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Can Something Be Bad and Good at the Same Time?

This question, “Can something can be both bad and good?” was running through my head last month when temple president Mike Iseri gave Rev. Jerry Hirano, Rev. Carmela, Rev. Kathy, Sandy (our temple treasurer),  and me a tour of the progress of the restoration of the temple building.

group of people standing in basement that is being remodeled
            Photo: Temple Basement without Stage and showing new ductwork

two men stand in a basement under construction

Photo: Rev. Jerry Hirano and Mike Iseri in front of  pass-through to the kitchen in basement
I clearly remember how my heart sank the day in July when I learned that there had been a major fire in our temple.  I thought of all the happy memories I have of the temple and the fun times I had in the basement with the Sangha and larger community.  I thought of all the supplies, equipment (including the taiko drums) and historic documents and materials that were lost to fire, smoke, or water damage. I wondered what the future would hold for the temple. I felt relief and gratitude when I learned that the Onaijin (altar) was safe, but I still feel deep sadness when I think about all that was lost.

Buddhist altar

Photo:  Our altar survived the fire!!!

Buddhism teaches that everything is impermanent, that things we love will not last forever, that everything changes.  Although I know this, facing it first-hand in the aftermath of the fire hit me hard.

But on the tour of the temple the Mike gave us in February, I had a different set of feelings.  I was amazed by the progress of clean up and rebuilding that is taking place.  The fire created  opportunities to update our facilities and fix problems we have been dealing with.  The fire has given us the chance to replace and update our heating/cooling system and audio-visual system, and renew the lighting and the seating in the Hondo. We will have new carpet, new paint, and new upholstery on the pews.  

People standing in main hall of Buddhist temple under construction
Photo: Rev. Kathy, Mike and Sandy admire the upgrades to our temple's main hall
One of the things I am most excited about is that the entrance to the basement storage area on the far side of the stage that we call “the cave” is being fixed to accommodate a normal sized finished doorway—no more ducking, no more worry about hitting my head!  If you’ve ever seen “the cave” you will know what I mean!
Framed in doorway
Photo: with the stage removed, the entrance to "the cave" can accommodate a full sized door. No more ducking and head-bumps
As I reflect on all that has happened since July, I feel like the answer to my question of whether something can be bad and good at the same time is pretty easy: Yes, something can be bad and good at the same time.  And I will add to that:  Yes, I can be sad and happy at the same time.  Buddhism teaches us that human life is complicated/painful and also precious/wonderful.  It is our ability to engage with complex experiences and complicated emotions that allows us to come to understand and appreciate the teachings of Buddhism and to experience wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha.  If we try to ignore one extreme or the other, then we miss out on the preciousness and uniqueness of the unrepeatable lives we are each living right now!

In Gassho, 

Rev. Anne Spencer

Assistant Minister, IOBT

Female Buddhist Priest wearing Buddhist robes