Posted by:

G Sakamoto

Our regular services are starting up again. Dharma School students will return to new teachers and new experiences. Parents will gather in the hondo again with their family to hear the dharma. To share with one another the way of seeing and experiencing the world that comes from the original insight of Shakyamuni Buddha 2,500 years ago. At the core of the Buddhadharma is the observation that we see the world through our preferences and prejudices. Difficulties result from this way of seeing the world. However, if we can cultivate the mind that sees things simply as they are we can begin to address and resolve the difficulties that characterize our experience. We often, as we should, think of our children as the future. We see in our children the possibility of passing on values and traditions that have and continue to be important to us. They are also our hope for a better life. We try our best to provide what might be needed for the time when they will need to live without us. We hope that what we have taught them will be enough to allow them the skills and emotions to navigate life. With all our worries and concerns our expectations may never materialize. We are reminded by the Buddhadharma conditions change. Relationships shift. New influences enter our causes and conditions. When you plant an avocado seed you will never get a papaya tree. If we plant avocado seeds we get avocado plants. Our expectations are if we cultivate good behavior in our children they should become good people. But children are obviously not seeds. If conditions are favorable they will grow up to become adults. As adults conditions may vary and affect the circumstances that will influence the world they live in. We are the children that once were. Our influences growing up shape our circumstances that influence the world. When we think of our children as our future we must remember that we are also the future. We are the result of the hopes of others. Whatever circumstances we might find ourselves in have resulted from the causes and conditions that have influenced us. If we are mindful we can influence the circumstances that affect our world. The temple is not unlike a child growing up. The present temple is the result of the influence of past generations. The planning and activities of previous sangha members have shaped the temple of today. Their commitment and generosity allows us the opportunity to enjoy the dharma today. When we are mindful of that past effort we are grateful for their vision and hard work. We are their future. But are we the future they hoped for? I don’t think they planned for diminishing sangha. I know they hoped for a thriving sangha that would be vibrant and firmly rooted in the Buddhadharma. 
But circumstances have changed. I don’t think they foresaw relocation, the war, economic expansion, tech boom, housing bust, temple competition with sports and weekend activities. Yet here we are. Our temple is smaller than it was in the sixties. Dharma School attendance is lower as well. There are far less youth in our YBA and Scouting programs. As we consider our future we have the same hopes and aspiration as the sangha members of the past. And we too face an unknown future. What we do know is that the pattern of our behavior has brought us to this point in our history. If we continue to do what we have done in the past we will continue to shrink and eventually disappear. Three years ago we went through the exercise of clarifying our core values. Our core values are what define us. If these values were to be taken away, the temple as we understand it would no longer exist. It would be like taking building airplanes away from Boeing. They may continue to exist but it would no longer be the same company. Our core values are about learning and sharing the Buddhadharma. Everything we do should align with this or should be understood in a way that aligns with this. This is what identifies us. What we do and how we engage the world grows from this. From Dharma School and study classes to sorting food in a foodbank and prison chaplaincy we are engaged in these activities because they offer opportunities to learn and share the Buddhadharma. When Shakuamuni Buddha got up from the seat of enlightenment, when Shinran chose to remain in the Kanto region of Japan, it was to share what they had experienced and learned. Shakyamuni got up from beneath the Bodhi Tree to share his insight even if only one person would be willing to listen. Shinran said I have no disciples, yet many came to learn and share Shinran’s appreciation of the Dharma. Our circumstances are not so dire yet. We still enjoy a vibrant sangha. It is however, a sangha that is becoming smaller. If we choose to do things as we have all along we will continue to diminish in size. If however we are able to mindfully align our interests and activities with our core values we may be able to convey to ourselves and our community the value of the Buddhadharma. Not as an academic interest or abstract principle but as a response to the difficulties we all experience.