photo by Phil Hardy [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Myokei Caine Barrett, Shonin*
ケイン-バッレト 妙恵 上人
the first and current resident priest of Myoken Temple in Houston. A short biography of her journey is below.
*The term Shonin [上人] used here means religious leader/teacher. It is quite distinct in meaning from the term normally associated with our Founder, Nichiren Shonin [聖人] meaning a holy man, a Buddha or bodhisattva, or priest of highest rank.
We have adopted its usage here in the US as it is a term unique to Japanese Buddhism, much like the term Sensei (teacher) or Roshi (Zen master).
A Member of the Texas Sangha decides to take vows to become a Priest.
Lynda Caine-Barrett decided to follow the path of a priest after becoming a member of Nichiren Shu in 2002. In 2003 she took vows at the Nichiren Buddhist Temple of Portland with her master, Ryuoh Faulconer, Shonin. Two others also took vows to become priests in the future (Shami). From the right: Shami Myokei Caine-Barrett of the Houston Sangha, Shami Ryushin Miller of San Francisco, Shami Ryunin Sorenson of Seattle.
The Tokudo symbolizes the leaving home and secular life for that of a monk or nun. They will have to train for several years before being able to complete their training and become Nichiren Shu priests.
The Shami receiving their certificates at Seichoji. After taking Tokudo at their master's Temple, the Shami headed for Japan to confirm their vows at Seichoji. This is the Temple where our founder took his first vows to become a priest. Shami Myokei received her certificate and wagesa (Buddhist robe) at the Docho ceremony after taking vows. She is now an official novice (Shami) in the Nichiren Order. It will take several years of training before she will be able to take the final steps and be fully ordained.
Entering the Dojo
After several years of training, Shami Myokei is ready to take the final step in becoming a priest in the Nichiren Shu. She went to Japan in the fall of 2006 to take her written exams and completed her oral exam in early March 2007. She entered Shingyo Dojo monastery at Mt. Minobu with 15 other women from May 27-June 30 of 2007. There she completed her training and was ordained as a Nichiren Shu priest. It was a difficult and rewarding few years for Shami Myokei as she practiced and studied for the priesthood. She worked hard to learn not only the ceremonial manner of her practice and academic theory but also develop and practice the loving, caring compassion of a priest. She guided the Houston Sangha under the guidance of her master, Faulconer Shonin. She started a prison ministry and has been working with inmates in the Houston, Texas area. She attended yearly Shami training at the NBIC in Hayward California and also spent time in the Portland Temple with her Master.
May 27th 2007 The Dojo group on their way to the Founders Hall of Kuon Ji for the opening ceremony.
The Monastery stay lasts for 35 days.
While in Shingyo Dojo, the title of Hosshi (Dharma teacher) is used for the students. The Hosshi wear grey robes and yellow Kesa. Recorded history indicates that grey and yellow are what Nichiren Shonin would have worn. In the time of Nichiren Shonin, the gray robe was obtained by taking a white hemp robe and rubbing ash from the incense burner into it. The monks of India wear saffron colored robes; however, since the Japanese ministers did not have saffron, a yellow flower was used to produce the color in the Kesa. The Kesa is the holy garment worn by the minister. It is a patchwork of cloth sewn together which represents the rag robe that Shakamuni put on when he became an ascetic monk.
The Dojo coming down from Kuon Ji after the opening ceremony. They will climb to Kuon Ji every morning for service. Most of their time will be spent in the Dojo itself. This group was made up of 16 women ranging in age from 35 to 67. The teachers wear a darker grey robe and brown Kesa.
Family; Husband, Daughter and Mother.
Toshii Komukai, was with Myokei in the Dojo.
Installation as resident priest
Myokei Shonin was installed as the resident priest of Myoken Temple on July 8th, 2007.
More pictures of the Installation Ceremony are here.
This biography was in the program of Myokei Shonin's installation ceremony.
“No Regrets About the Path I’ve Traveled”
a biography of Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin by Christie C.
Christie is a member and long time friend.
On June 30, 2007, Myokei Lynda Caine-Barrett, Shonin, became the first American woman to complete Shingyo Dojo, the training monastery of Nichiren Shu. She was also the first woman of African-Japanese descent to be ordained as a priest in the Nichiren Shu Order. In her first assignment, she will serve as resident priest of Myoken-ji Temple in Houston. She will also continue her Buddhist Outreach work in the Texas Prison System (TDCJ) spreading the dharma to incarcerated individuals. Myokei’s ordination is the culmination of a lifetime of Buddhist practice. More importantly, it is another step along the path, the birth of a vision conceived long ago when she was just a girl growing up in a military family in El Paso.
