TechnoBuddha Conference 2011: The Journey

~taken from the BCA Wheel of Dharma Newsletter, April 2011 issue
Berkeley, CA. - “ Wow! I can’t believe you came all the way from Vancouver!”
Flying 800 miles for a weekend conference may seem extreme for some, but once you experience the TechnoBuddha Conference, you’ll keep going back for more. I first learned about TechnoBuddha in the summer of 2009 when I visited the Jodo Shinshu Center (JSC) for the August Workshop of the Jodo Shinshu Correspondence Course. Rev. Kodo Umezu (CBE), and Brian Nagata (BDK) shared with me details of a conference called TechnoBuddha, designed for and by young Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, 21-39 years old. I fit those criteria, and when I heard that the keynote speaker for the conference was Rev. David Matsumoto (Berkeley Buddhist Temple), it sealed the deal for me. My first TechnoBuddha weekend in April 2010 was so amazing; meeting like-aged and like-minded Jodo Shinshu Buddhists was so impressive that by the end of that conference weekend, I knew I’d be back for the next one.
11 months later, on March 4, 2011, I boarded a plane and made my way back to the JSC. This was my third visit there in as many years, and every time I visit, I feel so welcomed and cared for by Rev. Umezu, Judy Kono and the other staff members who have offices there, that I have come to call the JSC my “temple away from temple”. On that day, the welcomes were as warm as ever.
Ironically, even though I was the one travelling farthest, I was the first one of the TechnoBuddhists to arrive that day. But throughout the afternoon, “Generation X” and “Generation Y” JS Buddhists started trickling in from all over California. This year, from temples from every district in California, close to 60 TechnoBuddhists filled the JSC to reconnect to each other, the Jodo Shinshu tradition, and to explore this year’s theme: The Journey.Speaking on this topic was our Keynote speaker, Rinban Bob Oshita of the Sacramento Betsuin. A very dynamic and engaging speaker, he grabbed our attention immediately by quoting a passage from the movie, “Napoleon Dynamite” as his opening meditation. As we put our hands together in Gassho, we heard him start: “Yes, I love technology/ But not as much as you, you see/ But I still love technology/ Always and forever…” For the next hour or so, he shared his thoughts on modern technology, how it has and will affect young people and children. As well, he spoke on the points of following one’s curiosities, choosing One thing to do well, and the benefits of giving one’s life partner very low expectations about yourself (it all makes so much sense…!) It was a truly memorable and FUN talk, leaving me with much to think about, and a feeling of gratitude that I was able to take-in his message.
For the rest of the Saturday afternoon, each participant chose 3 of 5 workshops available on very diverse topics. People who signed up for Jonathan Hironaga’s (a TechnoBuddhist participant himself!) workshop “Journey Across the Dance Floor” thought it was a Great one! Less active yet very informative and helpful were Derek Seo’s workshop on “Introduction to Buying a House”, and Diana Thomson’s (Minister’s Assistant at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple) workshop on “Jodo Shinshu Etiquette”. Piquing the interest of many was Kirk Akahoshi’s workshop, “Sex, Relationships and Buddhism”. For others who wanted to delve into something very deep, Rev. David Matsumoto’s workshop on “Dealing with Death” was one that held a lot of meaning. All workshops would provide participants with insight into their own Journeys.
And what’s a meeting of Jodo Shinshu Buddhists without good eats? There was plenty to be had, from Rev. Umezu’s famous Curry, to the Korean style “cook at your table” B-B-Q. These delicious meals would have been so hard to put together without the help of the core group of Mom and Dad and Uncle volunteers who seemed to have spent the entire day in the JSC kitchen prepping our food so that we could enjoy it. We are very grateful to them.
A highlight of the TechnoBuddha conference happens after dinner, where we (as mindfully as possible) let loose to enjoy Berkeley’s Nightlife. We get to know each other even better through drinks, dancing, jokes, and the (now traditional) walk up the (slight) hill to Top Dog for a late night snack. The “festivities” continue well into the next morning and there are always worries and laments that we won’t be able to wake up for the Sunday Service at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, but I have yet to notice these people miss it the next day! After service, we all hesitantly scatter back to our corners of the West Coast, full of great memories, and gratitude that we were together for the weekend. We also leave re-energized and inspired to want to do more, not only for our own connections to Jodo Shinshu, but for our temples and our place in them.
Our temples seem to lack attendance from this group of people who are grown, but without families (spouse and children) of their own. For many of us, we are sadly the only, or if we’re lucky, one of a handful of people in our 20s or 30s who regularly attend temple. It is so exciting and heartening to be at this conference with so many others, who want to be engaged in the Teachings, and want to be active at temple. We may talk-up all the partying we do on Saturday night, but in the end, what we are doing is celebrating our connection to Jodo Shinshu and to each other.
If you’re reading this and will be eligible next spring, please join us! Please encourage and help the young people in your families and temples to join us! There are new friends to meet, and connections to be made. We want to keep building and strengthening these connections to make the Jodo Shinshu network strong for the future. It IS worth travelling 800 miles for.
...TechnoBuddha Conference 2011 Cont’d from previous page.
Humbly submitted with Gassho, ~Joanne Yuasa (VBT)

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