Jeff Wilson in Winnipeg

Our weekend with Jeff Wilson was a resounding success! Whenever our temple has a special guest like Jeff Wilson I am always amazed at the work that goes behind the scenes.

The planning for Jeff’s visit began over one year ago. Finally, he had an open weekend in June of 2011. We had to worry about promotion and advertisement. Luckily, the late, Dr. Leslie Kawamura promised to have the Living Dharma Centre in Toronto help our temple with Jeff’s travel and accommodations. Our temple Board had to meet to iron out the details of the visit such as the fundraiser lunch, the cleaning of the temple and temple grounds, transportation, clean-up after the event and meals for our guest. Then there was the matter of how to plan the service for Sunday as well as the format for the Saturday evening lecture. Posters were designed and distributed and notices in the Winnipeg Free Press were arranged. Sections of our wonderful website were devoted to Jeff’s arrival. These were some of the activities required for Jeff’s visit. Many people, who prefer to remain unnamed, worked diligently behind the scenes to prepare for this important visit.

Then Saturday and Sunday arrived. We were privileged to hear two remarkable presentations. They were remarkable because our guest Jeff Wilson was a top-notch scholar who was able to relate the basics of our wonderful Nembutsu teaching in clear down-to-earth language. To be able to do well in both worlds - the academic and the world of the average temple member - is a genuine gift. It is nice to know that our tradition has academic respectability. It is touching to know that we who live outside the walls of a university can understand and live this important teaching of the Nembutsu.

On Sunday, June 12, Jeff talked about three hallmarks of Shinran’s teachings: Relax, Trust and Thank. I could never do justice to his talk. It was the kind of presentation that requires being-there, with Jeff himself present. So to paraphrase:

Relax, because our Nembutsu teaching gives us permission to be ourselves just as we are in the flow of our natural lives. Amida’s Vow to bring spiritual fulfillment to all beings is just for us. Flowing beneath the events of our daily lives is a warm nurturing presence—even in the most difficult of times.

Trust is not only found in the Vows of Amida but also in the Sangha, our community. Finding true words worthy of trust, a community of trust and people to trust is a deep need for all of us. When we cannot have them, life seems a joyless affair, scary even. We find these things in the Buddha, Dharma Sangha and in the Nembutsu.

Thank, gratitude is also found when we become aware of all the causes and conditions that support us.

It is really a great privilege to arrive at a place in our journey of life where we can relax, find something worthy of trust and give expression to our gratitude. Please read his book, "Buddhism of the Heart" for further explanations. I am sure everyone there would have their own story about Jeff’s visit. Please reflect on his words and feel free to share your experiences with each other.

I am always proud of our community. Our ability to work in a relaxed friendly manner with trust and gratitude is an amazing feature of our experience together. Remember how we close our chanting? “Together we all share the truth of this Dharma, which gives rise to Bodhi mind (bodaishin) and birth in true serene joy.” How true, how true.

In deepest gratitude.

Sensei Ulrich