Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September 23rd, 2009

So the Shikoku trip is really just right around the corner. Plane tickets have been secured, and now we are gathering information and orders from the travelers, regarding the items they want to have when we arrive to start the 88 Temple tour. There are many, many details that need to be sorted out, and continued worries about the condition of the dollar against the yen. My faith is really, really being tested. Tomorrow is the prayer day for Ojizo Bosatsu, so maybe my need to write in my blog is somehow guided by the Buddhas.

The temple received a call a couple of days from an elderly lady who wanted a priest to pray for her. Andrew answered the call and asked what the matter was, and the response was like so many that we seem to be receiving nowadays: strange. According to this woman, the smell of papayas from her neighbors yard was bothering her so she wanted a priest to pray that the smell stops or the trees die. This request is not the first time something odd was asked for. I have heard from people who wanted us to pray that their pot smoking neighbors would stop their habit, as the fumes were entering their bedrooms (a valid complaint mind you, but quite beyond the power of Kobo Daishi, or any spiritual figure or deity frankly); and my favorite, to stop the shadows of the neighbors because the individual felt that the shadows held evil. This is not to say that nothing is something is VERY wrong, but it may not be the neighbor. I could be mercenary and tell these people that I can pray and do something about it. But is that really true? I can pray with a person and they will feel good about it, but it may not actually materially solve the problem. Yet we get call after call, and there are priests that will convince the person that they must come, get blessings, pass over an envelope with money, and the cleansing will have been successful. I want to know when I go on this pilgrimage, is that all there is?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Start My Circle...

In five weeks, I am going to embark on a pilgrimage with a group of my temple members. We travel to Shikoku to follow the path of Kobo Daishi, and countless thousands of pilgrims, visiting 88 temples around a somewhat circular path of around 900 miles.

The pilgrimage could not come at a better time for me personally. I find myself at a crossroads and at my age, verging on 42 in a couple of months, I feel that I am at a significant moment. Theoretically, and according to all of the medical journals I am somewhat at the halfway point of my life if I am so blessed with that many years. Thoughts of the future, and many of the past swirl like a storm in my mind. Regrets at this point? Many. Blessings? Many.

More importantly I also find myself more and more curious about my religion and my role in it. As a Shingon practitioner, I could of course make many claims about my connection with the Buddha and the many incarnations of the Buddha, and begin a life of personal blessings, "readings", and consultations. Is that really practicing Shingon Buddhism? Moreover, what qualifies me to give out consultation to anyone? Sometimes I wonder how I get up in the morning, and how it is a minor miracle in itself that the weight of other peoples' problems and desires do not crush any kind of feelings of happiness I want to express. Coupled with a realization that I am all to human and the road to enlightenment is truly a long one, I don't feel that I am anymore capable of telling someone how to save their crumbling marriage, or collapsing business than the average joe off the street. Personally I feel that relating my own mistakes and wrong decisions serve as a better road map for people to follow, or perhaps in a sense avoid.

I am director of a temple that also employs a priest from Japan. There are many of the older generation at the temple who do not like the idea of Hawaii born and trained ministers. The priest from Japan serves their needs. Frankly I tolerate it as a necessary anachronism. Without the necessary language skills, and drive, it is difficult for a priest that was trained, and raised in the very cloistered environment of Japanese temple life to adopt and adapt to a western style of worship and faith. So when all else fails, play the psychic card. Therein lies the problem. I am wondering if that is all our religion is about. I intend to find out, and along the way hopefully find myself. 88 Temples in 16 days. We aren't walking it, I think that for the first time, it may be for the best to be bussed around. Will I find Kobo Daishi? Let's find out together.