Myokei Lynda Caine-Barrett began her practice of Nichiren Buddhism as a young teenager. Her mother had been invited to an NSA (now SGI) Buddhist discussion meeting. Lynda’s mother was not interested in going, but she allowed Lynda to attend admonishing her to not join anything. Of that meeting, Myokei relates that “I don’t recall much of the meeting except hearing the experiences people shared about the benefits received from chanting “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo."
Prior to attending this meeting, Lynda struggled to find answers to the suffering that she was experiencing during that time. With this, she had already begun her quest to find her own spiritual path. She had begun a deep study of religion from which she had concluded that religion was about introspection and self development. Being of diverse cultures--her mother Japanese and her father African American--her parents did not push her towards any particular religion. However, they did send Lynda and her siblings to church every Sunday, which instilled in Lynda the value of religious practice. At the end of the discussion meeting, when she was asked to join, especially since her mother had said not to, it seemed only logical in her rebellious teenage mind that she should.
Admittedly, in the beginning, Lynda knew very little about Buddhism. She had been told that she could chant “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” to address the problems in her life and relieve her suffering and that is what she did. Consequently, she experienced deeply, early in her life, the power of pure Buddhist practice and its ability to transform one’s life. Time passed and Lynda left home to attend college and begin her adult life. Along the way, she became a single mother and moved to Houston. For the next 30 years, she would practice Buddhism as an SGI member.
It was in Houston, experiencing the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows and the triumphs and adversities of a life fully lived and truly examined that Lynda’s Buddhist practice deepened. She engaged herself fully in study and practice. Determined to truly live her faith and not just pay lip service, she walked her talk, devoting herself to the service of others. Of this time, Lynda expresses, “I put my entire heart and soul into this endeavor …. I began to seek deeper and more thorough understanding of Nichiren Buddhism and found a greater level of freedom and independence in my practice to trust myself."
Inspired by the life of Nichiren Shonin and committed to applying the principles of Buddhist practice in all aspects of her life, Lynda, as a natural consequence began to tackle issues of social justice. Many of the problems experienced by the members she cared for were cultural, political, global. In truth, helping these people also meant working to create a more just society. To that end, Lynda sought to dismantle walls of prejudice, fear and just plain lack of awareness, endeavoring to create many opportunities for dialogue, the goal being to foster connection, understanding and, ultimately, healing. Of her many endeavors, one of the most notable was the formation of the ‘Diversity Group,' the first of its kind in SGI. Working with ‘The Center for Healing Racism’ of which she is still an active member, Lynda sought to create dialogue and understanding of the realities of racism and how it affects people of color as well as the dominant group in society. The ‘Diversity Group’ also focused on understanding the realities of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgendered people. However, there were other less obvious groups whose needs and realities were not always on the table; children, our elders, the physically challenged as well as gender equality rights for women and the socialization of men. During this time, Lynda met her husband, Mike Barrett. Together they adopted her granddaughter Merisa. She did another stint in corporate America. She graduated from Texas Southern University. She pursued her graduate degree in political science at Rice University and became an Associate Professor at TSU. Ironically, it was her deep study and practice of Nichiren Buddhism that pushed Lynda to seek a deeper more sacred experience of her Buddhist practice and with sadness, after years of membership, Lynda was compelled to leave SGI.
When Lynda and her family joined (took jukai) Nichiren Shu on April 21 2002, she knew then that she wanted to become a priest. She made formal request to Ryuoh Faulconer, Shonin, who would eventually agree to become her Master. A year later on February 9, 2003, Myokei took (Tokudo) vows to become a priest and was officially made a Shami (priest in training). Before taking these vows, Myokei had to shave her head. If anyone knows Lynda at all, they know she was famous for her long, flowing, beautiful, gorgeous hair. She shaved all of it. April of that year, she went to Japan for her Docho. The Docho ceremony is a confirmation of one’s vows taken in the same place that Nichiren Shonin took his original vows. After her Docho, Myokei began the rigorous training required of a Nichiren Shu priest. She attended yearly Shami conferences and spent months at a time away from home training with Reverend Faulconer. These past five years have not been easy for Myokei. We have watched her endure all manner of challenges, grow spiritually and literally transform. Myokei always, always strives. After completing Shingyo Dojo (35 days in monastery) the last leg of her training, Myokei was fully ordained. Her mother, who told her all those years ago, “don’t join anything” was there along with Lynda’s husband and daughter. Reporting on the ceremony, Merisa, Lynda’s daughter shared that, “after the ceremony they both just cried for like forever. My grandmother was so happy."
Ryuoh Faulconer, Shonin
2002 - 2007
Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin
2007 - Present