Noted Author, Budhist Scholar to Speak in Honoka’a and Hilo

Noted author and educator, guest speaker Dr. Kenneth K. Tanaka will speak at Honoka‘a Hongwanji, Monday, August 13, and at Hilo Betsuin, Tuesday, August 14.  His talks about “Attraction, Detraction and the Future of Shin Buddhism within American Religious Landscape” begin at 7 p.m. at both locations, and there will be an opportunity to meet Dr. Tanaka, share some refreshments and talk story afterward.

Dr. Kenneth K. Tanaka

“I like all food as I try practicing non-attachment!” said Tanaka, successful author of eight books, including Ocean: an Introduction to Jodo Shinsu Buddhism in America.  In spite of his esoteric titles, Dr. Tanaka has a down-to-earth and enlightening perspective on Buddhism in the United States—as evidenced in his writing.  For example, in “Ocean” Chapter One, Dr. Tanaka talks about Buddhist principles, the “Four Marks of Existence.”

“Buddhist teachings can seem complicated, but I have an easy way to remember the Four Marks of Existence:
1) Life is a Bumpy road,
2) Life is Impermanent,
3) Life is Interdependent,
4) Life is Fundamentally Good.
“So, to remember the four, “Think BIIG!”

Born in 1947 in Yamaguchi, Japan, Dr. Tanaka moved to California at the age of eleven in 1958 with his Japanese-American parents.   After graduating from Stanford in 1970 with a degree in Cultural Anthropology, he took a year-long journey around the world that included a stint as a monk in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand.

In Japan, he earned an M.A. in Indian Philosophy from Tokyo University and was ordained in as a Shin Buddhist minister in 1978. Returning to the U.S., he earned a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1991 was appointed Professor at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union.  He has also taught at Musashino University, Tokyo University and Ryukoku University.

A dedicated scholar, writer and educator, Dr. Tanaka understandably has little spare time for outside interests.  “I have no hobbies since my life itself is a hobby!” he said.  And no pets, although he does find time to feed three stray cats every morning, which have taught him Dharma (described as piety and ethical practice, duty and obligation, the orderly fulfillment of our inherent destiny).  “They are Dharma cats,” he said.  Visit Dr. Tanaka’s website at

Admission to the “Attraction, Detraction” talks are free and open to everyone regardless of religious or spiritual background. Dr. Tanaka’s talk begins at 7 p.m. followed by time for questions and answers, and informal receptions with light refreshments.  Dr. Tanaka’s presentations are courtesy of the Honoka‘a Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and Hilo Betsuin. Major support has been provided by the Commission on Buddhist Education (Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii).

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