Perspectives from Graduating High School Seniors – August 2021

We recognize and celebrate our graduating high school Seniors by printing their Dharma Talks.

In this issue, Megan Nakagawa, Kelli Kosakura & Sara Ho

 

Defining Moments

By Megan Nakagawa

Good morning everyone! 

My name is Megan Nakagawa and I’ve been attending the Mountain View Buddhist Temple since 4th grade.

Today, I want to talk about defining moments.  What do you consider a defining moment?  It’s often a big, pivotal time in your life.  But for me, it’s the smaller things.  And looking back on my time at the Temple, I realized that I have a lot of defining moments.

Dharma School

Let’s start with Dharma School.  I remember there was one time in 4th grade where I was the only person who showed up for class.  This was because I was the only one in the whole class that wasn’t playing in a basketball game that weekend.  But Aunty Sharon, Aunty Gail, and Aunty Joan said that they would still have class for me.  And it was good because I was new and didn’t really know much about Buddhism, so this was like a 45-minute Buddhist crash course.  And bonus, I got to know each of them a little bit better.  So thank you to these teachers, and to all of my other Dharma School teachers, for always being there and for making me feel welcome in this environment.

For those of you who know me, I’m very shy.  My family was always surprised that I played taiko, which is literally the loudest instrument ever. For the last nine years, Elise has been telling me, “Megan, you need to hit the drum harder.”  And I would nod my head, but I’d continue to just tap the drum.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually tried to hit the drum with force.  The first time I did, I thought, “Ohh, so this is what it’s supposed to sound like.”  I don’t know why I didn’t hit the drum harder before, because even if I made a mistake, everyone would still hear it.  So thank you, to all of my taiko instructors, for teaching me to be bold and to own it.

YBA

I’ve had so many great memories in YBA.  But I’ll narrow it down to just a few.  One of them was the BCA Youth Retreat, which was a one-week retreat at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley.  I was excited because I thought I was going with my friends and it was going to be really fun.  So I paid my dues and filled out the registration forms.

But then I found out that I was the only person attending.  And I totally freaked out. But it already said in the Echo that I was attending, so I couldn’t back out now!

I remember I was super nervous and anxious about going since I didn’t know anyone.  But when I got there, the people were so kind and friendly and I felt a lot better.

One thing we did at the retreat was learn how to chant.  I was so scared to chant in front of people.  When we practiced running services, my hands would get super sweaty and I was afraid my voice wasn’t going to come out when it was my turn to solo.  But luckily it did!  So I gained some confidence in my chanting abilities and in myself from that workshop.  Not that I would volunteer to chant in my free time, but I have gotten more comfortable with it and have even chanted in front of you all at various Sunday Services.

I remember after my first time chanting at service, Sensei told me that I did a really good job.  But then afterwards, I heard the video of myself and I realized that Sensei was way too kind in his praise.  So I guess I still have some room for improvement.  But thank you, Sensei, for always cheering me on and for being one of the kindest individuals I know.

Another defining moment from YBA was the camping trip.  Our generation has pretty much grown up conversing with people via text or social media.  So spending a weekend with people in a place that didn’t have cell service made me a little worried.  But this gave me a chance to actually talk to people face to face and get to know them.  I really enjoyed participating in the Iron Chef competitions (even though we didn’t win) and just sitting around the campfire and chatting.  I know this trip was a lot of work for the advisors, but I really appreciate it since this was one of my favorite YBA memories.

Oasaji

As a newer member of Oasaji, I enjoyed interacting with the other members.  Everyone was so helpful and showed me the ropes.  It was nice to get to know people in my grandfather’s generation because normally we wouldn’t cross paths.

Last Year at Temple

I never thought that my last year at the Temple would be spent virtually.  But this pandemic has really put things into perspective.  I never thought that I would have missed working in the Hot Dog booth, waking up early for Oasaji, or driving three hours to the Fresno YBA Conference.

As I’m sitting at home right now, I realized that it’s sad not being able to go to these in-person events.  If I’ve learned anything from the past year, it’s that all of the things that I thought were obligations or errands or extracurriculars that I’m trying to fit into my schedule were really learning opportunities and great ways to connect with people and serve our Temple.

I’m grateful for my Temple experience, and it has made me realize how much I value this community.  I’ve been able to grow as a leader and as a person, learn more about Buddhism in my everyday life, and connect with friends that I never would have seen before since we all go to different high schools.

Thank You

Before I close, I just wanted to give a huge thank you to my family and friends for supporting me throughout my elementary, middle, and high school careers.

To all of the graduating seniors, “Congratulations!”  I hope we stay in touch and see each other often.  Maybe we’ll be the people going up when they call “Any college students?” during oshoko.

Lastly, thank you to the Sangha. I’m so thankful for this positive community that you’ve created.

In Conclusion

I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.  I’ll be attending San Jose State University and studying Nutritional Science.  No matter how far I am, or in this case, close, I will always be appreciative of my time at the Temple.

The funny thing about defining moments is that sometimes, you don’t realize that they’re happening.  It’s only when you sit down and reflect on all of the things that have shaped your life that you realize that every moment every day you have a chance to define who you’re going to be.  So thank you to everyone here for giving me an opportunity to be the person that I am today.

 

Please join me In Gassho.

Namo Amida Butsu

Namo Amida Butsu

Namo Amida Butsu

 

Live In the Moment

By Kelli Kosakura

Hello everyone,

I’m Kelli Kosakura and I am a graduate of Monta Vista High School. 

