To Learn and Share

Posted by:

G Sakamoto

Everyone of us has something to share. Something weÕve learned and spent some time thinking about and working with. Something we hold important and of value. Sometimes we donÕt recognize what we might have to share but others may see it. Sometimes we think its something and it turns out to be something unexpected. Often the unexpected reveals something of ourselves that we may have overlooked and not appreciated. In the past few months there have been two projects that I had been working on. The first was a seminar that I was invited to conducted on Maui. The other was an invitation to be the guest speaker at our Earth Day Service. Both invitations were eagerly excepted. To be excited about our temple’s invitation may seem odd but it became a reason for a project. Projects are always opportunities to learn; invitations to speak are opportunities to share. For the Maui seminar the idea was to present the identification and alignment of Buddhadharma, Jodo Shinshu and temple core values. Using examples I tried to illustrate the importance of alignment with core values in visionary companies and the similarity with the dharma and temple. When we returned home, Reverend Murakami sent the evaluations that the participants filled out. The majority wrote great topic, great speaker, need more like this. Two evaluations said poor presentation, not familiar with material. Of course that stuck with me. When I was asked to be the speaker for our Earth Day Service my first thought was an aquaponic demonstration. I began planning the system and determining a timeline with May 5th as the target. A minimum of two weeks would be necessary to cycle a new pond. Once the system was in place, bacteria and mosquito fish from home would be put in to help begin the process. The first seedlings were to be placed in late March to have something to show on Earth Day. After a long search a seller of catfish in the Santa Cruz mountains was located. The catfish provide the waste that would fertilize the plants. The production of produce and protein with a light environmental footprint is the goal of aquaponics. That was the plan. The first lettuce that went in look good until the aphids started arriving. I began searching for a way to discourage them from eating the lettuce. The passive way to do that is to plant things they donÕt like and things that will attract ladybugs and lacewings. There was not enough time for that so something that would kill aphids but would not be harmful to fish and beneficial bugs needed to be found. The solution turned out to be soap. Insecticidal soap has been used for a long time. Basic ingredient is potassium salts of fatty acids. Not harmful to ladybugs or bees and is broken down by soil microbes. While focused on the aphids the high pH was left unattended. Plants do well in low pH, fish do well in higher pH, bacteria that convert fish waste into plant food function near the middle of the fish pH range. If the pH is too high plants are unable to take up nutrients. If the pH is too low fish donÕt do well and bacterial activity slows down. The plants are being grown in a deep water culture. Plants require oxygen that is provided through aeration or moist space beneath the growing platform from which plants can draw air. Without air plants will drown. Air is important. pH is important. Pest control is important. Keeping everybody happy and productive is not so easy. The adventure continues. Hopefully, there was something to present at Earth Day. In both of these experiences there were things to learn and things to share. On Maui I shared what I learned in the temple. In aquaponics I learned what was shared by others. In both experiences the separation between learner and sharer is not so distinct. On Maui I learned from the experiences of the participants. On Earth Day I shared what I learned about aquaponics. The Buddhadharma is not something that is separate from what we do all the time. It is simply about addressing the difficulties we cause and experience that result from our preferences; our likes and dislikes. Our stubborn and often well intended attachment to how we see and understand things result in difficulties. We are, after all, unenlightened. If we are not unenlightened then we are Buddha. There is nothing wrong with that. Amida assures us of the eventual resolution of difficulties. That assurance, however we might think of it, abstract, literal, infinite, metaphorical, allows us to begin to look at our unenlightened state and what that might mean. Amida’s assurance allows us to begin a cycle of learning, sharing and learning again. Not of information but of the effects of the assumptions I make, the results of my expectations, the effects of my prejudices, my foolishness.