October 24-26, 2008 Jodo Shinshu Center Berkeley, CA
On Friday, October 24 th, myself and about 30 other college-aged delegates, flew, drove, and walked over to the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley for the annual College Conference, “The Dharma Bums,” based on Jack Kerouac’s popular book. Being a first year in college but greatly involved in BCA and YBA activities in high school, I was excited to see the familiar faces and meet others as well.
Friday night began with our advisor Mrs. B’s delicious cooking and service led by the Youth Ministers Assistants. After service we had a visit from Socho Ogui, who led us in a session and a talk later that night. Following the session, we were faced with a scavenger hunt challenge that lasted all weekend long. We broke up into groups of 5 and had to take pictures with each item on the list. These things ranged from a finding a Representation of Dana to an out of state driver’s license to a glow-in-the-dark ojuzu. This activity was fun because we had to use our creativity and imagination to represent the words on the list.
On Saturday we woke up early for breakfast prepared for by one of the tobans and for morning service, which we shared with the ABA group from the Nishi Hongwanji Temple in Los Angeles, who were also visiting the Jodo Shinshu Center that weekend. Following service we moved on have a session led by Bill Chin, father of one of the delegates attending the conference. Mr. Chin led us in a meditation workshop where we practiced clearing our minds and meditating. His teachings were very interesting, although it was not surprising to see many heads bobbing and bodies swaying as some dozed off while attempting to meditate, due to lack of sleep from the previous night and the peaceful atmosphere that was brought out from this exercise.
After this relaxing session, we ate lunch and then participated in another workshop led by fellow college YBA-er Samantha Nitta. Divided into groups, we were each given a quote from the book The Dharma Bums, and told to act out the meaning of the passage. The skits turned out to be quite entertaining and original and we may even have a few potential actors and actresses within our group.
For dinner, we split into our toban groups where we told that we had to go shopping and each cook our own vegetarian dish to serve. The dishes included a pasta casserole, a parmesan fettuccini dish, and even elaborate homemade spring rolls, courtesy of my own toban. With a budget in hand, and a time limit, this challenge tested our ability to cook like Iron Chefs. This activity showed that we might also even have some future top chefs as well.
After finishing cleaning up from dinner, we had one more organized activity that night. We played the game “Gimme, Gimme,” a race between two teams to find the object asked, within only what you have on yourself as a group. It was a lot of fun working together and seeing all the interesting objects that people kept in their purses and pockets. For the rest of the night, we all spent time together finishing up our scavenger hunt lists, and just hanging out and bonding like was always do.
Every year College Conference is a time where all of us can come together, spend time with each other, and refresh our Buddhism expertise. It’s really great to be able to come back to see everybody and keep Buddhism a part of our lives, even though most of us are away at college and don’t necessarily spend our Sunday mornings at church. I personally enjoy being able to see all everyone again, as well as being able to learn something new at each conference. Thank you to everyone who helps make this event and others like it possible for us to attend every year.