Shingyo Dojo

by Ryuei Michael McCormick

Here is the talk I gave at our temple soon after returning from Shingyo Dojo,
so it was probably in May 2001.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,

Shingyo Dojo

I am very happy to be standing here today as a fully ordained Nichiren Shu minister. Of course, I could not be here if it were not for my sensei, the Ven. Ryusho Matsuda, and if not for all of you and your support and encouragement. Strangely, only now that I have returned from Shingyo Dojo, having completed the training, can I really appreciate what a risk it was for my sensei to take me on as his disciple and to trust that I would be able to do what needed to be done.

Getting through the training at Shingyo Dojo was truly one of the most difficult things that I have ever done up to this point in my life. In fact, at the end of Shingyo Dojo, Rev. Shindo, the headmaster, asked Michael Faulconer, Will Warner, and myself which we considered harder - our previous military experience in the Navy or Shingyo Dojo. For those of you who may not know, Michael Faulconer had been an enlisted man in the Navy and had gone through Navy bootcamp, Will Warner was an aviation officer in the Navy and had gone through Officer Cadet School where they use Marine Corps drill instructors. I had taken the easy route through NROTC and was an officer aboard a guided missile frigate in Long Beach after graduating college. In any case, all three of us quickly agreed that Shingyo Dojo was much harder than the military. In the military you may have to do a lot of push-ups, but in Shingyo Dojo you are in almost constant pain due to sitting in seiza for just about everything - services, lectures, meals, etc... This is in addition to all of the other rigors and discomforts of the program. I would definately say that getting through Shingyo Dojo demands great sincerity and dedication. I do not think that anyone can get through it with a half-hearted attitude.

Shingyo Dojo, at least for me, was also just as rewarding as it was painful. In fact, if it weren’t for sitting in seiza, just about everything that we did I would have found extremely enjoyable. Even with seiza, I was still able to deeply appreciate what I was able to do and experience there. I have many memories that I will cherish forever. For instance, every day we got up before dawn and marched up to Kuonji chanting Odaimoku to the rhythm of the hand taikos. Every morning we participated in the morning service at Kuonji led by Archbishop Fuji. Every morning we chanted a section of the Lotus Sutra, so that by the end of Shingyo Dojo we had recited the entire sutra from beginning to end. I wish I could share with you what it was like to have been able to be a part of that.

There was also the time we hiked to the top of Mt. Shichimen and stayed at the large lodging temple there overnight - the Shichimensan Keishinin. The next day we all greeted the dawn with Odaimoku. It was a rare clear day and we had a totally unobstructed view as the sun rose over the peaks just to the north of Mt. Fuji.

For me, a very special occasion was getting the chance to learn about Shodaigyo from Rev. Gondo, who was the direct disciple of Bishop Nichijun Yukawa who began the practice of Shodaigyo at Seichoji Temple in 1957. Shodaigyo has always impressed me as one of the most powerful spiritual practices that I have ever encountered since I was introduced to it by Rev. Fujiwara at the Los Angeles Temple back in 1990. So I can not even tell you how happy I was to meet and learn more about it directly from the source.

I will also never forget the two occasions where Michael Faulconer, Will Warner, and I were able to meet and talk with Archbishop Nichiko Fuji, the current head priest of Kuonji Temple at Mt. Minobu. We were all very touched by his warmth and encouragement. He was genuinely happy that the three of us were there and he specifically commissioned us to do our best to spread the Odaimoku in the United States. I would love to spend more time telling you about that and all of the other unforgettable experiences that I had, but I don’t want to try your patience.

Before I finish, I want to admit that my motivation for becoming a priest may have been selfish. I was not concerned about being a priest so that I could lead a congregation or take over a temple or set myself up as a teacher. I simply wanted to learn as much as I could about Nichiren Shonin and the Lotus Sutra from my sensei, the Ven. Ryusho Matsuda. I wanted to learn how to deepen my practice and understanding for myself and I did not really believe that what I did would matter much to anyone else other than to me and my sensei. I think I believed that it would be a small thing of no consequence to anyone outside of the members of this temple if I were to become a priest. Since that time, I have come to realize that being a priest is a grave responsibility. It is a responsibility to receive and keep, cherish, uphold, and pass on the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching to all sentient beings. Just training with my sensei and with all of you here in San Jose has shown me that. I have seen that what I do, what each of us does, has an impact that really has no boundaries. At Shingyo Dojo, Michael Faulconer, Will Warner and I were especially impressed by the great hopes that everyone seemed to have for us -- the other students, the senseis, and most especially, Archbishop Nichiko Fuji. A lot is expected of us, much more than I could have imagined. I am sure that I can speak for Ryuoh and Shinkyo as well as myself in saying, we will do our best to live up to those expectations, and with your continued support and encouragement and through faith in the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Shonin’s teachings I am sure that all of us will be able to accomplish the most important mission of all -- to widely declare and spread the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2001, 2002.

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