George Takei on ‘Being Gay, Being Buddhist’

George Takei, Lion’s Roar: The actor, author, and undisputed King of Social Media reflects on his fascinating personal history: his childhood and his family’s internment during World War II, his life as a gay man and activist, how far we’ve all come, and why we must press on together.

I was born to a Buddhist family — my father was Zen and my mother was Shin, and both were rather casual about it. Before Internment all I remember of Buddhist temples are the funerals and the weddings.

Then the Internment came. It was a very chaotic time. I don’t remember much religion except that my mother had created a tiny altar in our little barrack room.

But she didn’t chant every day like my grandmother did before the war, so there wasn’t much discussion of Buddhism until we came out of camp. A volunteer from Senshin Buddhist Church would come and pick my brother, my sister, and me up and take us to the temple (although my mother belonged to Nishi Hongwanji and my father belonged to Zenshuji Temple), and there I was exposed to the teachings of Buddhism. I particularly remember Roy and Terry Nakawatase, a young, personable, actively engaged couple who were teachers of the Sunday School. I remember Roy using the metaphor of the vastness of the ocean: we are all part of it, we belong to this vast oneness, and that made a lot of sense for me—that I am really one with everybody, with the whole, and that we can play a part in making that whole healthier and more understanding…

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