By Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi, Resident Minister
WE ARE BCA
If you read this article during the last week of February, the BCA National Coun-cil Meeting will
still be in session at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley. I encourage everyone to attend any
of the activities. It is a unique, convenient, and wonderful opportunity to observe how
representatives, from almost all BCA tem-ples, work to support us. It is also an op-portunity to
attend the IBS symposium on “Buddhism and Counseling” on Thursday afternoon, the Dhar-ma
talks and discussions on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and the important presentation on
EcoSangha on Friday even-ing. Parking is free. It is also an opportunity to support the efforts of
BCA by transporting attendees or to help in other ways.
On Sunday morning, March 1, the entire session will end with a National Eitaikyo Service at our
own temple, starting at 10 a.m. The experience of hearing and being a part of over 200 members
chanting together, will really inspire and give deep meaning to this ritual. Please come early, as
parking will be an issue. A breakfast fund-raiser by the San Diego & Vista Jr. YBA groups is an
incentive to come early.
Each of us is BCA. It is easy to think of BCA as a cluster of people managing our national
organization from offices in the Bay Area. But I would like to compare the structure of BCA with our
thoughts of Shin Buddhism. Both of these systems can be envisioned by relating the ME with the
Each of us has a pretty good sense of ourselves, and act ac-cording to our own self-identity
(ME). Our identification with our greater selves (WE) is less clear. The process of clarifying the
relationship of ME within the totality of the whole (WE), could be viewed as the practice of
Buddhism. Let me describe the situation and process this way – Each of us belongs to a family,
community, city, state, nation, and world. We often think that we hold membership in only those
groups that we acknowledge. But what about our participation as mammals of the human race: a
species that lives in the eco-system of plants, insects, and other animals? We influence the
geography by di-verting rivers, creating cities and farms, and alter forests and deserts. Our
international trade of raw materials and finished products affects countries throughout the world.
We are an integral part of every segment of life, whether we acknowledge it or not. This is the
material evidence of the Buddhist concepts of interdependence and impermanence. This is the
ME within the WE.
Our journey from the ignorance of self-centeredness to the bliss of other-centeredness can be
seen as practice. We hold membership in every facet of life on this planet, whether we are aware
of it or not. To think that we belong only to groups that we decide, is certainly a near-sighted,
constricted view. The Buddha realized that this basic human perspective of self-determination, was
also the cause of our discontent in life; we are continually reminded of the impermanence and
fragile na-ture of the individual self. Our path of awakening is to acknowledge and trust in our basic
membership in the totality of universal Oneness. This means that from the time of my bio-logical
birth, I have had membership in humankind, world-kind, and ultimately, universe-kind. One
description of Amida Buddha is Light and Life. Namo Amida Butsu is often translated as being one
with Amida, Light and Life. Is this not an affirmation and acknowledgment of our membership in the
totality of Being? My individual life may have a finite limit of a hundred years, but my present life is
the connection from the infinite past to the infinite future.
It is the Buddha’s insightful Teachings, and Shinran’s clarifica-tion of practice, that bring full
meaning to the idea of member-ship. The Buddha’s guide to happiness has a central theme of
developing the heart/mind toward this acceptance of imperma-nence and interdependence.
But our clinging to the ego-self disrupts the difficult self-power practices. Shinran admits to this
impediment and guides us toward another path. We shift our efforts from trying to be acceptable,
to a realization that we have always been a member. Our membership in the human, earthly, and
spiritual communities become abundantly clear as we express gratitude for the gift of human life.
Our very exist-ence is, and has been, dependent on the efforts of unseen caus-es and conditions
beyond our knowledge. We can call these causes and conditions the gifts of Amida’s
Compassion, and our voicing of Namo Amida Butsu as our expression of gratitude.
Our practice is not toward an achievement of self-awakening; instead, it is to affirm what we
have not acknowl-edged. No amount of self-effort can overcome the barrier of self. How can we
lift ourselves up off the ground by lifting our own bootstraps? We are simply acknowledging the
member-ships that have been given to us by our birth into this world. Every recitation of Nembutsu
is a “thank you” acknowledge-ment of our membership given to us by others. Our service to
others represents our overdue membership dues.
In a similar fashion, our reading of this newsletter may spark a realization of the efforts of BCA
members past and present. Hearing the words of the Buddha is a gift and includes us as members
of the Buddhadharma. It may be time to join in the joy of full membership by sharing this Truth with
others. We are BCA.
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