Sangha in Motion
2009 U.S. Gohonzon Ceremony
Expression of Appreciation
by Jan Rose
Eternal Buddha: Thus have I read:
“When there is this, that is.
With the arising of this, that arises.
When this is not, neither is that.
With the cessation of this, that ceases.”
This is how Shakamuni simply described the central and profound principal of Dependent Origination. It is a causal interdependent process that accounts for the arising and cessation of everything including human ignorance, suffering, liberation, and awakening.
From another I hear that: “What [it] … describes is a vision of life or an understanding in which we see the way everything is interconnected—that there is nothing separate, nothing standing alone. Everything affects everything else. We are part of this system. We are part of this process - causal relationships …affecting the kind of world that we all live in...”*
As I begin to understand this right way of seeing and thinking about everything I feel moments of liberation and profound gratitude. However, as I read, recite, and practice daily, I know “the gateway to this wisdom is very difficult to attain”. The process of awakening is slow, gradual, requiring guidance, support and all sorts of practices like generosity, keeping the precepts, forbearance, diligence, mindfulness and wisdom.
As I reviewed my memory for experiences that account for my being here today, a myriad of examples, as “numerous as the sands of the Ganges”, came to mind. Eternal Buddha, I could go into my story of how and why I came to the OKC Dharma Center 5 years ago, the people I met and the gifts of guidance, compassion, protection and community I have received. However, my story overlooks the larger reality that there was even an established Rissho Kosei-kai Dharma Center for me to come to. I would need to go into each of the stories of Rev. Hildebrand and Kris Ladusau, how they were central in the opening and establishment of this center. They each have beautiful stories to tell. The building called “the Dharma Center” that opened July 4, 2001 also has its own story as does everyone and everything inside. But those stories wouldn’t account for the group of Japanese women in OKC who met in various living rooms for years holding this tradition, or the greater network of protection, guidance, nurturance and support that sustained each of them and the collective whole along the way.
This year, we as members had the opportunity to attend the 50th Anniversary of Rissho Kosei-kai in America. We celebrated, as benefactors, those who brought and held this Buddhist tradition in America. We physically connected with President and Mrs. Niwano without fully realizing the profundity of the moment. We met new people and reconnected with old friends as we shared stories with others from all over the U.S. and Japan. We also benefited from the huge collective effort put forth by those who planned, organized and implemented the conference. (I made the nametags for the Oklahoma sangha, by the way.)
In 2006, Rissho Kosei-kai members from all over the world had the opportunity to go to Japan for Dansan, to celebrate and honor the 100th year after the birth of the founder, Nikkyo Niwano. After the celebration, the Oklahoma Sangha traveled to Suganuma, the founder’s birthplace, where we appreciated the great sacrifice of the Niwano family. I personally did not have then, nor do I now, the ability to fully understand and appreciate the enormity of the effort we beheld. Probably, only a Buddha together with a Buddha could truly fathom the ultimate reality of that.
The experience gave us an opportunity to exponentially broaden our perspectives on this vast and great web of life. I now have a new appreciation for the terms we read and recite from the Lotus Sutra: for only words like myriads, kotis, inconceivable, wondrous, profound, far-reaching, boundless, and infinite or similes’ like “numerous as the sands of the Ganges” can possibly express the scope of this amazing network of phenomena.
Eternal Buddha, my own story has been one of chronic despair in the search for understanding my purpose and connection to the greater whole. With a jealous mind I could only see the beautiful gifts of others. The dharma journey I told in January of 2008 recounts this struggle. But, by your arrangement I received the opportunity to express gratitude here today. This task has drawn my awareness to the great truth that has liberated me from my karma around contribution.
I see that I have purpose, and for me to think otherwise was nothing but arrogant and ungrateful. Now I see how nothing is separate, and no thing and no one stands alone.
Each of us here today has a story that connects and contributes to the whole. With wisdom and compassion, our contributions create beauty. We are benefactors of the great vast vision of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
In conclusion, here are thoughts about gratitude by Founder Nikkyo Niwano from the Modern Commentaries of the Three Fold Lotus Sutra:
“If we truly feel that we have taken refuge in the Buddha and are grateful to him, our feelings will be expressed in action. Gratitude that does not manifest itself as action is not true gratitude.”**
…Namu Myoho Renge Kyo
*Christina Feldman Talk for Barre Center for Buddhist Studies on October 18, 1998
**The Threefold Lotus Sutra :A Modern Commentary, Vol. I, pg.11