The poem above was composed by one of our Dharma School students during the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Summer Terakoya Program that was held from July 25 to 29. This poem was composed in the Japanese haiku format of five syllables (Ko-n-ni-chi-wa), seven syllables (Na-mo-A-mi-da-Bu-tsu), five syllables (Sa-yo-u-na-ra). In just seventeen syllables, a Haiku brings us deep into the mind and heart of the author. The moment I heard this Haiku, I felt that it perfectly captured the spirit of our Summer Terakoya Gathering.
In Japanese, Konnichiwa is the usual way of saying “hello” during the daytime. Konnichi means today and wa is a grammatical particle that indicates the subject of a phrase. So, one way of literally translating the meaning of Konnichiwa would be “Nice to see you today.” Whether it was chanting in the Hondo with a strong voice first thing in the morning, sitting in quiet concentration writing and painting with a Japanese brush, or playing tag during recess, I saw our Terakoya youth treasure each moment of the day.
Namo Amida Butsu is the ground upon which all of our temple activities take place. During Terakoya, we began each morning with a service in the Hondo and a reflection on the Golden Chain:
I am a link in Amida’s golden chain of love that stretches around the world. I will keep my link bright and strong. I will be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are weaker than myself. I will think pure and beautiful thoughts, say pure and beautiful words, and do pure and beautiful deeds. May every link in Amida’s golden chain of love be bright and strong and may we all attain perfect peace.
I often translate the words Namo Amida Butsu, as “I take refuge in the Awakened One of Immeasurable Wisdom and Compassion.” When we hear the words Namo Amida Butsu we are reminded that wherever we go and whatever we do in life, Buddha’s wisdom and compassion are always there with us, helping us to live a life of beauty and kindness.
In just five days of learning and playing together, the bonds of friendship were deepened for everyone who took part. After the Summer Terakoya closing ceremony on Friday afternoon, the family and friends hung around to admire the artworks that had been created over the past week and chat while the youth ran around the temple for hours making up games to play and improvising song and dance routines on the stage in the Social Hall. Adults and children alike were so relaxed and comfortable that time at the temple flowed gently along, and for a moment, busy schedules and do-lists were allowed to drift out of mind as we enjoyed that special time we shared together. As the hours passed, one by one, parents, grandparents and friends rounded up their youth and went off to swimming lessons, bath time or dinner. As this year’s Summer Terakoya experience drew to a close, I was reminded of the words of our true teacher Shinran Shonin, “We come together when conditions bring us to meet and part when conditions separate us.”
The word Sayōnara could be translated as “If it is so . . .” We say Sayōnara in parting with gratitude for the precious time that we have spent together and the bonds of friendship that we have discovered together. Perhaps conditions will bring us together again, in which case there is great joy. We saw that joy of meeting again among the Terakoya children who were reunited during Obon dance practices in the weeks that followed in early August. After the dancing was finished, children gleefully ran back and forth across the parking lot while parents and friends enjoyed conversations under the flood lights. These past few weeks have deepened my appreciation of the San Mateo Buddhist Temple as a place where we live together in the Nembutsu, greeting each other in the light of the Buddha’s wisdom.
Konnichiwa Namo Amida Butsu Sayōnara