July 11-15, 2007 Sacramento Bestuin/Jodo Shinshu Center, CA
For the past three years the BCA Youth Advocacy Committee has put on retreats for young Buddhists interested in the teachings of Buddhism. They have been opportunities to learn more than what is taught in dharma school and what is learned in YBA conferences. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the first retreat and when the notice of a double reunion, combining the first two generations of retreats, was put out, I was quick to register for it. If you ask any of the YAC retreaters, they’ll be sure to tell you that these retreats made a great impact on their lives. Though the people that participated in these retreats may live hours away, in different states or even across the country, these people have made a tremendous impact on each other’s lives and are still a part of it today. The teachings that they have been taught throughout the retreat have opened their eyes to the world around them. Each one of them will tell you that they gained a different perspective on life from their retreat. After gaining all of these things, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to participate in another session.
With two different groups coming from two separate generations of retreats one would expect to have an easy time differentiating year one from year two, but from the start it was like no one could tell the difference, we were one big family. Our first ice breaker was a game in which we had to get a t-shirt out of a block of ice and one person had to wear it. My group won the challenge by constantly running it under hot water. Our second activity was to make our traditional Toban Flags and name each of our groups. Toban A was named Yac Attack and Toban B was named #G. We then had a fantastic dinner and then had a workshop on Shoshinge chanting. We topped the night’s activities off with a teen discussion and then simply enjoyed each other’s company in the kaikan for the rest of the night.
On Friday we eagerly anticipated the arrival of the third generations of retreaters. When they finally arrived we helped them up to their rooms and started to mingle over lunch. We then started our first activity as a group: a brief introduction of ourselves followed by a quiz and a game putting in sequential order parts of Shakyamuni Buddha’s life. The girls won the first activity and then we had a class reviewing General Buddhism with our Senseis, Patti Oshita, Peter Inokoji-Kim, Tim & Carol Castle and Grace Hatano. We then were given the task to split up into groups of four and given the task of preparing a lesson on a teaching of Buddhism. As veterans to the YAC Retreat, we found it our duty to introduce the new generation to the group. We decided to take their air mattresses and hide them, leaving them the message “Welcome to YAC!” The look on their faces when they returned to their rooms was priceless and made for a fun time to watching them blow their mattresses back up. To our surprise, our night service on Friday included a special ceremony for all the returning retreaters. This included Socho Koshin Ogui who certified us as Junior Ministers Assistants. This was explained to us as a new certification by BCA and we would be the first group to receive this certification.
We finished the night off with a teen discussion, late night karaoke with Sensei Koichi Mizushima.
On the previous day my group picked the four gates to present, so on Saturday morning we did a skit of the lessons that the Buddha learned from these four gates, in modern day form. The other groups made lessons, skits and games to help illustrate other points in Buddhism. This was followed by Buddhist Jeopardy including categories such as: Current BCA, Shinran’s Life and Sutra Chanting. It came down to Final Jeopardy, but Toban A ended up winning the game. The game was followed by a class on Nembutsu lead by Rinban Bob. Later that night we would all participate in the Sacramento Betsuin’s Obon. We spent the night dancing, eating and having lots of fun. After the festivities were over; however, we were forced to say goodbye to our new friends, the third generation retreaters, who returned back to Berkeley for their last night. We spent the rest of the night trying to stay awake because we knew it was our last night together.
After an attempt to pull an all nighter, we slept for 2 hours and then woke up for Obon/Hatsubon service. This was followed by a quick reflection where we all told how we felt about the reunion. The entire reunion was ended with our last lunch together and our final goodbyes.
After three years of retreats it is amazing how much I have learned. The lessons, friends and experience I have had through these retreats are truly irreplaceable. In our final reflection Rinban Bob restated a quote made up by first generation retreater Brady Kameshige; “You can retake a test, but you can’t relive a party.” I know that the experiences that I have had throughout each retreat and reunions are truly unique and could never be replaced. My deepest gratitude goes out to those who made each of these events possible.
Samantha Nitta, Sacramento BetsuinShare