Caring and Being Cared For

As the summer comes to an end and we prepare to welcome the change of seasons with our Autumn Ohigan Equinox Service, we turn our minds to the working of great compassion as we consider the causes and conditions that have sustained our lives up to this point and look to the light of wisdom to clarify our path forward to a life of peace and bliss. 

Over this past summer, my family and I had a chance to visit my grandmother at the assisted living in Iowa where she is now living.  She was alert and energetic during our visit and kindly shared stories that I had never heard before of her life growing up as a city girl in Kansas City, Missouri, and then adjusting to life on a farm in rural Iowa after she married my grandfather.

My grandmother never imagined that she would wind up being a farmer’s wife.  My grandfather had moved to Kansas City to attend aircraft maintenance school and was working as a mechanic for Trans World Airlines when they met.  My grandfather was the only son in the family, and his sisters weren’t married yet, so it was up to him to take over the farm that had been in his mother’s side of the family since they settled in Iowa from Norway at the turn of the twentieth century. 

My grandmother shared that life on the farm was not easy compared to life in the city.  When they first arrived on the farm, my grandmother was so busy helping with chores that she was working outside more than in the house.  As they settled in, it was up to my grandmother to feed all the helpers who worked on the farm.  She had to keep expanding the gardens to grow enough vegetables to feed all the workers.  At one point, she was even planting vegetables on the edge of the farm field.  Everyone who came in from the fields and the barns was hungry, so just a few dishes at the end of the table would not be sufficient.  She had to have additional items prepared out on the porch.

My mother is the oldest of seven, with three younger brothers followed by three younger sisters, so parenting was also an important responsibility for my grandmother.  She shared how the children were given livestock to raise on their own, which they could then sell for their spending money.  The family bedrooms were upstairs in the old farmhouse.  A single walkway passed from the bathroom on one end of the house, through the children’s bedrooms, to my grandparent’s bedroom at the other end.  As children, my uncles would occasionally keep the family up making noise when they were supposed to be asleep.  The following morning my grandparents would not feel bad about the noise they made before dawn as they were getting ready to go out for the morning chores.

Listening to my grandmother’s stories, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the dedication and perseverance that she offered with an open heart, so that I am able to live this life today. 

My grandmother cared for many people over the years.  In recent years, my mother and her siblings are taking an increasingly active role in providing for my grandmother’s needs.  In the midst of constant change and unexpected turns, the care we give to others and the care that we receive is where the deep and abiding meaning of our lives is to be found.

Were it not for the efforts and dedication of my grandmother to raise my mother and care for the family, my life today would not be possible.  Likewise, were it not for the compassionate vow of Amida Buddha, how would it be possible for me to awaken to the life of peace and bliss?  As Shinran writes:

Were it not for the ship of Amida’s Vow,
How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?

(Collected Works of Shinran, 422)

Namo Amida Butsu

Gathering of Joy

The Obon observances that we hold during the month of August originate in a teaching on the practice of giving (Dana) that Sakyamuni Buddha shared with his disciple Mahamaudgalyayana.   Following his mother’s departure from this world, Mahamaudgalyayana saw that she had fallen into the realm of the hungry ghosts, a world of hunger, thirst, and unsatisfied desire.  He immediately went to the Buddha and asked for guidance on how he could liberate his mother from that world of suffering.  The Buddha instructed him to present a gift of food, clothing, and other essential items to the monastic Sangha.  After offering the prescribed gift to the Sangha, Mahamaudgalyayana saw that his mother had been liberated from suffering and he was filled with joy.    

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Sweetness and Bitterness

The other day, my son went with a friend to the San Mateo County Fair.  When he returned home, I asked him if he had eaten anything at the fair, to which he replied, “Yes, cotton candy.”  The flavor of cotton candy is pure sweetness and I liked it myself when I was a kid.  When I recently tasted cotton candy for the first time in years, I found the sweetness to be a bit too much.  As a child, my favorite foods were simply sweet or salty, but as I get older, I find that I appreciate a much wider variety of flavors.

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The Gift of Welcoming Hospitality (September 4)

This is part seven concluding our summer Dharma Talk series on the Seven Gifts that Do Not Require Possessions.

The gift of welcoming hospitality: 房舍施 (bōsha-se): To warmly welcome all guests, making them feel at home in one’s company.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Morning Taiso with Juliet and Grace Bost
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service

All ages are welcome to join in-person without prior registration.  Proof of full Covid-19 vaccination required for eligible individuals age 5 and older.  Up to 36 in-person attendees will be seated in the Hondo, with overflow seating available in the adjacent Social Hall.

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Resting My Mind

As we enter the month of June, another school year comes to an end and we welcome the arrival of summer vacation.  Before students get to enjoy their summer vacation, there is hard work to be done preparing for final exams and big end-of-the-year projects.  At this time of year, I find myself reminiscing about my college days, and I remember something my college Japanese professor Larson Sensei would say at the end of the semester.  As she collected our final exams, she would smile and say, “Congratulations on all the hard work you did this term.  I hope you will find some opportunities to use your Japanese over the break, so that you don’t forget all that you’ve learned this year.  That said, for the next week please give yourself a good break and don’t open your textbook or do any studying.”  Having finished a big task, it is important to have a good rest.  During the time of rest, we can think back on what we have accomplished and consider what our next project should be.

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The Gift of a Comfortable Seat (August 28)

This is part six of our summer Dharma Talk series on the Seven Gifts that Do Not Require Possessions.

The gift of a comfortable seat (床座施 shōza-se): To offer the most safe and comfortable seat to a guest, even it means giving up one’s own favored seat.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Activity
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion
10:30 a.m. Japanese Language Service

All ages are welcome to join in-person without prior registration.  Proof of full Covid-19 vaccination required for eligible individuals age 5 and older.  Up to 36 in-person attendees will be seated in the Hondo, with overflow seating available in the adjacent Social Hall.

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial: The Gift of a Generous Heart (August 7)

We will remember the lives lost during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in conjunction with part five of our summer Dharma Talk series on the Seven Gifts that Do Not Require Possessions.

The gift of a generous heart (心施 shin-se): To freely give assistance to others without resenting any inconvenience it may cause for oneself.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Taiso Exercise with Juliet and Grace Bost
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service

All ages are welcome to join in-person without prior registration.  Proof of full Covid-19 vaccination required for eligible individuals age 5 and older.  Up to 36 in-person attendees will be seated in the Hondo, with overflow seating available in the adjacent Social Hall.

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Parents and Children

In the month of May we observe our Gōtan-e Service celebrating the birth of Shinran Shonin, the founder of our Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism.  During the Gōtan-e Service, we place a statue of Shinran Shonin as a young boy in the temple hall and recall the story of his childhood.    May is also the month in which we celebrate Mother’s Day and express the gratitude and appreciation we feel for the mothers in our lives.  As we observe these two holidays of Gōtan-e and Mother’s Day, the month of May provides us with precious occasions to reflect upon the karmic bond between parents and children.  The parental figures in our lives are not limited to our biological parents.  Grandparents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are other examples of those who can provide the care and guidance of a parent in our lives.

According to tradition, Shinran Shonin was separated from his mother at a young age and left home to receive ordination as a Buddhist monk at the age of nine.   While the time that Shinran spent living with his mother and father was brief, he had a profound sense of receiving parental love and care in his life. 

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