Message from Reverend Melissa Opel to the Sangha:
April is the month in which we would typically be preparing for and celebrating Hanamatsuri, the birth of the baby who would become the Buddha. Hanamatsuri is a wonderful time of gathering together to adorn the Hanamido with flowers, and placing sweet tea in the bowl that we pour over the Buddha, which signifies the story of his mother giving birth to Siddhartha Gautama in the Lumbini Garden, and the sweet tea that rains down in celebration.
This year, it seems most likely that we will continue to quarantine during this special Buddhist holiday. When I think about the time apart that we’re having, at first it makes me sad, but then I remember this will not be forever and we continue to practice kindness and compassion by doing so.
Shortly after the Buddha’s birth, his mother passed away and he was separated from her. It is never easy for a child to lose their mother—or any parent for that matter, and I wonder what sort of affect that had on him growing up? There is a bond that holds parents and children together—the gift of life is something we cannot do on our own—we cannot will ourselves into existence or care for our self in infancy. We are dependent on so many things around us to nurture and care for us. Perhaps Siddhartha felt the comfort of his birth mother in the people around him, in his father and in himself.
Right now we are all living in our own realities. For some of us, we are able to work from home or maybe we’re retired and just feeling the loneliness of quarantine, while others are not sure how rent is going to be paid next month, because we’ve been laid off or let go. Others still, in our medical community and essential workers, are keeping the heartbeat of our country chugging along. There are people among these groups who may feel forced to go to work in order to keep food on the table as well. The point is, we all have a different viewpoint during this time, just as I’m sure the Buddha had his own view of what it meant to lose his mother. Things happen to us, around us, for us . . . maybe we think against us, all the time. The only way for us to put it into perspective, is to focus on the teachings of the Buddha. With the Temple closed, it may feel impossible to practice your spiritual path at this time (or frankly, you may not feel like it), but as you’ll see in this newsletter, temples around us are pouring out their time and resources for all sentient beings to benefit from. Our full time Ministers throughout the BCA are so busy and as time presses on, we are losing these ministers to old age, sickness, and death and along with their passing, we are losing their understanding of the teachings, but one way to consider this time is to see the treasure trove of Shin teachings that are not only being given to us, to continue on our path, but are being kept alive for us to interact with in digital form, long after we emerge from quarantine.
When we find ourselves on the other side of this —and we will—the world will be different than when we left it—it is the nature of life and the nature of our new perspectives. I encourage us all to continually realign our perspectives with the teachings. It is okay to be human and feel the fullness of our humanity and fragility, during this time, but remember—you only have to make it through today—tomorrow will be different. Although this separation feels real, we are still connected through Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Rev. Melissa Opel