By Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi, Resident Minister
ME as WE: A BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE
Two years ago, at my first BTSD Obon Odori, I felt more like a guest than the resident minister. It
was my first day of work here. Now, because of the welcoming and accepting nature of the BTSD
sangha, Karen and I feel like a real part of the community. What is especially gratifying to me is
that the BTSD sangha really embodies the principles of the Shin teachings. Although some may not
be able to cite the meaning of specific Shin terms, their behavior reflects their Shin background
and understanding. I see that my job is simply to identify the Shin principles that are already being
The Buddha’s main message is to resolve the difficulties of life, by awakening to the natural
process of life. Shinran presented a path that is relevant and accessible to ordinary people living in
popular society. If we are really listening and hearing the Teachings, we would be able to resolve
many issues in our lives. But too often, we remain stuck in our mundane mind-set. We see the world
in opposites: good/bad, right/wrong, my views/other views. The Buddha’s reality includes all sides. It
is not like some Western religions which advocate an ultimate right or wrong, based on the
judgment of a superior being. This dualistic thinking can only make one side happy and the other
Let us keep in mind that life is interdependent and impermanent. Decisions are made where
some are pleased and others are not, but we are all still connected. The dynamics of
impermanence indicate that the conditions and situation will change in time. As a sangha, we
follow these principles as a guide to life. The rituals and customs that we follow at the temple
reinforce these principles. The bowing to the Buddha and to each other indicates our humility and
respect for one another. The chanting is our practice of interdependence, as each person feels
being an integral part of the chanting sangha. The burning of incense acknowledges
impermanence. The gassho and Nembutsu expresses our gratitude for everything that has
provided the present moment for our benefit. It also affirms our participation in the Primal Vow to
serve others toward awakening.
Our Obon event held at Balboa Park this year, was challenging for everyone. We thank Ken
Muraoka, many other leaders, helpers, and participants, for their efforts in presenting a very
enjoyable event for many people beyond our usual crowd. Workers and participants were very
flexible in making accommodations at this new venue. Large crowds of visitors were introduced to
food, entertainment, activities, and the Obon dance. Obon at Balboa Park served several
purposes with varying degrees of success. The venue for next year will be discussed and decided
soon, as Balboa Park requires an advanced reservation.
There are many factors to consider in determining the objectives and location of the Obon
event. Along with the Obon Service, it marks an important recognition of the efforts of those who
have passed on. It has become a community event that ties Buddhist families with each other, as
a community. It is also a major fund-raiser and opportunity to invite those outside of our temple
community to participate in a significant Buddhist event. Each location offers advantages and
limits, depending on the objectives. We are all concerned with the success of this event, and may
have different opinions as to which site offers the best solution. It would be wise to maintain a
Buddhist perspective in coming to a decision.
We may each have strong feelings of the purposes and location of our Obon event. Not
having it at our temple loses much of our feelings of home, community, and spiritual ambiance. It
is difficult for elders and others to find places to sit, relax, and easily meet old friends. Having it at
the Japanese Friendship Garden and Balboa Park gives much greater exposure of our temple to
others. It may have greater financial benefit, but also requires more effort in transporting and
setting up the equipment. Finances are vitally important to maintain the many activities and
structure of the temple. There are also many other concerns and issues that need to be heard.
Although the decision for next year’s venue may satisfy some and disappoint others, we can
all respect each other’s position. I encourage all of us to proceed with a Buddhist perspective that
a middle path of balance is needed. Since each location has different advantages, we may even
consider 2 separate events to fulfill each purpose. A simpler Obon Odori at the temple with limited
food preparation and sales, would retain the ambiance of community. A separate Obon dance
at the Park would fulfill the other objective of expanded exposure, and greater financial potential.
Many temples already have this format. In whatever direction the temple decides, it is nice to
know that we all have the temple’s welfare in mind. The BTSD is like an extended family where we
may disagree, but will always remain as a family. Oh, I forgot; almost everyone in the BTSD sangha
is somehow related to one another, in an extended family!
And Jamie Shimizu is related to everyone in the sangha. We thank her for fulfilling her job as
secretary so competently. Her pleasing personality enriched all of us and will be missed.
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|BUDDHIST TEMPLE OF SAN DIEGO
2929 Market Street
San Diego, California 92102