To start, I can’t believe that it’s my turn to give a speech.  Watching senior speeches is usually my favorite part of the year, but it’s very different when you are the one writing it.  The good thing about doing this through Zoom is that I can share pictures.  Thank you, Elise for the idea.

YBA Camping Trips

One of the highlights of YBA is the annual camping trip.  After a long, long week of Nakayoshi Gakko, it was nice to have a relaxing weekend with my friends.  I remember one year I was just so exhausted that I think I took 3-4 naps in a day.  Aside from sleeping, I enjoyed cooking together, especially when we played Iron Chef.  My favorite part of the trip was walking down to the beach.  Every year we would take Polaroid pictures and eat sandwiches.  And after a long day in the sun, we would eat smores and play cards until curfew.  Being around everyone was always really fun and, even though we missed out last year, I am really thankful for the years we were able to go.

Disneyland

Summer of 2018, we all went to Disneyland!  This was so much fun. We flew down there which was amazing and we met YBA kids from Orange County and went to LA’s Obon with them.  The next two days were all spent at Disneyland and California Adventure.  We spent all day there so by the time we were back at the hotel, our feet were so sore from walking.  One memory I have is going on the Incredicoaster.  I think it was the first year it opened and we were all excited to go on it.  I remember Chloe wasn’t up for it, but, after showing her how much fun we were having, it must have looked like we were having a lot of fun because she came with us the next time we went on.  Notice how we were camera-ready this time.  Disneyland was a trip I will never forget.

Conferences

I loved conferences because it was a chance to come together with other chapters.  The workshops were always so insightful, and in some cases, delicious, like when we made takoyaki in Fresno.  I recall the talent show, where we put on fun skits or dances.  Although the last time we lost to San Jose, I still think we deserved to win a prize.  This year, the Central Cal Jr. YBA Conference looked a lot different than usual.  I want to give a huge shoutout to Tyler for making this conference such a success given the circumstances.  Sara, Chloe, Megan, and I were all workshop leaders, so we worked months before planning what we would do in our Breakout Rooms.  As seen here, one of the workshops I helped plan involved drawing a character… and then later we told them to rip up their masterpiece as a lesson of impermanence.

YBA Memories

These YBA memories are only a glimpse of my experience here at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple.  I am so thankful for everything the church has given me.  These past four years have taught me how to be more reflective, present, and grateful.  For most of my 18-year life, the main focus was getting into college; committing to my extracurriculars, and becoming involved wherever I could, both academically and socially.  Sure, the activities I participated in were fun and I learned a lot from them, but the overarching umbrella has always been college.  Buddhism has helped me to realize that there is more than just one goal.  Before, when I was focused on my grades and resume, I neglected to do things that I genuinely enjoyed and think beyond college.  The YBA experiences I mentioned earlier, Dharma School, taiko, and Nakayoshi Gakko all helped me learn a little bit more about myself and taught me how to live in the moment.

With the pandemic this past year, I became really honest with myself and confronted these superficial motives of mine.  We all lost so much because of COVID, and I truly understood the saying “you don’t miss it until it’s gone.”  What I missed most of all were my friends.  I know I definitely took them for granted pre-pandemic, but now, as senior year comes to an end and more things open up, I am prioritizing my relationships.  Yes, I could be studying for my AP tests right now, or preparing for college in the fall, but Buddhism has taught me that the people in your life are worth more than any “A” I will ever get. 

Please join me in gassho

Live a life full of experiences rather than accolades and live in the present moment rather than for the future.

 

“Change Happens”

By Sara Ho

Good morning everyone! 

I hope everyone’s enjoying the warm weather and summer vacation.  I remember when I was younger, seeing and hearing past senior speeches, and I dreaded the day that it would be my turn, and unfortunately, that day is today.

Impermanence

I want to start today by talking about mandalas, which are elaborate, beautiful sand paintings constructed by monks, only to be completely destroyed right after finishing it.  The message of this practice is that everything is constantly changing no matter how much effort is put in or how much you value something, and this ties into one of the biggest lessons that Buddhism has taught me that is impermanence.

A few years ago, I remember that the Temple had to make a handful of changes to the annual Obon, and they sold t-shirts that said “Change Happens.”  This expression perfectly encapsulates impermanence and applied to so many other aspects of my life.

It wasn’t until the pandemic where I fully understood this concept.  I’m sure the same goes for many people, but my life pre-pandemic was a stark contrast to during the pandemic.  I went from interacting with my friends and seeing multiple people to only a few, going out and traveling to being confined within the same 4 walls every day for months on end, and going to school in person to distance learning (but that’s a whole other issue).  The abrupt transition from seeing my friends in person to only online took me a while to adjust to, and all this time alone really allowed me to reflect and appreciate the little things.  By finally recognizing how everything is temporary, it taught me to never take anything for granted.

Cherish Every Moment

A year later as businesses are starting to open up and we return to some kind of normalcy in our lives, I make sure to cherish every moment that I’m out or hanging out with my friends.

After all, the only thing we can be certain of is that change is bound to happen and there’s no denying that.  My time with the Sangha has taught me to be flexible, embracing change and making the best of a given situation.  This past year I thought I would get everything I ever wanted, but with the guidance of Buddhist teachings and the Sangha, I actually discovered what and who I truly appreciated.

Thank You

I also want to thank Reverend Mukojima, all my past Dharma School teachers, my peers, and finally my family for assisting and supporting me along the way.