As we prepare for our temple's 75th anniversary celebration this fall, I've been taking time to remember the old days and my experiences growing up at IOBT. One of those experiences was "Sunday School!" Even though we were Buddhist, we called it “Sunday School” not “Dharma School”. There were so many children that we had several partitioned classrooms in the basement where we had our “Sunday School” classes. Teachers kept attendance charts with stars for those who were present. At the end of the Sunday School year, we received “Perfect Attendance” pins. I was so proud to have earned a 3-year pin. It wasn’t easy getting from Nampa to Ontario before Interstate 84 was built, but my dad made sure we were there every Sunday!
As Easter Sunday approaches this year, I wanted to reflect on this photo from 1962 that I found in an old album. It makes me think about our temple and how we worked to become a part of the larger Treasure Valley community.
Kathy and Donna with their basket of eggs on Easter 1962
Here I am with my good friend, Donna. It looks like this was taken next to the temple parking lot. We are dressed in our Easter finest, and I am holding a basket full of eggs. I’m about 10 years old. (That makes this photo 60 years old!) Some of you might recollect those days of temple. (We called it “church.”) We had the usual Buddhist services for Hanamatsuri, Obon, and Ohigan, but we also had an Easter egg hunt and a Christmas party--complete with Santa. (These events might have been referred to as “egg hunt” and “holiday party.”) For the egg hunt, the older Sunday School students were tasked with boiling and dying a dozen eggs and hiding them while the younger ones were in service. Then after service was over, we scrambled outdoors to hunt down the hidden eggs. There were not a lot of good places outdoors around the temple to hide eggs so kids had to be creative. I remember that someone tried to hide an egg in a car’s exhaust pipe. That didn’t go well when it got stuck! I don’t remember exactly what we did with all those hard-boiled eggs that I brought home. I think Mom made potato salad with lots of eggs.
We never questioned the appropriateness of having an Easter egg hunt at a Buddhist temple. It was a fun activity, and it was something we could talk about at school that made us seem like everyone else. We also bought new dresses and shoes for Easter—just like the other girls. We bought a basket for eggs—like everyone else. We had fun hunting for eggs—like all our friends.
Back then, we enjoyed coming to church to see friends—just as we do today. We loved the hunt, and as we got older, we enjoyed hiding eggs. The temple moms made a delicious lunch. We had hard-boiled eggs for our meals at home. It was a wonderful time to spend with the Sangha. We didn’t care about whether or not we should have an Easter egg hunt at a Buddhist temple. We just wanted to be able to be a part of the community, doing what others in the community were doing.
As IOBT looks to its future, we can look back on our past and how our temple fits into the community, and we can think about how we want our future to look. I think we would want to share with others the wonderful feeling of Sangha, the compassion that we know is all around us, and the gratitude we have for life. Our Buddhist teachings encourage us to think about interconnection and the importance of our relationships with all others, regardless of their/our religious beliefs or affiliations.
What are your IOBT memories? We hope to have a 75th Anniversary photo gallery for the convention to share our memories and photos. This is a great time to start looking through your old albums to see if you have anything to share.
In Gassho (with palms together),
Rev. Kathy Chatterton, Assistant Minister
At IOBT, we are getting busy thinking about all the fun conversations and discussions we will be having at our75th NW Buddhist Convention in September. Part of the convention theme is “Looking to the Future,” and one of the things we want to focus on is how our temples can share the Buddha Dharma (Teachings of the Buddha) in the 21st Century.
Here is a photo from our 50th Anniversary 25 years ago! A lot has changed since then. What will the next 25 years bring us?
What can we do to help share the Buddhist Teachings with the next generation? One suggestion that stuck in my mind was developing five things that we would want to share with newcomers about the Teachings/Dharma.
Those of you who grew up in the temple like I did will understand the feeling of inadequacy when questioned, “What is Buddhism?” or “What do Buddhists believe?” Attending Northwest Nazarene College (now NNU) in the 70s, I was often faced with questions. Even though I had attended temple services and classes since my childhood, it was difficult trying to answer the questions. Growing up in a temple where Japanese was the primary language of the resident ministers, I did not have a clear understanding of Amida Buddha, the Nembutsu, Shinjin, or the Pure Land. And now, even though I am an ordained Buddhist priest in the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha tradition, I still struggle to find the right way to share our Teachings.
I want to challenge myself--and all of you--to think about what you would want to share about your understanding of the Buddhist Teachings. Here are five things that I have come up with:
- Buddhism teaches impermanence. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. Any discomfort/suffering we encounter in life will not last. However, we might feel that impermanence is negative because we are unable hold on to anyone or anything that we hold dear. The negative can become a positive when we finally realize that because of impermanence we must enjoy each precious moment that we are given. This moment in time will never occur again.
