Past, Future & Present

This year’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of IOBT coincides with our hosting the NW District Buddhist convention and it also marks 20 years since my first visit to IOBT.  These milestones, along with the recent fire that destroyed most of our temple basement,
have me thinking more deeply about our convention theme: “Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future.”  

Fire trucks in the parking lot of a Buddhist temple

Photo: Fire trucks outside Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple on 7/10/2022. This incident reminds us of the Buddhist teachings or impermanence and also our gratitude for the compassion of the first responders and generosity of our community. 

Here are a few things that have been on my mind:

Reflecting on the Past:
  Summer is Obon season!  Every July, we take time to honor the people who have come before us. We have our annual Obon service at the temple and we travel to cemeteries throughout the region to visit the graves of our ancestors, relatives, and friends.  As we hold these services, we tell stories of the people we have known.  We wonder about histories behind the older graves and the stories that have been lost with time. And we express our gratitude for those who have made our lives and communities possible.  For me, participating in these Obon services and activities has been powerful.  As someone who did not grow up in the Japanese-American community, and as someone who did not grow up in the Eastern Oregon/Western Idaho region, getting to learn some history and chant sutras in front of the graves of people who founded this community is both moving and meaningful. I am grateful for the opportunity  to learn about my adopted home and to express gratitude for those whom I never had a chance to thank in person.

Two female Buddhist priests chant sutras at portable altar in graveyard

Picture: Rev. Anne Spencer and Rev. Kathy  Chatterton chant at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise as part of the annual Obon cemetery visits (2020)

Looking to the Future: Because I am so grateful for IOBT and for the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist teachings of Amida Buddha’s infinite wisdom and compassion, I wonder about what will happen after the current generation of leaders and elders are gone:  “What will the future hold for IOBT?” “Will our traditions continue or will they die out?”  “What will the growth in the region mean for our temple?”  “Will the younger folks value the teachings and traditions of Jodo Shinshu and the history of the community or will they move away and try new things?” We should not expect the future to look like the past. Buddhism teaches the truth of impermanence, that everything changes, and so we should not expect-- or even hope--that everything will stay the same.  But I certainly hope that the inevitable changes will be for the better and not for the worse.  Knowing what the temple and the Jodo Shinshu teachings have done for my life, I would like to share the teachings with the next generations.

What About the Present?:  When we chose our convention theme, we forgot to include something that might actually be the most important piece, which is the present.  The choices that each of us makes now, the ways that we live our lives today, will be the foundation on which the next generations build their lives and communities.  Even the small things can have ripples that we couldn’t possibly imagine. 

I personally would like to try to make interesting, generous, compassionate, and adventurous choices.  Jodo Shinshu would not be here in America and IOBT would not be celebrating its 75th anniversary if our predecessors  had not been creative, generous, and willing to take a few risks. I hope that their stories inspire me, and others, to do the same.  

Regardless of our relationship to the temple right now, the choices we make today can make a huge difference to the future of the IOBT, the future of Buddhism in the region, and the future or our larger community.  While money helps, so does participation.  Whether you are a long term member, someone interested in learning more Buddhism, or a neighbor of a different faith who cares about community and wants to support and engage with other community groups, we value your friendship and engagement in whatever form it takes. 

Buddhist convention poster with historic photo of the temple dedication. Convention is Sept 16-18, 2022 at Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, Oregon
NOTE:  Because we are hosting the convention at Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, the July 8th fire in the temple basement will not affect our ability to host the convention, which is proceeding as planned. 

If you are interested in learning more about Buddhism and Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple, we encourage you to register for our upcoming convention, which is available to both in-person and remote participants. Newcomers to Buddhism, as well as people who just want to learn more about the history of our temple and community,  are welcome and encouraged to attend and ask questions! Registration materials will be available shortly. 

In Gassho, 

Rev. Anne Spencer

Female Buddhist priest in black robes


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