Hello, Friends and Families of the Venice Buddhist Temple Community! Our doors are now open and we are back into full swing. With new sewer lines, gas lines, and floors, we look forward to all of you coming home.*
As I was listening to a television show, I came to hear this quote from Albert Einstein. He said, “Failure is success in progress.” As I reflect on what had gone on with the physical status of our temple, and then our need to replenish the funds used to maintain the natural wear and tear on it, I see this as a huge opportunity to grow. But this isn’t the type of growth you might be thinking.
Let’s be honest. How many of you think this is going to be a plea for $? It is not. How many would perceive that this opportunity to grow is a way to solicit and build up our numbers to support the temple? It is not. Let’s face it. Growth in our society is raw numbers. It is the tangible and the concrete. We want something that is measurable and quantifiable. As the minister of this temple, I automatically start to think about these numbers, too. I think about the instant drain on the temple’s savings and how to replenish it. Even with smaller amounts it is easy for my thought to slip into a counting mode of saying “this item is how many members?” We have to work hard to stop this way of thinking. I constantly need help and feel it is ingrained deeply in many of us through the roots of our education and life styles. Can you relate to this problem? I have heard and done this over the span of my life, but not just at the temple. It happens in everything we do. Quantifiable with letters and numbers. At the temple, this is the “Failure” of a human existence. This is not where I want to be. Do you feel the same? Our lives are not the same and so we should not assume that through these events that we perceive and apply the teachings the same as well. Growth is not quantifiable just as Buddha is not quantifiable. It is hard to reprogram this way of thinking and to get out of the dark thoughts that can entangle and drain our energies and our lives.
Recently, I have been reminded of why we put our energy into the temple and why we do our best. We had two youth in their twenties come to our temple. When we hear news like this, we all jump for joy, because we know that the young are a true treasure. The first was a student. He was looking for guidance, connection, and peace. These things that which we are constantly trying to provide. We spoke about the Buddha which helps us to work together through life’s challenges, and about calming the storm within by realizing and accepting our true self. The second youth came to a familiar place that he had once come to as a child with friends and family. As we spoke, it was clear he was looking for a sanctuary where he could be heard and find answers to worldly problems. I gave him what I could, listened and supported him, and made sure to tell him that we, the Sangha, are and will always be here for him, as well as everyone who needs it. As the Sangha, or group of Buddha’s followers, at the temple, we do our best. Not just to grow the Sangha or maintain material possessions. We do our best to create a safe place. We do our best to provide good food so we share our lives over meals creating memories with an extended family. We do our best to relay and guide others to the teachings. We do our best to not be fixated on our own self centered desires, but to reaffirm our path to Enlightenment.
The “Success” we long for is to realize the heart of the Buddha and the efforts put forth even before we were born. Success is giving and providing these things that the youths and others are looking for, which takes wisdom and the heart to empathize and express compassion. Success is expanding the Buddha’s influence from within us and allowing that light to emanate through our words and actions. When we look at life’s challenges, not through the concretely measurable, but by the heart and motivations behind our actions, we can accomplish Success as Sangha. This success is a life long journey.
I was asked during one of these visits, “As a priest do you have these problems?” Of course, we all have problems and worries. I am constantly trying my best and then reflecting what I should have done differently. Or asking deeply if it was with my heart or the Buddha’s. I hope they are the same. This fits for our Sangha as well. Shinran wrote, “When one contemplates the great ocean of entrusting, it chooses not between the rich and the poor, has nothing to do with being male or female, old or young, makes nothing of karmic evil great or little, does not weigh the length of practice, is not to be found in the distinctions of relative practices or goods, sudden or gradual, meditative or non-meditative, orthodox or heterodox… but is found just in this true entrusting of the inconceivable, inexplicable, and ineffable.” In this passage it explains the differences between a life of labels and a true heart or entrusting heart of a Sangha. We should think about issues of our hearts. Things will change physically. We cannot stop it. How we act upon the opportunities presented is the biggest concern, and to know why we act upon them, as well. We do our best. Do not put an amount to it, but just give with the Pure Heart and Mind that we are all working for.
I ask you all to continue to recommit your heart to this journey. We are not living in this life for material or worldly possessions or to get a grade or to even be great. We are in this to get stronger within. We are in this for the GREATER Good. We are in this to help people, but first we need to help ourselves by knowing of the Loving Compassion that we have received which allows us to save the world and to be able to empathize through our own struggles in life. This is what calls us to change the lives of others. And we learn not to be overly proud of the efforts that we put forth knowing that it is not our vision, but Amida Buddha’s that we are working to ultimately fulfill and pay back.
“Failure is Success in Progress”
In this Jodo Shinshu life, Failure and Frustration are well springs for growth letting us see our true hearts and then urging us to contemplate on the Buddha with both hands together so we can truly walk hand in hand with open hearts, allowing the Buddha’s virtues to guide us together through saying the Name, Namu Amida Butsu.
* Special thanks to President Ron Gee, Mr. Tommy Yamaguchi, and Mrs. Joyce Enomoto for being at the temple everyday to pack, move, and oversee and guide the work along to completion.
Rev. Kory Quon
Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple