May was pretty much a blur. We held our annual golf tournament, I flew to Colorado for a family matter and we held our first “Keep it Sweet and Simple” (KISS) Bon Odori. This idea was suggested to us a few years ago and it was finally implemented.  We did not have booths selling chicken teriyaki dinners, sushi or crafts; it was strictly dancing. Our festivals get so crazy and hectic that we never get the opportunity to “just dance” and be ourselves. Therefore, we thought it would be a great time to gather with friends and members of San Luis Obispo Buddhist Church (SLOBC) and other temples and “let our hair down” before the start of the regular Obon season.

It is with heartfelt thanks to the dance instructors, Tomi Kobara and Julie Conaway, for choosing the traditional dances. We would like to extend our thanks to Tomi for her great instructions. After a couple of trial runs, we played the music and danced. It is amazing how the dances come back to us; maybe it is instilled in our DNA and brains or we just had a great teacher. We instantly remember the steps. There were a few glitches in the sound system but it worked out. In fact, at last year’s SLOBC’s Obon Festival, we danced “Tanko Bushi” without a recording. Those who knew the tune hummed and we danced.

I do not know my right from my left.  When the instructor would say left foot out and right hand up, inevitably I would have either the wrong foot or hand up, but who cares? It was always, “your other left”. It made for a very laughable time. It is a time when we can laugh at ourselves and not be taken so seriously about mistakes we make. This is true dancing without ego or the stress of if we “look good” or not,

Of course, we always feed the people who traveled a ways. We made vegetarian curry and rice and for a special treat we had strawberries from Okui’s stand and made shortcakes. It was a serve yourself buffet and then we went back to dancing, reversing the dance order. One could see the smiles of satisfaction and joy on the dancers’ faces and hear their laughter.  Those little things made it a fun day and gathering.

When we dance, it is not how we look or if the foot and hand movements are correct. It is our gratitude and thankfulness to be able to feel liberated from our ego.  There is a feeling of freedom to make mistakes and be who we truly are. This Bon Odori definitely showed me that I am a human being: filled with blind passions and ego and one who does not know left from right. Yet I could laugh about it and at my self.

This learning to “be just as I am” is a difficult concept to accept at times. We want perfection and not to look foolish in front of others, particularly friends. Yet the truth is we are foolish beings.  However, we have Namu Amida Butsu to give direction and guidance to see our selves for what we are. We share our Nembutsu with gratitude in our hearts and thankfulness for never abandoning us and for always instructing us to look within for the Truth of what and who we are.

 

Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano

“…Although I say the nembutsu, the feeling of dancing with joy
is faint within me, and I have no thought of wanting  to go to the
Pure Land quickly. How should it be [for a person of Nembutsu]?
Tannnisho, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Hongwanji Int’l Ctr.,1995

Buddhist Temple

6996 Ontario Rd., San Luis Obispo, CA  93405

Resident Minister:  Rev. Naomi Seijo Nakano