This year our Hatsubon and Obon services were once again observed virtually. We have been away from the temple for such a long time; participating in services through Zoom and YouTube. As awkward and unfamiliar as we were with services using these media we adjusted and discovered opportunities that expanded participation. Rev. Rajan Hayashi, our guest speaker for our Obon Service, joined us virtually from his home in Virginia. He was able to speak at our service without having to spend two days away from his temple. The downside of this is we don’t get to meet him personally. And he doesn’t have the opportunity to see another part of the country.
As we continue to adjust to the precautions the pandemic has caused us to take, we are managing to find ways to continue to keep engaged. During Obon@Home Moichido, families gathered together virtually to dance, play games and eat. In some cases family members were spread out over great distances. Grandparents who could not travel under normal circumstances could watch and enjoy the activities.
We are starting to conduct more in-person services. Often the in-person service is conducted with Zoom. As we conduct the service in the Hondo, other family members and friends can participate through Zoom. Zoom participants can oshoko at their home obutsudan or simply gassho during the service. When possible we place a monitor in front of the family so they can see and interact with remote family members. One of the interesting experiences of virtual services is the remote interaction after the service. I usually leave Zoom open after the service while I clean up and put things away. It reminds me of how we used to gather and spend time catching up. Sometimes I leave the Hondo after cleaning up when I return the families are still chatting and enjoying a good time. Whether for otoki or in front of the Hondo or now virtually people sharing what’s going on in their lives.
The convenience of virtual meetings has made attending meetings easier. There is no longer travel time required to attend meetings. If it would normally take fifteen minutes to drive to a meeting a round trip of a half hour is saved. For some attending a Board meeting the round trip time is one hour. We have time now to have dinner before walking into our Zoom rooms and joining a meeting just in time. The BCA Endowment Committee can convene with people from around the country without the travel time and the cost of travel and lodging. The kinds of meetings we participate in have all been affected. Whether study classes or seminars or planning how we think about meetings has changed and how we conduct these going forward will change.
Buddhism reminds us that everything is impermanent and of the deep connection we share with everything and everyone around us. We often think of change as either good or bad. Zoom meetings are convenient but there are more meetings because they are convenient. We can conduct services virtually and meet with family and friends we haven’t seen for a long time but it would be better if we could meet in person. Our preferences cause us to think of something as good or bad. The pandemic has killed millions of people but it has caused us to use different means to reconnect with people around us. Those connections can remind us of how important our relationships with others are. Under these circumstances we may be reminded that our lives are supported by the life around us. The virtual call may be virtual but what we experience is a relationship that is real and meaningful. When we
realize how much we are truly supported by the life around us we begin to recognize compassion that flows to us.