On a cold and rainy weekend in February, I had the good fortune of attending the BCA Temple Leaders Workshop at the Jodo Shinshu Center (JSC) in Berkeley, California. As cold and wet as the weather was, the atmosphere at the JSC could not have been warmer.
As our group of three representatives from Fresno arrived, we were warmly welcomed by Center for Buddhist Education (CBE) Project Coordinator Judy Kono, who was dressed in an apron, doing kitchen chores. She provided us with our room keys for the JSC.
It almost felt like "Mom" was welcoming us into her home, as the aroma of food permeated the check-in area.
Our first events on Friday evening, Feb. 3, were a welcome to attendees, dinner, and a tour of the JSC. It was a great experience touring this impressive building, to actually see the hub of our Buddhist educational endeavors.
On our second day, we had a great Dharma message from our Bishop, Rev. Marvin Harada, about "What Is BCA." He spoke about the benefits of life as a Shin Buddhist, and the importance of living life "inside out" versus "outside in."
His analogy of a nurse working to take care of people, in contrast with a nurse working to cover their hours, was descriptive of the passion we have as temple leaders.
In the course of the day, we also: shared stories of success in breakout sessions; what our responsibilities are as temple leaders; what challenges we face; and what pathways we might consider to improve. Just sharing experiences with each other and knowing that many of us are facing similar challenges was valuable.
The workshop was informative and filled with information as we got to know one another more intimately through our conversations over meals.
But the primary value I got out of the weekend was seeing how hard our BCA leadership and staff works to serve us all. Not only in an executive manner, but by rolling up their sleeves and providing us with basic needs for our stay.
Rev. Michael Endo cooked a delicious dinner. Bishop Rev. Harada cooked our last lunch. Judy Kono was always doing kitchen duty in preparing and cleaning. And all of the BCA staff (BCA Administrator Gayle Noguchi, Assistant Facilities Manager Pam Matsuoka, Administrative Assistant Angela Bartolacci, Facilities Manager Bob Matsuda, and CBE Youth Coordinator Koichi Mizushima) provided us with other basic needs that made our stay as comfortable as being "home."
I will always have fond memories of my weekend at the JSC. The Dana of meeting with fellow temple leaders; sharing the Dharma; and simply being together with fellow leaders with a common goal, energized me and helped me more fully realize and understand why I am a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist.
I would encourage all of you to make every effort to visit our JSC, just to feel the richness of the facility, to see how the generosity of our Sangha has made it all possible, and to absorb the experience firsthand where the education of our Jodo Shinshu teachings are so actively being taught.
You should all, at some point, experience a visit to our Jodo Shinshu "home." Namu Amida Butsu.
Gordon Ah Tye is past president of the Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Church.