The weight of a table

I am very much looking forward to our annual temple bazaar on Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28. Thanks to all of you who make time in your busy schedules each year to help—whether setting up, helping on bazaar day, or helping with clean up and putting things away afterward. As we were setting up for the bazaar last year, I was impressed by how we are able to continue using the materials and equipment that have been passed down from previous generations. Many summer festivals I have been to use only commercially available pop-up tents and lightweight plastic tables. However, here at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple I was awed by the sturdy booths we construct with steel pipes and joints that have been custom fitted to make the best use of the space that we have.

Last year during the bazaar setup, I was admiring the construction of the tabletops made from thick plywood and two-by-fours as teams of volunteers were carrying them across the parking lot. As we paused for refreshments, one of the younger crew members shared a memory from his first year helping out with the bazaar set-up. When he suggested to one of the senior Nisei members that it was about time to replace the heavy wooden tables with a more modern and lightweight plastic model, the Nisei member proceeded to tell him the story how his Issei father hand-crafted those tabletops in the years after they returned to San Mateo from the internment camps at the end of the Second World War. As the young crewmember recounted the story he had heard of how the tabletops were made, I realized with deepened appreciation the caring wishes for future generations that went into their construction. The temple is a treasure in our community where we continue to receive the benefits of the Buddhist way of seeing our lives of that has been passed down by previous generations.

As I consider the way in which our San Mateo Buddhist Temple parking lot is completely transformed each year during the last weekend of June, it occurs to me that if we relied solely on cookie-cutter manufactured booths that come in two or three standard sizes, we probably wouldn’t be able to create the kind of comfortable and efficient space we have during our bazaar, where each booth fits perfectly into its place. When I think back to last year’s bazaar and the way my son spent a gleeful afternoon running back and forth between the game booths, I realize that it is those special spaces designed by our temple’s pioneering generation that create the lasting memories for our Sangha and our guests at bazaar time.

The wisdom and creativity to take what we have in our life and make the happiness we need, enables us to create the circumstances that perfectly meet our needs and the needs of the people around us. There is infinite possibility in this way of truly appreciating the value and potential of what we have in this very moment. The Japanese expression mottainai captures the spirit of a life lived with deep gratitude for all that is received.

The San Mateo Buddhist Temple is our place for gathering in the Nembutsu. To say the Nembutsu is to hear the words “Namo Amida Butsu” and encounter the light of wisdom that has been passed down over generations, through Honen and Shinran , all the way back to Sakyamuni Buddha himself. The Nembutsu is the Buddha’s message to each of us that we already have everything we need; we already are everything we need to be to realize true peace of mind. We do not need to acquire something new. What is necessary is a shift in perspective—to turn and see that our purpose in life is not to accumulate and grasp more and more, but to recognize the boundless potential of what is here right now.

It seems to be in my nature to be dissatisfied with what I have. Part of me says, “This can’t be enough. There must be something more that I can get that will make me happier.” However, in the rare moments when my mind turns to the Nembutsu and I am able to pause in my constant chasing after the next pleasure, I glimpse the truth of profound peace of mind and boundless joy. As Shinran writes:

When beings just turn about at heart and often say the nembutsu,

It is as if bits of rubble were turned into gold.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 42)

Namo Amida Butsu.