Reverend's Message - September 2014
The Same Ol' Thing
Rev. Dean Koyama
"Everything that has a beginning has an end. Each moment is the first time and the last time."
One of the pleasures I had, as a father to 3 very small children was to read books to them before they went to sleep. I would cuddle in their bed, and depending upon how tired I was I would have them pick one to three books. Almost every night they would pick the same exact books over and over again.
"Don't you want to read something else for a change?" I would ask.
"No, Dad, read these please," they would emphatically answer.
So, I would repeat the ritual of reading the same books every night. Unfortunately, no matter how energetic I was at the start, I would begin getting drowsy after reading only a couple of pages from the first book because we read them so many times. Since I read them over and over again, I already knew how the story would end. But for the boys, they enjoyed the repetition and would correct me if I skipped a word. Sometimes, if I was really sleepy, I would try to skip a couple of pages hoping to end this night time ritual quickly so that I could go to sleep in my own bed. But they would always catch me and make me read from the correct spot. Then I would get so drowsy that I would fall asleep while I was reading aloud and insert all kinds of words that wouldn't make any sense. For example,
"Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham. Would you like them here or there? Not on a boat or gravy, jellybeans go fast potatoes....zzzzzz."
That is when the kids would run and complain to their mother who, at the time, was enjoying some precious moments of solitude free of the kids.
"Mom, Dad is falling asleep again and he didn't finish reading to us!!!!" Then she would have to come to their bedroom, tell me to go to bed and she would finish the stories with great enthusiasm.
As I reflect back upon that wonderful time, I realize that while I looked upon reading the same books for the umpteenth time with drudgery, the kids still looked upon them as if they were hearing the story for the very first time filled with wonder and awe. They were able to look upon these times as being the first and last.
As the Buddha taught Sariputra, "Everything has a beginning and end. Every moment is the first and the last." No matter how much we may try to re-create an event or occasion we can't. Similarly, no matter how many times we may do the same thing over and over again, it is different. Some things will have changed, be it the time, the circumstance, or the environment. Nothing stays the same. Therefore it will always be a different moment.
We are a little more than a month and a half away from observing our 100th anniversary. This is truly a wonderful milestone to celebrate. With these 100 years of history, I am sure that some of the things that we do here at the temple may seem like the same-ol-thing. Perhaps we may even have fallen into the trap of just going through the motions because we do the same things over and over again. The reality is that we can't look upon it as the same thing over and over again. And perhaps because we are observing our 100th Anniversary, this is a good time to evaluate how we do the things we do.
That is where our challenge lies. Up to now, I have gotten the impression that we have just tried to maintain what we do with what we have here at the temple. I think we need to change our mindset keeping in mind the Buddha's teachings that "Everything has a beginning and end. Every moment is the first and the last." This means instead of just trying to maintain, we need to invest and upgrade now for the future. And I see great potential at our temple. I saw great examples of this past month. At our Obon, not only did we have our traditional menu of delicious chicken teriyaki, udon, and curry but we also experimented by adding some new items to our menu like ramen and teriyaki burgers.
Also we held our 100th Anniversary Concert with the famous jazz-fusion band Hiroshima and the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble. If you attended, you enjoyed a once-in-a-life-time fabulous concert from both music groups. It was an unforgettable day and evening. But if you think about it, what other temple has dared to sponsor not just one but two concerts with world-renowned headlining musicians?
We cannot be afraid to take a look at how we have always done things and make changes that will benefit a better future for our temple.
Once again, we begin our new Dharma School year. We will start with our temple picnic on September 7th followed by our September monthly memorial (Shotsuki Hoyo) on September 14th. And although our last official day of the year will be sometime in June, we should look upon each day, each moment, each year as the first and the last. By doing so, we can come to truly appreciate and make the most of each opportunity to be with each other. Living a life of appreciation and gratitude is living a life of Nembutsu.