Over Labor Day weekend, September 1-3 history was made on Oahu at the Ala Moana Hotel with the first ever Hongwanji Joint Conference. If you were there, you know how amazing it was. If you missed it, you missed out on a very important point in Hongwanji history.
The Joint Conference brought together five organizations which normally hold their individual conferences separately. The organizations included BWA (Buddhist Women’s Association), Lay Conference, Dharma Educators, Ministers’ Spouses’ Association and Jr. YBA. Not only were all groups able to have their meetings but everyone had a chance to talk story with members of other groups throughout the weekend over meals and some free time.
The Keynote Speaker was Doug Chin, the current Lieutenant Governor and, as Attorney General, he led the legal battle against the travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries. Notable thoughts from his keynote message were: speak up, stand up for what is right; be a counter-voice for negative rhetoric; fear is a motivator which speaks to the worst in us; inspiring people is more difficult.
As the President of Honpa Hongwanji, Pieper Toyama also gave an address to the gathered groups. A portion of his message around dealing with discord, echoed the thoughts of Doug Chin: don’t be silent; being silent is not Buddhist when it comes to discord (health & welfare of the sangha is more important than any one person). Pieper went on to list 4 Actions to a Buddhist Sangha: 1. Greet each other & everyone with a smile. 2. Promote social interactions & laughter. 3. Know & acknowledge important events in members’ lives (birthdays, anniversaries, children/grandchildren, etc.). 4. Express Gratitude in a variety of ways; thank you notes should be specific to what they did & how you felt.
Along with the meetings, a variety of Buddhist-themed workshops were offered on Saturday and Sunday for participants to engage in, from “Buddhism Meets Music”, “Ukulele” and “Taiko” to “Chanting”, “Photography” and “Intergenerational Activities.” So many thoughtfully presented, entertaining workshops that appealed to a wide variety of participants made the workshops successful.
Sunday evening was a special treat for everyone. The dinner buffet was plentiful and delicious, followed by entertainment by very talented Jr. YBA members and live music and dancing for those brave enough to hit the dance floor. The Jr. YBA students led the dancing and taught us all how to enjoy life and the present moment.
Most people agreed that this was a wonderful experience that should be continued in the future.