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Family finds ministry a way of life
By Rod Ohira

Colombo - When Shuji Komagata was ordained as a Soto Zen Buddhist minister, he extended his family's line of ministers in Hawai'i to a fourth generation.

On Dec. 12, Komagata's wife, Jaymie, gave birth to the couple's second child and first son, Reigan. There's hope that either Reigan or his 2-year-old sister, Remi, will follow in the footsteps of their father; grandfather the Rev. Shugen Komagata, the 11th minister of Wahiawa Ryusenji Soto Mission; great-grandfather Zenshu Komagata; and great-great grandfather Zenkyo Komagata.

"It's comforting to know," Shugen Komagata said of his grandchildren, "that possibly, there's a chance they will become ministers."

Zenkyo and Zenshu Komagata were the second and third bishops, respectively, of Soto Mission of Hawaii. The former, who oversaw the building of the temple on Nu'uanu Avenue, came to Hawai'i from Japan in 1919 and served as bishop here from 1928 until his death in 1972. Zenshu Komagata was bishop from 1972-75.

Ministerial service is viewed not as a tradition by the Komagatas but rather a way of life, nurtured by religious values from childhood.

Thirty-year-old Shuji Komagata, who was ordained Nov. 14, is a Leilehua High and University of Hawai'i graduate working on his master's degree in religion. He said he felt no pressure to become a minister and the choice was his. It will be the same for his children, said Komagata.

"With Buddhism, it's about how I live my daily life; moment to moment, how much attention I give to each thing I do," said Shuji Komagata, assistant minister at Wahiawa Soto Mission. "If I can plant seeds for my children, they'll make the decision on their own."

When talking to his daughter, Komagata is conscious of the tone of his voice and the manner in which a message is delivered. On the subject of sharing, for example, "the need is to be aware on her side to want to help someone rather than to be told to do so," he said.

In his hossen shiki, or ordination speech, Shuji Komagata spoke of the four kinds of actions one can do for the sake of others from Zen Master Dogen's Shushogi chant. The actions giving, kind speech, beneficial deeds and cooperation is a way of life in his own family.

"Giving means not to covet," Komagata said. "Without seeking reward or thanks, we simply share our strength with others.

"Kind speech is fundamental for pacifying one's enemies and fostering harmony among one's friends," he continued. "Beneficial deeds means finding ways to help others. Cooperation means not to differentiate. We must see ourselves in others and others in ourselves. The ocean does not reject water."

Raised on these values, Komagata knew from an early age what he wanted to do.

"My decision to become a minister had more to do with my upbringing," said Komagata, who joined the 12-year-old Hawaii Soto Mission Association's minister training program when it opened and is believed to be the first to be ordained.

Shugen Komagata, 61, said there was also no family pressure on him to become a minister. He and his wife, the former Faye Watanabe, created a Buddhist family environment for their sons within the framework of life outside of Japan.

"If a minister cannot make his own family good Buddhists," Shugen Komagata said, "how is he going to do it with a congregation?"

Shugen Komagata came to Hawai'i from Niigata prefecture in 1956. He attended Hawaiian Mission Academy to learn English, graduated from McKinley High School in 1963, and earned his undergraduate and master's degrees in philosophy from the University of New Mexico before becoming a minister.

His father and grandfather agreed that he should come here to learn English and be a minister in Hawai'i, said Shugen Komagata. "I had to be ready to serve a multicultural, multidiversified group." He served his apprenticeship at Soto Mission of Hawaii and Soto Mission in Kona 1975-81 before coming to Wahiawa in November 1981. [HONOLULU ADVERTISER]

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