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I Started Realizing the Beauty of the Religion

“Ki myo mu ryo ju no rai.” To the generic Shin Buddhist eye, this may seem like the beginning to Shinran’s sutra “Shoshinge,” but for me it was the start of a journey. 

When I was told I would be attending Buddhist Youth Retreat 6 (BYR6) I was hesitant. I only showed up to the Orange County Buddhist Church (OCBC) for Jr. YBA activities and for Boy Scouts. I hated chanting even “Juseige” and feared going to Dharma School after service, so when I learned we would be chanting a sutra three times the length of “Juseige” three times a day, I thought I was never getting out alive.

The first few days were a new experience for me. I never felt surrounded by so much Buddhism. Whether it was meeting a new reverend every day or learning etiquette on the Onaijin, I was surrounded with knowledge that Dharma School did not teach me. I was fortunate enough to meet Rev. Michael Endo and Rev. Jerry Hirano. These two senseis made me feel like I was at home. Even though I had never met them before this, they were very personable and helped answer the questions I was afraid to ask about Buddhism. This made me feel like I belonged at the retreat, and I started to open up and meet new friends. 

When I first arrived, I was only talking to my OCBC friends and a little to the people I had seen before at the Southern District (SD) seminars, but after talking to these ministers, I started talking to people from Washington and the Bay Area. I started to bond with my newfound “Dharma Buddies” and I suddenly started to understand the teachings.

I first started to realize how I could explain Buddhism. I always understood the teachings, but as the only Buddhist in my group of friends at school, they would often ask, “Where do you go when you die?” I had a rough time explaining and would always tell them I would get back to them someday. 

During Rev. Henry Adams and Rev. Jerry Hirano’s classes, I finally found my answer and can share the religion I have been a part of since birth. Throughout the whole week, it felt like the pieces of the puzzles started to come together. Whether it was finding ways Buddhism had been in my life without noticing or hearing how the reverends found their path into Buddhism, I started realizing the beauty of the religion. The ability to be able to find my own path toward enlightenment is something I cherish.

The retreat was not all just sitting in classes or service all day. Each day, we would do interactive activities that we could use when we got back home. One activity that I really enjoyed was the Obon dancing. Usually I would not have participated and only went to the practices at my church for the food, but now I enjoyed the sense of community and will learn the dances so I can take part this year. 

On June 28, we took a trip to the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, where they have the stupa which holds remains from the original Buddha. When I stepped foot into the stupa, I had a moment of reflection throughout my journey through Buddhism. I had been born into the church and just attended to please my mom, but now I felt like I belonged. All the forced car rides to church would no longer exist as I would want to attend the Sunday services whenever possible. A new chapter of my journey was just getting started.

The last part of the week flew by. I was enjoying my time there and found some friends that would last forever. Whether it was sitting up late at night talking or enjoying the delicious meals made by Auntie Judy Kono and Rev. Michael Endo, I knew I did not want to go home so soon. A week that started off as only 12 more services left turned into “I only get to chant ‘Shoshinge’ three more times.” 

When it came to the end of the week, I started to reflect on the path I had taken throughout my whole life. Everywhere, it seemed, that Buddhism showed up in it. I was just not aware that it was present. 

When the graduation ceremony commenced, I had to accept that I had to leave. Even though I was sad, I once again realized that Buddhism was present in the form of impermanence. All good things cannot last forever. 

Even though I will never see these people in a setting like this again, it is my goal to start attending services more at OCBC and at the temples where the ministers I had met are at. I am fortunate that my parents signed me up for this retreat and would like to thank Koichi Mizushima and Rev. Jerry Hirano for putting in countless hours planning and executing the journey.



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