Being Buddhist, Being Gay — George Takei
January 14, 2015 2:06 PM   Subscribe

When the Supreme Court of the State of California ruled for marriage equality in 2008, we seized the opportunity. Having founded the Japanese American National Museum (I’m still a trustee on the Board there), we wanted to have our wedding there, in the “Democracy Forum” building. It was, after all, democracy that made our formal union possible. And Brad too had embraced Buddhism by now, so it could be a Buddhist wedding. We chose Rev. Briones of the Nishi Hongwanji Temple to be our officiant because he personifies Buddhism’s diversity, being that he’s a Mexican American Buddhist minister.
Walter Koenig, who appeared on Star Trek with me, as Chekhov, is a particularly good friend so we asked him to be the best man. Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura on Star Trek, was to be the Matron of Honor — but she didn’t like the word matron. “If Walter can be the best man,” she asked, “why can’t I be the best lady?” And so our best man was Jewish American, our best lady was African American, and our guests in the Democracy Forum were greeted by a gifted player playing traditional koto music—with a bagpipe piper leading us out onto the Museum Plaza across to the Pavilion building and the Great Hall for our wedding dinner. It was a joyous occasion, a very diverse one, and singularly a Buddhist wedding.
posted by Elementary Penguin (19 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wonderful. Takei is a national treasure.
posted by Splunge at 2:15 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I asked my monk about Buddhist wedding ceremonies and he said there aren't any (Tibetan).

He basically said, since the "I" does not exist, how could a "wedding" exist? "Being married" is a concept that exists only in the mind and Buddhism is to liberate the mind from conceptual thought. I understood what he was saying, but it didn't make it any less of a killjoy.

So I guess I have to go elsewhere for my ceremony.... unitarian?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:15 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


St.peepsburg: I doubt he applies that same reasoning to "food" and would doubt his temple applies it to "money"
posted by leotrotsky at 2:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I doubt he applies that same reasoning to "food" and would doubt his temple applies it to "money"

Food is necessary. Money helps the temple spread the word.

We get it, you're such an iconoclast that you even think Buddhists are hypocritical assholes. Let's move on.
posted by Etrigan at 2:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


So I guess I have to go elsewhere for my ceremony.... unitarian?

ha just tell him you want a bonpo wedding then
posted by poffin boffin at 2:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not that I'm an expert or anything, but my impression was that Buddhists don't regard marriage as a sacrament. It's neither condoned or disapproved of, but considered a secular matter. There aren't Buddhist wedding ceremonies as such, just Indian or Japanese or whatever traditional ceremonies.
posted by bonehead at 2:45 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


It was only in 2005 that he came out publicly? It seems like it was longer ago, but, yeah, it wasn't until after MA had marriage equality. And, yes, he has become a national treasure.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:55 PM on January 14, 2015


Lots of good thoughts in that piece. I really liked where Takei describes the idealism of his youth and then in the very next paragraph describes the pragmatic conclusion he took away from his work with the Stevenson campaign:
One Sunday afternoon he took me downtown to the Adlai Stevenson for President Headquarters and volunteered me. I was introduced to the electoral process and got a real understanding of how our democracy works. First of all: it’s a lot of fun. I’m a social person and loved to engage people, over the phone or on the sidewalk, in discussions about Gov. Stevenson and all the good things that he’d done. Stevenson didn’t win, but I learned another lesson: you do not give up.
It reads very much as a both/and approach to democracy and social change (as opposed to an either/or approach) and it melds with his oneness perspective.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


We chose Rev. Briones of the Nishi Hongwanji Temple to be our officiant because he personifies Buddhism’s diversity, being that he’s a Mexican American Buddhist minister.

Surely that wasn't the only reason? If someone asked me to officiate at their wedding because I added to the diversity of the event... I would not be very flattered.
posted by wrabbit at 3:05 PM on January 14, 2015


So I guess I have to go elsewhere for my ceremony.... unitarian?

Or another Buddhist monk, maybe Zen. Zen has a long history of adapting itself to local legal and cultural developments. (I've never performed a wedding myself, but am willing to travel if you can't find anyone closer.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 3:17 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


It was only in 2005 that he came out publicly?

It was an open secret in Trek fandom for years (decades, possibly) before that. I remember someone being mildly scandalized at a con in the mid-'90s and everyone else looking at her like, "Who fucking cares, he's Sulu and he's also awesome."
posted by Etrigan at 3:20 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


There aren't Buddhist wedding ceremonies as such, just Indian or Japanese or whatever traditional ceremonies.

Well, traditional Japanese ceremonies aren't Buddhist, they're Shinto (normally, anyway). [I was married in Japan in a traditional ceremony very recently]. Normally, Japanese go to shrines (Shinto) for weddings and temples (Buddhist) for funerals. But most Japanese wouldn't really call themselves Buddhist, unlike Takei (who presumably has a very different relation to religion and culture having grown up in the US).
posted by thefoxgod at 3:38 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


His autobiography, which came out in 94, didn't mention anything about his home life. (Plus, despite having him in full-on Captain Sulu regalia on the cover, doesn't mention Star Trek until like page 120 or something.) I do hope he's working on a Volume II.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:06 PM on January 14, 2015


To Be Takei is up on Netflix and very enjoyable.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:17 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


It amuses me that the very young Takei played opposite the man's man John Wayne in Green Berets.
posted by wilful at 4:57 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are third acts, and then there are Third Acts. I hope that Takei is secretly making the most of a very long second intermission.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 5:16 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


>We chose Rev. Briones of the Nishi Hongwanji Temple to be our officiant because he personifies Buddhism’s diversity, being that he’s a Mexican American Buddhist minister.

Surely that wasn't the only reason?


He wrote about it, Nishi Hongwanji was his mother's temple, his father belonged to Zenshuji which is also near downtown LA in Little Tokyo. Takei also talked about founding the Japanese-American National Museum, which is in the old Nishi Hongwanji building. They built a new temple in 1969 on 1st Street in Little Tokyo. The temples are definitely cultural anchors of the community and Takei is a community leader, this is his history. Wow, he even talked about working with Mayor Tom Bradley, that's when Downtown and Little Tokyo redevelopment began.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:54 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Great piece. Thanks for posting, Elementary Penguin.
posted by homunculus at 4:28 PM on January 18, 2015


Also at Lion's Roar: George Takei’s six best Buddhist posts
posted by homunculus at 4:36 PM on January 18, 2015


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