Asian Pacific American Heritage Month ~ Rev. T. K. Nakagaki

“May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian-Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).” [link]


Angry Asian Buddhist mentioned in his May 23rd post, that this is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. He suggests: “…it would be great if the Buddhist blogging community took advantage of the eight remaining days in May to spend a little time—maybe just one post—recognizing the voices of Asian American Buddhists.” A wonderful and challenging statement from Arun.  

Maia over at the Jizo Chronicles has a nice list of prominent Asian American and Asian Buddhists that move to the sound of the Engaged Buddhist bell, that is well worth checking out. But I did notice one person left out that I thought deserves mention.

The image above is of T. K. Nakagaki of the New York Buddhist Church and former president of the Buddhist Council of New York who is pictured played the flute at the beginning of an interfaith blessing ceremony at the East Coast War Memorial. He faced away from the crowd and toward the water. Nakagaki chose not to speak to the crowd. “Sometimes it’s better not to speak and just be there, then everybody can just do their own prayer in their mind,” Nakagaki said. [source]

Nakagaki also attended an Interfaith Time of Reflection for Japan. An event that shows the inclusive nature of Buddhist practice. I just wanted to mention that I am a huge fan of T. K. Nakagaki and this article on about Buddhism with a New Mindset is one of my favorite pieces written on Buddhism in the West. There was rumor of his writing a book on his journeys to India and his practice in NYC but that has yet to materialize. I have deep respect for Rev. Nakagaki’s devotion to interfaith dialogue and dissemination of Buddhist thought in an accessible, kind and forthright manner.

You can check out his interview and comments on the aftermath of the earthquake and the wisdom and guidance the Buddhist tradition can offer in the wake of tragedy in Japan. Rev. Nakagaki also organized the first 9/11 floating lantern ceremony in 2002 and it has been an annual event ever since..

Rev. T.K. Nakagaki will host his annual memorial service for the dead. The service takes place at Pier 40, overlooking the Hudson River, at 6 PM. Everyone from both sides of this new conflict is invited to pray for the dead, all together.

The service is both Buddhist and interfaith. At its center is the traditional Obon ceremony for the dead, loosely translated as the Floating Lantern Ceremony. Rice paper lanterns are inscribed with the names of the dead, lit with candles, and floated out to sea (in this case the Hudson River, via the assistance of the New York Kayak Club). The United Sikhs, a social service Sikh group, will provide food as part of its spiritual practice.

Nakagaki wants to make something clear: everyone is invited to this service, because it is a service for the dead. And that includes people with different opinions about the community center at Ground Zero. At some point differences must be put aside, peace must be sought, and the dead must be prayed for. This is Nakagaki’s message. [link]

So that is my meager and small post about a man I consider robust and large in character and practice.


Watch on Posterous

4 thoughts on “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month ~ Rev. T. K. Nakagaki

  1. Thanks for this great post. Rev. Nakagaki is one of the most unique Shin Buddhist teachers I’ve met and a suitably charismatic community leader in New York. Hopefully you will also find the opportunity to move beyond merely writing about us, and to go out and connect with an Asian American Buddhist to actually welcome our voices to your site. Thanks again for this post—your continued support is deeply appreciated!

  2. Thanks, Arun. I have contacted a number of Asian-American (or minority) to talk about their practice on my blog. I rarely get a reply, unfortunately.

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