Prior to the period October 11-13, I was a little stressed abut how hectic it was going to be with everything I wanted to fit in. I had signed up to attend the California State Bar Convention, which was held in San Jose, on Thursday and Friday, so I could get some of my training requirements out of the way; then on Saturday, I had to fly down to LA for the day to attend the FBWA Delegates Meeting; then on Sunday, I wanted to attend the Nembutsu Family Convention at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple; and my sister from Portland and her family were going to be in town for a short visit. As it turned out it was a weekend full of Dharma lessons.
At the State Bar Convention, I attended a training session on substance abuse, which is one of the required sessions for all active California lawyers. The trainer started off by saying that lawyers in general have very high rates of depression, suicide and substance abuse. He suggested that everyone practice mindfulness as a way of relieving stress. He relayed that being in a state of active, open attention on the present you can relieve some of the pressure of the demands of practicing law. What was disappointing was that he followed up with a comment that he wasn’t suggesting that anyone “practice mindfulness in a Eastern religious way”, as though it was something to be frowned upon and shrouded in mysticism. (The irony is that one of the other required legal courses is “elimination of bias.”) I learned that we have to do more to clear up misconceptions about Buddhism.
On Saturday, October 12, 2013, Arline Miyasaki, Emi Tsutsumi, Sumi Tanabe and I attended the FBWA Delegates meeting at the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple. During the opening service Bishop Umezu relayed a story about how he and Mrs. Umezu were driving somewhere when he got lost. He just kept driving up and down the streets, when Ms. Umezu strongly suggested that he pull over and ask someone for directions. He replied that he didn’t need to as he knew where he was going. Since this was an FBWA function, most of the audience could relate to this as we have lived through that very same scenario. He referred to Mrs. Umezu as his “GPS”. Bishop Umezu made the story relevant to the Nembutsu and how Amida Buddha is the “GPS” for our lives. I always enjoy Bishop Umezu’s Dharma talks because he makes it easy to relate to and learn from.
The FBWA ventured outside of the box (bento box, that is) and served the crowd of approximately 100 people soft tacos from a taco truck for lunch. They were made to order and delicious. As I munched my tacos, I thought of Reverend Tsumura who used to urge us to “think outside of the box.” He would have enjoyed the tacos.
Reverend Harada of OCBC gave us insight and suggestions on programs and interesting things we could do to spread the Dharma. He sees Buddhist Education as the ultimate solution for our temple and BCA problems, whether it is declining membership, fundraising ad financial problems and temple politics and factions. He said that the Sangha needs to be grounded in the Dharma. He gave examples of how the BWAs can help their temples support and initiate Buddhist Education at their temples. Some of his ideas and innovations were very interesting and exciting and I hope that our BWA will implement some of these ideas.
Reverend Angela Oh, who is a Korean American Zen priest, spoke about Buddhism and Social Justice. As a community activist and lawyer, she watched approximately two thousand L.A. Korean businesses destroyed during the days of the Rodney King riots, as the L.A. authorities just stood by and let L.A. burn. She spoke out vehemently against the injustices and worked to help her community. She turned to the study of Zen Buddhism, which has caused her to view life differently. She shared photos of the idyllic Zen retreat in Hawaii where she now studies and trains. Reverend Oh encouraged us to practice openness and to become more attuned with our bodies. Reverend Oh is one of nine scheduled speakers for the 2014 FBWA Conference ,which will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine on October 10-12, 2014. I hope you take the opportunity to hear her speak.
On Sunday, October 13, 2013, the Coast District temples hosted the Nembutsu Family Convention at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple. With the focus being on “family” there were over 200 registrants of varying ages. During the opening service we were introduced to Reverend Mukojima, who is the new resident minister for Mountain View. Some of you may remember that Reverend Mukojima spent one month at our temple for orientation when he first arrived from Japan. He fondly recalled his brief experience with us and is glad to be back in the Coast District. Reverend Mukojima told the story of how when he was young he had gotten into a motorcycle accident and suffered a broken leg. He was living on his own at the time, but his mother came and stayed with him to help him recuperate. She cooked his meals, did his laundry and cleaned his apartment, all without ever being asked. He knew that he took his mother’s love for granted but that he was very grateful that she was there when he needed her. Reverend Mukojima said Amida’s love and compassion is always there for us, just like our mother’s love. He will provide a nice infusion of enthusiasm and energy to the Coast District temples.
Joyce Iwasaki arranged for Christopher Glover, who is a licensed educational psychologist to conduct a workshop for temple leadership. Leaders from all of the Coast District temples were present as we did an exercise where we analyzed our own temperaments. It was very interesting to learn that in our interpersonal relationships, such as on a board, we need to know ourselves as individuals and how we interact with and respond to others whose temperaments are different from our own and whose responses and actions we cannot control. Sumi Tanabe, Roy Yamanouchi and Mas Nishimura were all good sports when they volunteered to participate in demonstrations, which turned out to be hilarious demonstrations in interpersonal relationships. It was very enjoyable to laugh and learn together.
At the closing service, Rinban Fujimoto reminded us that we are all Nembutsu cousins–Nembutsu Family. Speaking of family, I did get to visit with my sister and her family, along with the rest of my family. It is always great to share a meal, catch up and laugh. It reminds us of how important family is. I wanted to spend more time with them, but to quote the great philosophers–the Rolling Stones—“you can’t always get what you want”.
As I reflect back on these varied activities, although some of the getting around was hectic, I am grateful for all of the opportunities that I received and for a most interesting and enjoyable weekend eating, laughing, listening and most importantly, learning and reflecting on the Dharma.
BUILDING PROJECT UPDATE
The Infrastructure Committee will be meeting on October 23 with our architect Chris Wasney, to review the following: Proposed Floor plan layout; Proposed Elevation improvements to exterior appearance; Kitchen options; Building systems upgrades: structural, mechanical HVAC, electrical, plumbing, life safety, misc.; Contractor short list and selection process; and Next steps.
The Fundraising Committee has requested that Bruce Davis conduct fundraising training for the entire Board, which will be conducted on November 7th. They are also working on written materials which will be used during the fundraising campaign.