Keeping faith during troubled times

One of the core tenets of Buddhism that temple sermons have focused on recently is impermanence. The messages have felt particularly timely — change, loss and death have often seemed like the only constants during the unprecedented challenges the world has been facing for the last few years.

I learned that my grandfather had passed away on the last day before winter break. Granddaddy was my rock, a steady comforting presence who would always greet me with a big hug and a bigger grin. He always seemed to be hiding a smile, waiting to let the world in on his latest joke or a humorous new saying from one of his golf buddies. Even now, writing about him in the past tense feels wrong, like any second I’ll hear the phone ring and be greeted by his customary, “Hello, is this Miss America speaking?” on the other end.

While my grandfather’s health had been declining for a while and his passing wasn’t COVID-19-related, it still came as a shock to me. I had been so sure that I would get one more visit, that I would see him in person in just a couple of days.

Jodo Shinshu Buddhism holds that all events are interconnected — that there is a direct, if not always apparent, cause and effect to every action. Amida Buddha’s compassion is extended toward all of us: in our times of joy, in our times of sadness and all of the times in between. The primary lesson I have learned from my time attending services at the local Berkeley Buddhist Temple is that we are never alone.