinran, the founder of Jōdo Shinshū. These wasan were part of our daily chanting during tokudo, and to be together again, chanting these beautiful verses for our sangha, was another highlight of a wonderful weekend. The verse I chanted that morning is as follows:

The light of wisdom exceeds all measure, And every finite living being Receives this illumination that is like the dawn, So take refuge in Amida Buddha, the true and real light. – Jōdo Wasan 4, Collected Works of Shinran 325

Shining Lights was an example of the Buddha’s true and real light working through this sangha and all the people who came together to make this a once in a lifetime event. I believe there will be other Shining Lights events in our future, but this was the only one that will ever have taken place on March 9, 2024. Events like these are only possible because of all the shining lights among us, working to share the three treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha in all forms with each other, our friends, and our community.

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