Reverend Tamai

There Remains Thanks Only

Rev. Yoshitaka Tamai

  Ah, has fifty years gone by?  It seems like one night's dream.  In 1930, when I came to Denver, America was in the midst of a terrible depression. Many people were hunting food out of the garbage disposals. In the farming areas the houses were still being lit with kerosene lamps. Stoves were fed with logs that were cut beforehand from dead trees. Of course, there weren't washing machines and refrigerators. The labor on the farms was done by hand and by horses.

  At this time the Church had incurred debts in the sum of $6,000 and was having a difficult time paying the interest. Creditors were demanding payment of three months past interest due on the loan. There wasn't even enough money to pay the electric bill. Because of lack of funds many sad events occurred. One day I went to a certan ten cents store and saw a sale on chinaware. Thinking that it would help the Church I bought 30 dishes at a bargain price; but upon reporting this to the Treasurer, I was severly reprimanded. This was how poor the Church was.

  The roof of the Church used to leak everytime a rain or snowfall occurred, but repairs were out of the question. My room was littered with pans and washtubs because of the leaks. One evening I came home from the country and the water was dripping onto my bed drenching the blankets and mattress.

  One evening in the winter about 2:00 A.M in the morning, the ceiling of my room collapsed. Fortuantely, the roof fell off to one side of the bed, so I escaped injury; but that night I couldn't get any sleep at all.

  At that time my salary was $60 a month. Because the Church didn't have any income I didn't receive any salary for eight months. I didn't have enough money to buy breakfast.  When it finally got to the stage where the Church could no longer open, I thought about the future of Buddhism and what I should do myself; I pondered over this problem for three sleepless nights. Finally, the familiar phrase from the Larger Sukhavati Vyuha Sutra came to mind. "With patience shall I never retreat at all" -- Amida Buddha in his resolve to save me underwent a long period of suffering and inthat moment of decision He declared, "If I find myself in sufferings and poisons, with patience shall I never retreat at all."

  "This is it," and with my mind having reached the decision I wrote the words "perseverance" and "sacrifice" on a scroll and placed it over the head of my bed.

  Then I first decided to donate the sum of $1,000. With the first step, I asked that a Board of Directors meeting be called, and at that time I earnestly pleaded with the Board saying, "I will donate $1,000 so will all of you strive to raise the sum of $5,000 so that we can pay off the debts on the Church. Unless this is done the Church will have to close."

  The Board members all said, "If Rev. Tamai is that sincere and earnest, we've got to do something." From that day the members went fron door to door, soliciting donations. Even though it was the blackest period of the Depression the sum of $5,000 was raised within a month's time and the debts were returned. In order to raise my $1,000 donation I had it taken from my salary; it took two years to pay it off.

  I couldn't help but shed tears of joy realizing that if it were for something else it wouldn't be possible to raise such a large sum of money in these bad times; the Power of the Buddha is very wonderful and thankful, indeed.

  On reflecting, many people's faces appear in my mind. "This person helped me so very much; that person really was good to me." I can't forget all of these people. At the present the greater majority of them are no longer here on this earth. I couldn't repay the debt of gratitude I owed them. All I did was receive and was never able to return anything. "I feel so regretful," are my feelings to those many people to whom I bow my head in Gassho.

  Those Issei who are still living have all worked so faithfully for the Church. The fact that the Church is flourishing today is all due to the efforts of those old pioneers. We should not forget the great of debt of gratitude we owe them. I truly feel grateful to them. Only thanks remain.

  That period was the time of Americanization. The President of the Church, Mr. Tohachi Uyehara, oftentimes remarked to me, "Rev. Tamai, no matter how hard you strive, since this country is a Christian country; when it comes to the period of the Sansei, Buddhism will disappear. So you should work with that in mind and not work too hard." These words still remain in my mind, but American Buddhism has really grown and progressed. The world has also changed. The Pacific Era has arrived. The Western ideology of monotheism has reached an impasse. The confrontation between democracy and communism has become very acute. With present day ideas centered around the individual and one's own nation, the only path it will lead to is nuclear war. Mankind is on the eve of complete annihilation. How dangerous! We must awaken to the danger.

  No matter how hard we think, the only conclusion we can reach is that salvation from this crisis lies only in the idea of Mahayana Buddhism -- the oneness of all life. Everyone's rejoicing is my rejoicing, everyone's sadness is my sadness; where everyone finds happiness, I find happiness. This is the idea found in the 18th Vow and is the only idea that can save mankind.  

  From this standpoint I look forward to the growth of American Buddhism.  The Tri-State Buddhist Church, carry on; carry on, for the sake of all mankind!

 

Note:  This article was written by Reverend Tamai in 1966 for the Tri-State Buddhist Church Fifty Year History Book.  It is reprinted here (from the booklet entitled Reverend Yoshitaka Tamai, Fifty Consecutive Years of Buddha -  Dharma, 1930 - 1980) because it not only contains the history of our Temple but it also provides an insight to a dedicated man who gave his total mind and body to the cause of Buddhism in the true spirit of Dana.