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Thank You to Everyone Who Made This Experience Possible

Editor’s note: Three Buddhist Youth Retreat 6 (BYR6) students — Zachary Mauldin, Sydney Osako, and Nathan Terada — submitted their thoughts about themselves and about the program. The Wheel of Dharma is pleased to print their thoughtful articles with their permission. 


Thirty pages long, three long services a day: “Ki myo mu ryo ju nyo rai.” 

This is the first line of “Shoshinge,” Shinran’s Nembutsu wasan. By the end of Buddhist Youth Retreat 6 (BYR6), it felt like so much more to me. 

Stepping into the Onaijin in the Kodo at the Jodo Shinshu Center was the start of my newfound Buddhist journey. Honestly, packing and getting ready for the retreat, I was a little more excited to have the opportunity to be with my friends than a religious experience. 

I never would’ve guessed the workload we were about to study when I arrived at the Jodo Shinshu Center. Auntie Judy Kono warmly welcomed me as if I was going from my home to hers. When she showed me the schedule for the week, I tried to hide my surprise. Seeing that we were in store for three services, three lectures, and two life skills a day, I knew that this was going to be a very long week. Since we would not be chanting “Juseige,” I was curious what we would be reciting every service. 

When I found out it was “Shoshinge,” and that it was 30 pages long in Japanese with no English translation, I immediately thought, “Oh #$%$!” 

I have been a Dharma School student at the Seattle Betsuin since my time in the infant/toddler class. My mindset going into the retreat was that I’d be open to learning new things. There were many questions I had throughout the years, but didn’t know how to ask or even how to feel about it. 

The first takeaway that I wanted out of the retreat was the confidence to recite the various chants and say the Nembutsu. In the past, I always had the habit of whispering the Nembutsu when offering oshoko and quietly chanting off of the service book when I was focused for a short time. I was nervous in reciting because my father and grandma excel in these aspects. 

The second takeaway was more personal for me. Growing up in the temple, I sometimes saw the temple as a place I “had” to go every Sunday rather than the feeling of myself wanting to go. I always knew that I am Buddhist, but I felt that I couldn’t connect to the Dharma like my parents and other past generations did. Throughout the past couple years, I have been trying to find within myself why I am a Buddhist.  

During the first day, my mind felt slow and I felt like I wasn’t really taking in the information. Throughout the week, people like Rev. Michael Endo and Rev. Jerry Hirano taught me how special the teachings really are and how Buddhism is a way to live our life. 

I was able to be more involved in the lectures and understand the Nembutsu with a different perspective. Listening to each reverend describe how they started their paths of Buddhism made me realize how much Buddhism has also affected my life, even when I didn’t even know it. They were able to help me see things, which is helping me create my new path and connect dots, which I will now try to put into practice. I feel really fortunate to meet these leaders. Even though I was meeting them for the first time, they brought me in as if I was their own. 

Buddhism was not all the only teaching we were taught throughout the week. I learned both life skills and social skills. From taxes to self-defense, we learned new ways to keep ourselves safe both financially and physically. 

We also had “teen talks,” where everyone could talk about things that they were going through, knowing that it would stay in the room. I knew most of the students from Orange County Buddhist Church, but I knew that deep down inside, this was a chance for me to meet someone new. My fellow peers also helped me further understand some of the teachings because of the diversity of our group and the bond that some of us created within a couple of days. It was really heartwarming to see how people were able to talk about such sensitive topics. 

In the middle of the week, we had the chance to take a field trip to San Francisco, where we got to visit Japantown, the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, and even Pier 39. Going on this trip felt relaxing because of how long we had stayed inside. 

Learning about the history of the first temple in America, I became inspired about knowing how devoted some of those founding members were. They were willing to destroy their temple and rebuild it with a beautiful stupa. 

We even got the chance to eat in Japantown, where I got to connect with Rev. Hirano personally, even talking about judo since we had that in common. When we visited Pier 39, I was able to connect with someone personally and I think because of that day and the rest of the week, I will cherish their friendship forever. 

In the last days of BYR6, I never complained mentally that I would be chanting “Shoshinge.” I was grateful to recite it with confidence and love and I chanted and recited the Nembutsu without whispering. At this point, I was having so much fun and felt so close to the teachings that I didn’t want to leave. But we know that everything is impermanent and it was time. I left knowing why I choose to be Buddhist.

I’m so grateful to all of the teachers for showing me the ways how the Dharma connects in my life. I thank Auntie Judy Kono and the kitchen staff of the week for making us three delicious meals a day and always knowing how much to make since I know we ate a lot. 

I thank CBE Youth Coordinator Koichi Mizushima for giving us this opportunity to learn the Dharma and connecting me to people all around the BCA. 

I want to thank Ellie Mizushima and Molly Maseba for stepping up to the plate when Koichi Mizushima got sick, taking care of us and keeping us out of trouble. Lastly, I want to thank the Seattle Betsuin and my family for helping me throughout my Buddhist path in life and for taking care of me. Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible. Namu Amida Butsu.



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