I would like to borrow a wonderful metaphor that Rev. Akio Miyaji, whom I served with for a number of years, used often in his memorial service sermons.
Rev. Miyaji used to talk about the importance of our rearview mirror when we drive in our cars. With his Japanese accent, he used to call it the “bakku mira —.” Clearly, we cannot drive safely without a rearview mirror. Rev. Miyaji used this metaphor to illustrate the importance of seeing our past, where we have been, and paying respect and gratitude for those who lived before us.
When we drive, we can’t just look in our rear view either, or else we will crash into something. We have to look at what is right in front of us. That is our present. Presently, we are dealing with a terrible pandemic. Our churches and temples are still closed. But, we are making the best of the situation and many innovative things have been done to share the Dharma virtually, to have fundraisers virtually, and to socialize with each other virtually. That is our present that we are facing. That is what is right in front of us as we drive the car of the BCA.
But as we all know, when we drive, we can’t look just in front of us, either. We have to look further down the road ahead of us. Is there a traffic jam ahead? Is there road construction ahead? Does it look like there’s rain clouds ahead? What is our view further down the road? That is our vision.
To me, vision must also have aspiration. A true visionary is a person who not only looks to the future, but it is a person who has an aspiration for the future, for what they want the future to become, to be. If a visionary does not have an aspiration, then that person would just be a fortune teller, or a soothsayer, like predicting the next Super Bowl winner.
Who then, is our visionary in our Shin Buddhist tradition? To me, the most exemplary visionary of our tradition, is Bodhisattva Dharmakara, the hero of the Larger Sutra. Bodhisattva Dharmakara, the mythical hero of the Larger Sutra had a vision for his life as a Bodhisattva. His vision included his aspiration for the future, for what he wanted to accomplish in his life as a Bodhisattva. As you know, he expresses that vision and aspiration in the 48 vows of the Larger Sutra. Dharmakara sees and aspires for a world in which all sentient beings might find true happiness, true peace, true enlightenment in the world that he vows to create. Dharmakara’s vision is also his aspiration. His aspiration is also his vision.
I am not Bodhisattva Dharmakara, but I have a vision and aspiration for our future, for our temples, and for our BCA. I see that in the future, we will have vibrant and diverse Sanghas, with people of all backgrounds, all ages, all genders, all ethnicities, and all sexual orientations.
I see that in the future, the Dharma will be our focus, and we will have Buddhist education classes and programs everywhere, in person and virtually. I see that in the future, besides our local temple members, that we will have a virtual Sangha, made up of people from all over the world who join us in following the path of the Nembutsu.
I see in the future a Sangha in which the teachings resonate with their life, that they see the Dharma as indispensable, just as important as the food that we eat and the air that we breathe. I see in the future a growing Sangha that reaches new people, who have never even heard the word Namuamidabutsu before. I see in the future, Shin Buddhism deeply connected to the communities around them, involved and engaged.
Just as Bodhisattva Dharmakara vowed in the Larger Sutra, that if his vows would not be fulfilled, that he would not accept complete enlightenment, so too our vision for the future must include our aspiration and determination to complete, to fulfill our vision as well.