Ms. Murakami (left), along with other members, rehearses the practice of observances and rituals at the New York Dharma Center.
In the past, I would have immediately reacted angrily thinking, “How rude can she be!” However, at the time I was somehow able to graciously accept her request. I found myself replying, “I will ask the reverend.” I was mystified to find that I was actually able to accept so calmly. That is because, for a long time, I considered Mr. M as a difficult person. If anything, I had become so paranoid that I believed he had always intentionally tried to hurt me. That was how I felt. However, the thought that came to mind at the same time I heard Mrs. M’s request was, “Ahhh … Mr. M was feeling hurt for a long time.” “Just like him, I was feeling hurt!…” I was able to clearly see … that was what had happened.
With a self-centered view of things, I was always overly protective of my feelings that I had been hurt all the time. I never tried to see things from Mr. M’s perspective. It never occurred to me that Mr. M was feeling hurt for a long time. How conceited I had been.
I also did not like to face things that were inconvenient for me. That I had an avoidance tendency was an important realization for me. From my heart, I was truly sorry for Mr. M.
Through this experience, I was given an opportunity to examine, from deep within my heart, my own mind and heart. As the days go by, I am actually feeling as though I have transformed. And at times, when my feelings start to waver, I am able to catch myself and switch to a feeling of gratitude. I am very grateful.
It has been several months since then. The Chicago Branch has come alive and our space is starting to feel small. In Hoza held every Sunday, there are visitors who say they saw our website, or have wanted to stop by after always driving past our building. We also had a university student visit to do research for a paper. There have been times when the parking lot is full and accommodating all the cars each time that happens can be a challenge. All the members of the branch who are busily dealing with it, however, are delighted with the situation.
I am reminded of the guidance from the Founder when I received my appointment as the branch leader. “When you become a person who can say ‘Yes’ with an accepting and open heart and mind, the Chicago Branch will start to overflow with many people.” I am now standing on the starting line of his encouraging words.
I am witnessing the workings of the Buddha with wonder and gratitude.
Quite appropriate for this year, the 50th anniversary since the Great Sacred Hall was built, and the 51st year that begins a new chapter, the Chicago Branch and I, as the branch leader, have been able to break free from the tiny shell we have had to the present, to take the very first step to start anew. The missionary organizational structure within the branch was established, giving birth to five area leaders. Thankfully, the area leaders seem to be enjoying pondering over and planning how to best contact the members they have been assigned, and so on. To each member who, for so long, had not received adequate and complete attention, we will convey in detail the valuable teaching which aims to truly liberate everyone.
I am told that it was approximately 120 years ago, in Chicago, that Buddhism was first introduced to the United States. In light of such causation, I would like to share the minds and hearts of the Founder and the President to as many American people as possible and guide them to the faith. And so that bright, kind, and warm wheel may spread widely throughout the entire Chicago area, I vow to diligently practice with such a grand dream.
Ms. Murakami (far left in the front row) with other sangha members.