Capitol Alert

Bob Oshita, Sacramento Buddhist reverend, takes over as Assembly chaplain

Rev. Bob Oshita videos his congregation during a farewell song at his final service after 32 years at the Buddhist Church of Sacramento on May 29, 2016.
Rev. Bob Oshita videos his congregation during a farewell song at his final service after 32 years at the Buddhist Church of Sacramento on May 29, 2016. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The Rev. Bob Oshita delivered his final sermon to the Buddhist Church of Sacramento in May, but he’s not done with public life just yet.

The California Assembly announced this month that Oshita, 67, will serve as its chaplain for the 2017-18 session.

For 32 years, Oshita led Sacramento’s Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple, which was founded by Japanese immigrants in 1899. Affectionately known as “Reverend Bob,” he was beloved for his positive outlook, wisdom and close connection to his congregation.

“His experience working with young people, tending to the spiritual needs of a variety of communities, and serving for many years in the capital city as a compassionate and committed reverend will serve us well in his new role,” Assemblyman Rob Bonta, an Alameda Democrat who chairs the California Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, said in a statement.

Oshita was raised as a Buddhist in San Francisco, but drifted away from his church as a teenager. He reconnected with the faith at UC Berkeley, after he found that he could not explain it to his peers and began researching it “not out of curiosity but out of embarrassment.” He was eventually ordained in Japan, and presided over a ministry in Los Angeles before moving to Sacramento.

In his retirement, Oshita planned to travel and help care for his wife’s elderly uncle and father, who live in the Central Valley. Now he will also open Assembly floor sessions with a prayer and provide spiritual counsel to members.

Lawmakers got a preview when Oshita delivered the prayer during the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Capitol in June. On Monday, he welcomed California’s presidential electors with a “moment of quiet reflection” accompanied by the clear ringing of a bell.

“The greater the responsibilities of leadership, the more there is a need for deep and quiet reflection in each day,” Oshita said. “Self-reflection can help us be focused and undistracted as we continue to set the bar of leadership higher.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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