Some people wrote to me to inquire as to the current status of Soto-shu relief efforts and fundraising in Japan. I responded that I wish Soto-shu, via the North America office, would communicate that to us in North America, both teachers and Sangha member donors. Absent that, I can only look at the Soto-shu web pages and write to the Shumucho (head office of Soto-shu in Japan) for information. Further, I know that many many individual priests and temples here and there in Japan (and elsewhere) are making a big effort for relief.
The English (and other foreign languages) Soto-shu web page is very unclear to anyone making a donation. It now contains a tangled flow chart of fundraising that merely indicates that the money will be used for the "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund", and the following two statements:
The Sotoshu Shumucho is now collecting contributions for the "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund".
This relief fund will be used to help the victims of the disaster, and to help rebuild the areas struck.
There is no indication there at all (or anywhere else on the foreign language pages) that 30% of the money is being used for temple relief. While it is true that temples and priests in the Tohoku area are also "victims of the disaster", I believe that the image of people making such a donation based on that language would be that they are donating to the Tsunami victims now in shelters and homeless, and others outside Soto-shu who suffered, not temple rebuilding or for Soto-shu to keep the money for Soto-shu. Of course, while it is perfectly fine for someone to donate to temple relief if they wish to and are fully informed (apart from the question of whether now is the time for such fundraising when there are so many other needy people in the area), it is unclear to me why the page would not explain that such a large part of the money is being diverted for such purposes.
The Japanese pages are only a little better. The main Japanese fundraising page now says ...
I believe this language was added April 7th due to criticism (not just by me but, I understand, within some quarters in Japan as well) that the use of the money is unclear. However, the new description is also a bit strange. It says that donors can now mark their donations as either for "Relief funds for Temples" or as "Relief funds for General Use". It then says "However, if not marked, we will use them as Relief funds for Temples". If so, that leads me to wonder, how much is coming in "unmarked", and why the unmarked money goes for "temple relief" only (it seems) and not for "general relief".
There is also a note dated 4/21 that 10,000,000 Yen (about $121,000) is being given to the Shanti Volunteer Association, a non-profit organization loosely affiliated with Soto-shu that seems to be trying to do some good work in the area. It looks like Shanti is making some very sincere efforts.
However, there is no explanation on the page about how much was raised in total, how much was kept for temple buildings, how much was donated to the Japan Red Cross (which was, I thought, to be the advertised recipient of 70% of the funds) and how much was used for any other purposes or recipients.
I did write to Rev. Shundo Kushida of the Soto-Shu International Division (cc. Daigaku Rumme of the North America office) to ask for clarification on these matters, and to why donations which are not marked are being all diverted to "Relief funds for temples" and not "general relief". He responded by telephone to me, and seems like a nice young fellow. If I understood the gist of his statements to me, he said that he thought the English and foreign language pages were clear enough. He also said that he thought Japanese people donating to the Soto-shu would be clear that the money might be used for Soto-shu temples, so did not need further clarification. I was left with the impression that the formula advertised here for fundraising as "30% for temples, 70% to be re-donated to the Japan Red Cross" was not actually a fixed formula, and that they were deciding the uses of the money (to Shanti and the like) without being bound by that statement. He did not provide any information on the total amount raised or the amount of that used for temple relief.
I strongly suggested to Rev. Kushida that I am the wrong person to have to ask these questions, and that Soto-shu, and the North America office of Soto-shu, should itself make a little better effort to communicate these facts to Soto affiliated teachers and Sangha in North America, and to donors here.. Rev. Kushida (if I understood correctly) then said that he has no way to send a message or communicate the same apart from the Soto-shu web pages (already clear enough in his view), which I insisted is not the case.
It would be nice to hear more stories too of Soto affiliated priests in Japan and the efforts they are making. I know that there are very many out giving their all.