In February 2009, Sensei Fredrich Ulrich reached his ten year anniversary as the Resident Minister at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. This was his anniversary Dharma Talk to the congregation.
Does a decade sound like a long time? How about 10 years? That does not seem so long, does it? The word ‘decade’ is a heavy word - ponderous even. So a decade sounds like a long time, but actually it is equal in length to 10 years. Such are the workings of the human mind!
In my case, the 10 years I have spent with the Manitoba Buddhist Temple have gone by quickly. When I first came in 1999, I had just finished serving the small Japanese-Buddhist community in Edmonton, as well as running a dojo. Luckily there were some dedicated people who helped me in those ten years of service to the Dharma in that city. The participants varied in number from 6-25 depending on the time frame in question. When the Roland Ikuta family joined us, we enjoyed monthly meetings with the families and one monthly meeting for Dharma study and meditation. During that time, I was also the owner of a karate school for 15 years, and a soccer coach for 12. These were exciting and fulfilling times shared by my family of four, as I continued to teach high school full time.
Coming to Winnipeg was a great challenge. I had never been a temple priest before, having spent my time in Edmonton propagating Shin Buddhism mostly to non-Japanese folk. Here in Winnipeg, there was a well-established temple with deep roots in Japanese culture and traditions. I had to learn to be a temple minister. Rev. S. Ikuta helped me with this. But by far the greatest help came from the elder members, many of whom were in the Hoyu-Kai. I deeply appreciate the patience and support.
Then there are the general members and associate members of the community who were patiently helpful as they waited for me to make the transition. Having the first non-Japanese minister must have been a challenge for everyone.
The Dharma School had over 40 members when I first arrived. Those members are all now in their 20’s, adult young men & women in their own right. It was a great joy for me to witness, & have a part in, your growing up into such fine people. Thanks be to you & to your Dharma School leaders & teachers.
The ladies of the temple - both members of the Fujin-Kai and those who are not members - have worked hard to spoil me with good food, gifts and support. They are a real solid base to temple life. Now, after 10 years, many of them have grandchildren and great-grandchildren of their own. So we are all growing older together in the nembutsu.
I also want to thank those who have been members of the Board of Directors over the last 10 years. They have shown much pragmatic wisdom in the running of our temple. Besides meetings, their participation requires good council in the affairs of the community. I have enjoyed working with you all. Gratitude to Jim Hisanaga & all the members, past and present. They too are a solid base to the community.
To the new members I say, “Welcome to the challenge of the Dharma on the Prairies.” Many of you have become valuable participants and dedicated Buddhists. Please continue to help us, and continue your study of the Dharma. Your participation is much appreciated.
The trouble with a thank you message is that there is always a danger of leaving someone out. So many people work silently in the background to keep our community vital. They clean the temple, comfort the sick and dying, work to keep the elders who founded the temple served and engaged, welcome new members, make the Bazaar and Cherry Blossom Tea possible, and on and on. Many have had no recognition, and would not want it. They are just doing what comes natural for them. They believe in the old adage, “You can accomplish almost anything, as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” Deep gratitude is due to you all.
My family and I have grown to feel at home in Winnipeg these last 10 years. Belonging to a Buddhist temple has become very important to us. After spending 10 years with a temple community, we would never want to be very far away from a Buddhist temple again.
The 10 years have passed so quickly. And it has been really only 10 years, not really a decade at all. In that time, I have entered old age myself. How many more years do I have left in which to continue the job I love so dearly?
During our time together, my Buddhism has grown simpler and simpler. Every day in the Truth of the Bodhisattva Vow is a treasured gift.
My favourite Shinshu quote is, “There is a man with a lantern on the path ahead of me (us). That man is none other that Shinran himself”
Whether the time left to us be long or short, may we continue to follow that light of the entrusting heart in the Vow as reflected in the nembutsu, the light from Shinran’s lantern.
February 22, 2009