- Buddhism teaches interdependence. Many of you have heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” I want revise that to: “It takes a global village to nurture a human being.” If we learned anything from the pandemic, we know that nothing exists by itself. We are all interconnected and interrelated. Many causes and conditions influence my life, and my actions create causes and conditions for others.
- When we are aware of interdependence and all the causes and conditions that make our lives possible, we feel great humility. I should not boast of MY achievements because they are not my own. I cannot say that I became a Buddhist priest. I was privileged to become a priest because of the support of the temple Sangha, my grandparents, my parents, numerous teachers, and friends.
- The humility that we feel leads to gratitude. The Buddhist Churches of America focuses on Shin Buddhism as a life of gratitude. We should be grateful for our lives and then try to live the best lives that we can to show our appreciation.
- We shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. We know that we are foolish beings (bonbu), and we will make mistakes. We will stumble and fall. As Shin Buddhists, we can smile when we reflect on any difficult situation that exposed our foolishness, realizing that it wasn’t the first time and it won't be the last.
Those are my thoughts on what I would like people to know about Buddhism as I understand it. What are your thoughts on this topic? Consider your own life and how you apply Buddhist Teachings to your day-to-day life. The future of Buddhism is in our ability to share Teachings with others. If you would like to share your ideas, comment on this post, or send them to
NAMO AMIDA BUTSU
Rev. Kathy Chatterton (Assistant Minister)
In March we celebrate the Spring Ohigan. Ohigan is a Japanese Buddhist holiday that marks the equinoxes. The equinox days--one in spring and one in fall--are the times when the days and nights are of equal length. At the equinox the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west almost exactly 12 hours later. It is a time of balance, of harmony, when it is not too hot or too cold, not too bright or too dark. It is a time of fertility and growth in the spring and of abundance and harvest in the fall.
The Japanese term “higan” (彼岸 or ひがん) actually means "other shore" and refers to the realm of enlightenment, of freedom from suffering, the state of being and of understanding that Buddhists aspire to. The opposite of "Higan" is "Shigan," which means "this shore," our current life of suffering and delusion. Monks in Japan consider the equinoxes to be the ideal time to meditate and engage in spiritual practices to help them move from this shore (Shigan), our current lives of samsara, to the other shore (Higan), the shore of Nirvana, the realm of perfect understanding and bliss.
As we enter the 3rd year with COVID and we watch the unfolding of the war in Ukraine, it is a good time to reflect on the relationship of darkness and light, of bad and good, of grief and joy, of ignorance and Enlightenment in our human lives. Master Shinran, the founder of our Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition, describes this relationship between light and dark this way:
The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always;
The darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;
Still the clouds and mists of greed and desire, anger and hatred,
Cover as always the sky of true and real understanding.
But though the light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.
(--excerpt from the Shoshinge by Shinran Shonin)
Shinran points out that darkness and light exist together in our lives. And in Buddhism, we are NOT asked to pick EITHER the light OR the dark. The darkness and the light do not contradict each other; they exist together. If we had not experienced darkness, then we would not know what light is. If we had not been through the cold of winter, we would not appreciate the warmth the spring sunshine. If we had not seen the dead grass covered in snow, we would not appreciate the bulbs sprouting and blooming in our yards, poking their green shoots up between the brown leaves. Their existences depend on each other.
Image: Quilt square created by ladies of the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple Buddhist Women's Association
As spring begins, our Buddhist teachings are telling us to look at the light without forgetting the darkness. We need to hold them both in our hearts at the same time. If we just focus on the darkness of our current state--the virus, the conflicts, the despair, the many human and environmental tragedies--we will become overwhelmed by the darkness of greed, desire, anger, and hatred. But if we do not see and acknowledge the darkness, we cannot appreciate the light. And more than that, we will not be motivated to share light and compassion with others. We must balance the dark by focusing on the light of generosity, appreciation, compassion, and love. As Buddhists we accept that we would not know the joy of the light, if we had not experienced the darkness. As so we are grateful for both the dark and the light.
As ordinary humans we live at the intersection of this shore Shi-gan and the other shore Hi-gan, the intersection of east, the rising sun, and west, the setting sun, the intersection of light and dark. In our Buddhist worldview we do not pick just one perspective. Ohigan is a reminder that darkness and light exist together in every moment of our lives.
Perhaps considering this balance will help you reflect on your own path through the world of light and dark during this Ohigan season.
In Gassho (with palms together)
Rev. Anne Spencer
Assistant Minister, Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple
“All conditioned things are impermanent—when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” --Shakyamuni Buddha, The Dhammapada
My mother died in January. She was 90 years old and had been hospitalized several times over the last year. For the last 3 weeks of her life, we were supported by hospice services, which allowed her to spend Christmas and New Year’s at home. Many people have asked me how I am doing--how I am coping with my mother’s death. I tell them that I’m doing pretty well. I think that one reason that I am doing OK is that both my mother and I, each in our own way, accepted this basic teaching of the Buddha—that all things are impermanent.
