Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, phrases like thinking outside the box and coloring outside the lines have a more significant meaning. As opposed to expressing idealistic aspirations, we have in fact had to do things a little differently, to be creative, to be innovative. And thats been rewarding in many ways! As long as we are mindful of others, we remember the fundamental aspects of our goals and act with wisdom and compassion, then seizing the opportunity during this time and taking new approaches in doing long established things can be transformational in a good way. We are able to go beyond past limitations, and realize our potential to hear and make the Dharma more accessible. We can connect and become a stronger and greater community.
We have all had to make necessary and innovative adjustments in order to stay connected, and to continue sharing the Dharma while staying within the official guidelines. The concern of the Board has been, and is always, about the wellness and safety of our members, guests, and the community. It has not been easy, and has required steadfastness, patience, and understanding by all. With thanks to the New York Buddhist Church Board, the Ministerial team, the Religious Education Department, and members of our Sangha, by using technology, we have been able to continue without interruption our Sunday services and our weekly meditation sessions and study classes. Everyone can also enjoy a virtual coffee hour after the Sunday service. Recently, we have also had the privilege of hearing from outstanding Buddhist speakers through the Eastern Buddhist League Virtual Lecture Series, which creatively replaced the in-person EBL conference that NYBC was scheduled to host over Labor Day weekend. More information can be found under Calendar of Events on our NYBC website (newyorkbuddhistchurch.org). How grateful I am for Sangha members and everyone thinking outside the box, and pitching in to keep us going smoothly!
Last Saturday I attended a drive-thru bon dance event at our sister temple, the Seabrook Buddhist Temple in New Jersey. It was my first time out of New York City in months! This year is their 75th anniversary in the community, and I congratulate them all on how innovatively they were still able to observe this significant annual religious and cultural tradition together, honoring and celebrating our ancestors. It was very heartwarming to see everyone so happy and grateful, repeatedly saying thank you! By the way, our parent organization, the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is holding a Virtual Bon Dance on August 15. Please check the Community and Facebook pages on our NYBC website (newyorkbuddhistchurch.org) for more information.
For me, the NYBC, Seabrook, and BCA activities are all examples of upaya (skillful or expedient means) which in Buddhism can include the use of unconventional means to become enlightened and to fulfill the goals of the Dharma teachings. When hearts and minds come together to create a sense of joy then we become one with the Dharma. I am reminded of the Zen image of a finger pointing at the moon. The moon represents universal teachings and the finger points us to the truth, the skillful means by which we can awaken to the essence of the teachings, going beyond words. The whole point is to make people aware of the Dharma, even through unconventional means if they are applicable and applied with wisdom and compassion.
Great discoveries are made when out of necessity people do things differently, and when they go outside the box, in art, in music, in science. Who knows? Maybe well have a vaccine for Covid-19 by the end of the year! But meanwhile, the virus is just being the virus and has changed our perspective on what it means to be ill, and in the way we live our lives. Its purpose is to thrive, and it does so by spreading a highly contagious, sometimes fatal sickness amongst humans. One important way to fight it is to have a sense of whats real through the call of the nembutsu, to act appropriately and to do things differently, at least for now. Nothing is forever, not even the pandemic. So hang in there, the answers are in the teachings of the Buddha, which emphasize wisdom.
Namo Amida Butsu.