A new Dharma School Year has begun and the temple is open! Seeing Sangha members of all ages gathering in the Hondo for services gives me a deep sense of gratitude for our temple. The temple is a precious place where people who delight in the Nembutsu can come together to share in one another’s happiness in times of joy and comfort one another in times of sadness.
Those who arrive at the temple before service begins can offer incense and quietly reflect upon the past week as they enjoy the calming aroma of the incense and gaze upon the beauty of the Buddha shrine while they wait for the sound of the bell to begin service. At the end of service, Sangha members greet one another and enjoy catching up while making their way down the center aisle to offer incense.
When there is no need to rush home after service, Sangha members might gather in the Dharma room or linger in the temple parking lot to share reflections on the Dharma Talk or discuss matters that have been on their mind over the past week. Sometimes, we have a chance conversation with a fellow Sangha member we have never spoken with before and discover something we have in common. Chatting with our new friend, we may receive some good advice or find comfort and peace of mind in spending time with someone who understands our perspective.
Not all meaningful conversations at the temple need be about serious matters. It is great to share anecdotes from our daily lives and discuss our hobbies and interests. Revisiting wins and losses of our favorite sports team is a wonderful way to feel a sense of shared connection and community. Exchanging techniques and tips for fishing or gardening can deepen our appreciation for the various life forms that sustain us.
Children who have managed to patiently sit through service and stay on task during their Dharma School lessons enjoy a few minutes running around the temple before they go home. With the stage in the Social Hall and multiple staircases around the temple, the children make good use of their imaginations and get a healthy dose of exercise running and climbing, while their adults call out for them to “Be careful!” Relationships that begin among children playing at the temple often grow to become lifelong Dharma friendships. Even though children may be at different ages and go to different schools, those encounters that are shared in the place where we receive the guidance of the Buddha create a special bond.
Because not all of our Sangha members are able to come to the temple in person each week, we plan to continue to offer the online live stream of our Dharma Services. I feel true gratitude for the new opportunities for participation in the Sangha that our online services have created.
In the Recorded Sayings of Rennyo Shonin (Rennyo Shonin Goichidaiki no Kikigaki), we find the following reflection on the importance of spending time visiting temples:
Each day, one should practice mindfulness through a morning Buddhist service. Each month, one should practice mindfulness through a visit to a local temple where an image of the founder of our teaching (Shinran) is enshrined. Each year, one should practice mindfulness through a visit to the head temple of our school (Hongwanji).
(Rennyo Shonin Goichidaiki-kikigaki Chapter 46, Translation by H. Adams)
When we chant the sutras together in harmony with our Sangha members, the words of the Buddha resonate deeply in our hearts. When we sit together in the Hondo before the images of Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin, we find great strength in our awareness of the fellow travelers with whom we walk the path of our lives directed toward the Buddha’s world of awakening. I look forward to hearing your voice echoing with the Nembutsu at the temple.
Namo Amida Butsu