Here I am giving my mom a COVID-haircut in the summer of 2020
My mom faced the pain of impermanence when her mother died. Our family lived in Washington and my grandmother was in California. We were busy with the farm and school back in 1980 when my mother’s mother fell and broke her hip which would need surgery. After talking it over, my mother and grandmother decided that my mom should stay in Washington during the surgery and then go to California later to help with her mom’s recovery. But my grandmother died in surgery and my mother never saw her again. My mother wished she had been there for her mom’s surgery and had been able see her one more time before she died.
Over the last few years, as my mother became more frail, she would remind me of this experience. She told me that eventually she would die, and she did not want me to experience the feelings of regret that she felt about not going to California to be with her mother.
To make sure I did not feel regret, she would carefully and clearly thank me for every visit and every phone call we had . She would say goodbye at every visit as if it might be the last time we would see each other. She would be clear that she appreciated whatever I had done for her during the visit (no matter how small) and she would say that even if we didn’t see each other again, I should not feel guilty or doubt my decisions, that I was a good daughter.
As a result of my mother’s wisdom and acceptance regarding her own impermanence, I am relatively free of feelings of guilt and regret regarding my relationship with my mother and the circumstances of her death. She would not want me to have the painful feelings that she experienced. Her wisdom regarding her own impermanence has reduced my suffering at her death. And so, although I am sad and I miss her a lot, I am able to focus on the happiness and love that she gave me, and I am not preoccupied with regrets.
I hope that by sharing this experience, I can pass along to you the love and wisdom that she was able to give me.
Rev. Anne Spencer
Later this year (Sept 16-18) IOBT will be hosting the 75th Northwest Buddhist Convention and also celebrating our 75th Anniversary of the temple! Because the pandemic has made everything so uncertain, we are holding out hope that things will get back to normal. We HOPE to have the convention in person with guests here from around the Northwest. We HOPE to gather together to have meaningful services, discussions, and workshops. Most importantly, we HOPE to have fun together as fellow Jodo Shinshu Buddhists.
You might be wondering what the convention theme is all about. We thought, since we are celebrating our temple’s 75th anniversary, that the theme should focus on the history of our Northwest temples AND then look ahead to our influence on the future of Buddhism in our region and our country.
First I want to share some reflections on our temple’s past. I’ve been looking at many old photos with my mom. These pictures bring back memories of our temple’s past. There are photos of our Sunday School/Dharma School classes with a dozen children in a class.
Here our Sunday School students and teachers gather on the steps of IOBT in 1965
The basement was filled with noise when all the partitions were opened and all of us children were busily coloring and reading the lessons. There are photos of Hanamatsuri programs. There we are in our costumes participating in dances, skits, and choirs.
I think about the photographs of our ministers in the hallway. From Rev. Shibata to Rev. Ohata, Rev. Takemura, Rev. Hirota, Rev. Sawada, Rev. Hasegawa, Rev. Tada, Rev. Fujimoto, and now Rev. Hirano assisted by Rev. Anne and Rev. Kathy.
Rev. Shibata was our first minister. He and his family arrived from Heart Mountain where they had been interned during WWII.
All of these teachers have made their mark on Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple. We found photos of the Easter egg hunts, the Santa Claus handing out gifts at the Christmas/holiday party, and the ochigo 稚児 processions. All of these memories and many more make up our past and make our temple what it is today.
The second part of the theme is important for us to consider today. What about the future of Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple? How do we share our understanding of the Buddhist Teachings and the writings and teachings of Shinran Shonin with others? How do we make Buddhism an important part of daily life? How do we make our temple relevant to the wider community? In the past, we have been able to use Japan Nite/Obon Festival to showcase the temple. Now we are able to offer online services one Sunday a month as well as online Dharma discussions twice a month, which are drawing participants from around the region and around the country. Rev. Anne keeps the temple’s Facebook page fresh. We have updated the temple’s website www.iobt.org with new information and, of course, this new blog, “Hometown Buddhism” which we hope will help convey the gentle and family-friendly mood of our Buddhist community here in rural Oregon. There’s much more that we can do once the pandemic has waned, and we can open our front doors (new ones, by the way) to real people!
We hope you will consider helping us plan this convention, and we encourage you to step up and offer your ideas, energy, and talents. We all have something to offer in this endeavor. It is our opportunity to show our gratitude to the Issei/first generation and Nisei/second generation who worked so hard to make Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple possible. It is our opportunity and privilege to repay this debt of gratitude.
Leave a comment or send us an email at
We HOPE you can join us!
Rev. Kathy Chatterton