Three historic Buddhist buildings were lost to the wildfires that have destroyed much of the city of Lahaina, on Hawai‘i’s second-largest island, Maui, on 8 August. The Lahaina Shingon Mission (Hokoji Temple), the Lahaina Hongwanji Mission, and the Lahaina Jodo Mission were among the more than 1,700 buildings destroyed. The fire’s death toll has exceeded 100, with as many as 1,300 people still missing.
The wildfire swept down the hillside toward the coastal town of Lahaina, which had a population of 12,702, according to the 2020 census.
Online fundraisers have been established for all three Buddhist organizations.
Members of the Lahaina Shingon Mission, which dates to 1902 when Rev. Hogen Yujiri established a chapel, wrote a short statement on social media on 9 August: “Everything gone but we are doing okay.” (Facebook)
According to the GoFundMe page set up for the Shingon Mission, the fire has destroyed not only the mission but also the home of resident minister Rev. Takayuki Meguro.
Rev. Gensho Hara, the resident minister of the Lahaina Jodo Mission, first established in 1912, echoed this sentiment in an interview, saying: “The temple was burned down, but our spirit is still there. I can’t quite take in that I am little confused by the fact that the whole town has been devastated.” (The Japan News)
On the GoFundMe page for the Lahaina Hongwanji Mission, which traces its roots to 1904, Rev. Kerry Kiyohara writes: “Lahaina Hongwanji Mission, including the oldest Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji temple on Maui, classroom building, and minister residence, was destroyed in the horrific fires that devastated the historic Lahaina town in August 2023. Many temple members have been forced to evacuate, and many homes have burnt to the ground. . . . With roots that extend back to 1889, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii is one of Hawaii’s most influential religious communities.” (Gofundme)
In a statement posted 11 August, Bishop Marvin Harada of the Buddhist Churches of America, which oversees the Lahaina Hongwanji Mission, wrote:
We are all watching in great sadness and horror, the loss of life and destruction of homes and communities in Maui, Hawaii, due to the devastating wildfires. Our thoughts go to all there who have lost loved ones, homes, businesses, temples and churches, and their community. What a tremendous loss for everyone.
I recall a story from the Jataka Tales in our Buddhist tradition. Once there was a huge forest fire and all of the animals in the forest were running away from the fire for safety. One little bird was flying into a lake, dipping its wings in water, then flying over the forest fire dropping little drops of water to fight the fire. Back and forth the little bird flew. The other animals shouted to the little bird, “What are you doing? You cannot put out the fire that way?!” The little bird shouted back, “I may not be able to stop the fire, but this is all that I can do. I must try.”
In the face of such devastation, we will all do what we can do, whether it is to contribute to the disaster relief, to share our encouragement, or for those in Maui, to begin to rebuild, one step at a time, doing what they can do.
Rev. Marvin Harada(Buddhist Churches of America)
Buddhist Churches of America
Hawai’i braces for crushing wildfire death toll with estimated 1,300 missing (Axios)
Lahaina Shingon Mission (Facebook)
Maui Wildfires Destroy Japanese Temple (The Japan News)
Statement regarding the Wildfires and Destruction in Maui, Hawaii (Buddhist Churches of America)
Buddhist Churches Coordinating Hawaii Disaster Relief (The Rafu Shimpo)
Lahaina Shingon Mission fire relief (Gofundme)
Maui Wildfire Relief Fund for Sensei Lahaina Jodo (Gofundme)
Maui Wildfire Disaster Relief Fund (Gofundme)
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