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Interfaith Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Shinnyo-en Chicago Temple!

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Early in the morning of May 2nd, two dozen temple volunteers were preparing to welcome the guests with warm smiles on their faces. The guests were all newly acquainted, first-time visitors to the Chicago Temple. Shortly before 7 AM, the guests began arriving, one by one, or as a couple accompanied by their spouses, and were greeted by the temple volunteers. This would be the first time that the Chicago Temple opened its doors to host the Annual Interfaith Prayer Breakfast organized by the Interfaith Council of Elk Grove Village, IL. Some of the guests admired the artfully arranged flowers on the breakfast tables as they walked in while others were awestruck by the Sanctuary. Many of the guests were regular attendees of this annual event but this year’s venue,  a Buddhist Temple, seemed to have added another compelling reason for them to come to this year’s prayer breakfast.

IMG_2107By 7 AM, the breakfast was served in the Harmony Room.  Ten tables with six chairs each were all occupied cozily while a few more tables in the hallway gradually filled up as the breakfast lasted for 45 minutes. The temple volunteers served coffee and tea generously to the guests and cordially invited them to take a second serving of the breakfast goodies. They also took the emptied plates as the guests finished their breakfast or cleared the plates of those who wished to help themselves to dessert. The hospitality and generosity of the temple volunteers were apparent to anyone’s eyes.

After lively and friendly conversations over the breakfast tables, the guests were escorted to the Temple Sanctuary by 7:45 AM. At the Sanctuary, Rev. Fumio Ishizaka warmly welcomed the guests and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to introduce Shinnyo-en Buddhism and the Sanctuary to the first-time visitors. He also announced that the prayer breakfast was organized by the Interfaith Council of Elk Grove Village and hosted jointly by the Chicago Temple and Shinnyo-en Foundation. Starting with prayers for the World in general, the representatives of a dozen different churches and congregations stood in front of the reclining Buddha of the Chicago Temple to offer their prayers for the people who had been impacted by wars and who were living in poverty and in need, and for the individuals and families, the immediate neighbors, the environment, and the world. (Please click here to see the Prayer Breakfast Program for more information.)

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The hearts of the attendees were all filled with compassion for others and joy brought by the shared prayers. At the end of the prayers, Rev. Ishizaka concluded by  quoting the Founder, Shinjo Ito’s speech published on August 8th, 1967 shortly after his return from the Vatican:

Viola1“ Through this trip, I have come to deeply feel that all People are one.  I have also felt that all religions are one.  Therefore, in the future, those of us who have religious belief should not become self-righteous. We must respect other religions and create harmony among us.  What I mean by this is to nurture within ourselves the spirit of learning the good within others.  When we try to learn from others in form and in Spirit, I believe we are already reaping the fruits of Harmony.”

Some of the visitors were offered a bouquet of flowers that had decorated the breakfast tables to take along and enjoy for the rest of the day. The guests, with or without the bouquets, uniformly thanked their hosts for the attentive and generous care that the temple volunteers provided to them. As the guests departed, Rev. Ishizaka uttered that it was truly rewarding to him that the temple volunteers were filled with happiness and joy to be able to take part of the interfaith prayer breakfast and welcome the guests to their temple. That brought him the most gratification, Rev. Ishizaka said with a beaming smile on his face.

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