Thoughts for July

Posted by:

K. Ken Fujimoto

Some Clarification Regarding the Generations Campaign

Along the lines of misspeak, misinformation and misperception that I have written about in the past few months, there is something that needs to be clarified regarding the Generations Capital Campaign. There seems to be much confusion and misunderstanding surrounding this issue.
The goal is to the raise $10 million in 5 years so that we can renovate and retrofit the annex and then build a new education building. We are in the quiet stage of the program and this means that we are ironing out issues so that when we finally get to the general campaign, we are hoping to have most of the details worked out so that the funds can be solicited and tracked without problems. Since we have not had a capital campaign here in some time, there are many aspects that need to be resolved and prepared.
This means that we are currently training people to ask for participation and are doing so by having them approach people that they are relatively comfortable asking for donations. The kick-off is being planned soon and when that is launched, we are hoping that everyone, from Lotus students and parents, those involved in Dharma School and scouting, senior members of our temple and people who have had ties with our temple in the past or in a tangential manner now or in the future will all take the opportunity to be part of this endeavor.
We have been asking some people for lead donations and this has apparently given some people the impression that we are only interested in large donations, but this is not the case. All donations are important and everyone’s contributions are valued. At the same time, we need major donors to make the goal attainable for all of us. One such pledge is the $500,000 pledge made by Ray and Lucy Matsumoto. We also have donations, outright and pledges from many who have made the goal attainable.
Look for information to come and please take the opportunity to take part in this important undertaking that we will be launching soon.

Revisiting the Past, Lessons for the Future and Today
In reflecting upon what to write about for this month I was reminded of an article that I had used in the Japanese section of a newsletter that also reminded me of events from over 32 years ago. It also has ties to Obon and the state of Hungry Ghosts or Gaki, the state of existence that is often depicted with beings with big stomachs and mouths who are constantly hungry. This depicts an aspect of the Obon legend. It also shows how people and events of the past can revisit us to give us a fresh and deeper perspective regarding our lives.
The article I was introducing was a portion of a talk given by the scheduled Japanese speaker, Rev. Takayuki Ashikaga, for a BCA Buddhist Women’s Associations Conference held in Los Angeles a number of years ago. I sometimes introduce articles such as this in the hopes that it might encourage more people to attend the conference.
In this article, Rev. Ashikaga was recounting his experience in losing his thirty-six year old son to cancer. Apparently, it was a relatively rare form of cancer that strikes one in some 200,000 in Japan with very little hope of remission. There were a number of poignant details that were raised, but the part that struck me was the affect of chemotherapy on the son and his fixation with food toward the end.
This struck me because it reminded me of my father and his bout with cancer. In reflection, the form of cancer must have been very similar as well, but the reaction to the chemotherapy was even more strikingly alike. Rev. Ashikaga’s son decided not to undergo the third round of chemotherapy because it caused him to suffer so greatly. He seemed to have felt like a lid had been placed on his stomach and nothing would go down, even if he could muster enough energy to try to eat. I remember my father describing his feelings in a similar manner. He dreaded his treatments and said he had no desire to eat and even when he was able to eat, he could not seem to keep anything down. It would take the better part of a week to get to the point where he could eat anything and keep it down, and sometimes, even start to enjoy food. However, by the time that happened, it was time for his next treatment. It created a depressing and, seemingly, endless cycle.
Even in this situation, on one of his last visits to his son in the hospital, Rev. Ashikaga noticed a book, a food magazine by his pillow. When he asked him about this, the son replied that since they did not feed him much and nothing tasted good at the hospital, he was planning on what he might want to eat when he got out. My father was the same way. He would often talk about wanting to eat this or that or that when he got better he wanted to go to a particular place to eat a special dish there.
This shows the depths of what we refer to in Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu as bonno, blind desires or passions. Both of them complained that they could not eat, yet they still had cravings for what they imagined to be delicious or good. They were in pain and facing death, but they still had desires that they wanted to have fulfilled. These desires are so deeply entrenched that we cannot easily free ourselves from them.
The beauty of this situation is that it does not matter. There is no need to free ourselves from these deeply entrenched desires. The compassion of Amida reaches out to us because we are unable to free ourselves from these desires. Some people may have the strength and ability to cut off all of their desires on their own, but for those of us who cannot, the great compassion accepts us as we are and leads us to liberation.
The Buddha-dharma will not erase our desires. It will not take away the pain and suffering of cancer or other illness and injuries regardless of whether we are the one who is ill or our suffering and pain comes from watching someone we love and care for experiencing the direct pain of the illness. What it will do is show us that this is the human condition. It will show us that despite all of this pain and suffering, in the end, everything will be all right. An individual’s suffering will end with death, but their influence and guidance will continue. We only need to live our lives in the realization that each instant of life and each encounter is a rare and wonderful event, even if it should be painful at that instant. Such painful instances can also teach us much and serve us in our lives. To see and appreciate this is to gain insight into the depth and breadth of the great compassion.
This Obon season should be a time where our awareness of the lessons given to us by those that have gone before are deepened. We should also come to see that those lessons can continue to guide us through our journey through life. This should be where the true significance of this season lies.
© June 23, 2014