Minister’s Message – March 2023

“I take refuge in the Buddha…

  I take refuge in the Dharma…

   I take refuge in the Sangha…”

~Excerpts from The Three Treasures

When we recite the “Three Treasures,” there is a section that we read together. This participation section starts with, “I take refuge in the Buddha…I take refuge in the Dharma…I take refuge in the Sangha.” Have you ever thought about the meaning of Sangha and what it means to be an active participant of a Sangha?  A general definition is “Nembutsu followers,” “Buddha’s follower“ or disciple, but it is so much more to being a Sangha.

There is a sense of belonging and with this belonging comes responsibilities. The Sangha keeps a temple/church functioning as One. It is not how much we do, but how we work together in hearing the Dharma and hearing the calling voice of the Buddha.

The Sangha is like a well-oiled machine. Each Sangha member functions as a moving mechanism. With each moving part, we have to have a maintenance check, so that it functions well. There are times when parts may break down, and repairs have to be made or we have to find spare parts. Yet sometimes, parts are difficult to find and then we “punt,” so to speak. We learn to manipulate and maybe duct tape the piece together until we find the part. Like all good mechanisms, we are always checking the moving parts.

Without Sangha, there is no Dharma or Buddha. It is the Sangha that keeps the Dharma alive, share support, and guide those who are new and afraid.  The Sangha keeps Buddha’s light and life shining, so that others can possibly find their path. It is the Sangha that helps to spread the Dharma and hears the Buddha’s call.

On the lighter side, the Sangha is also a welcoming mat. We put out the mat, so that others can hear, maybe find comfort and peace when they come. For just a brief time, the new people can be a part of a Sangha. We do not judge nor discriminate. We merely accept all who are wiling to hear and learn.

It is the Sangha that provides nourishment in various ways. They provide light lunch or help those who are new to the temple. The Sangha welcomes any interested people and accepts them, “just as they are.” The Sangha teaches those in understanding Nembutsu, our Namu Amida Butsu. The Sangha teaches the “newbies” how to chant, explain the rituals and extends their warmth to those who come to temple for the first time. Many Sangha members may have different levels of understanding, but the Sangha is a helping tool. The Sangha continues to be a building block for the temple, the Dharma, and the Buddha. That is a function of a welcoming mat or to be a Sangha.

Due to cause and conditions, many Sangha members have not returned to temple. However, they are still a part of the Sangha. Yet, we can be assured that their Nembutsu is heard and they still hear Buddha’s teachings. When the Sangha members return, the welcome mat will still be at the door, to greet them back. We are assured that Buddha’s compassion and wisdom surrounds our Sangha always.

We put our palms together in thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to our past, present, and future Sangha. Our past Sangha initiated the spread of Dharma, the present continues to hear and learn, and the future is yet to be seen. We can be proud of our Sangha. The past, present and future Sangha is alive being surrounded by Buddha’s light and life.

Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano

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