Orange County Buddhist Festival showcases Japanese culture, Buddhist traditions

Last Sunday was a beautiful day for joining the festivities of the more than 55-year-old Orange County Buddhist Church (OCBC) on Dale Avenue in Anaheim. It was my first time to attend but it was my daughter Leslie’s 10th time. I never knew there is also a school that offers classes from age three to high school, as well as a digital media center; library and monthly book club for discussions by all ages.

The center of course is the Hondo or Main hall of the temple where hundreds of members come to worship or listen to the Dharma’s (in Indian religion regarded as the law underlying right behavior and social order) teachings that allows members to live each moment, with a life of reverence and gratitude. Many of the rituals are performed by the minister and Sangha (the Buddhist community of monks, nuns, novices, and laity) together.
Those who attend are welcome to participate in readings, chanting, singing and offering of incense. According to their brochure information, except for private weddings, private funerals and memorial observances, temple services are open to everyone.

Shinran (of Amitabha Buddha as the absolute) tradition is the most widespread form of Buddhism in Japan and was brought to Hawaii and North America in the late 19th century, being sustained initially by Japanese immigrant families.
From those roots it evolved into a Sangha (a community of Buddhists) having a diverse membership of more than 100 temples in the United States and Canada.

Moving along with the more than 150 people in attendance that day, there were approximately four dozen booths selling crafts, crocheted sweaters, food, drinks and plants. Inside the building were different rooms where handmade Buddhist artifacts were for purchase.

In the Ikedama (a way of arranging flowers, developed by the Japanese) room was a display of beautiful flower arrangements, made by adult students. It was an impressive array of decorative live plants arranged in mesmerizing colors and décor in multi-colored vases; classes are available to the public for the unique flower arrangements.
Classes are offered with guest lecturers such as The Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto, Dr. Nobuo Haneda and American Author Gregg Krech whose book is titled “The Art of taking Action – Lessons from Japanese Psychology.”

A free course, “Become Happy” is given by The Rev. Harada. The atmosphere during our visit was solemn, not boisterous nor noisy, as in some ethnic gatherings. People walked slowly and quietly to purchase food, where a person gets a piece of paper, where selections are checked; people pay first and then find a table until the order is filled. It’s peaceful with
no shouting and with everything accomplished while observing tranquility.

And the wait for our food was under three minutes. While waiting to receive the Japanese-inspired cuisine, we visited the Hondo temple, where people enter into the realm of the Amida Buddha, the representation of Immeasurable Wisdom and Compassion.

People attend the temple to hear the Dharma’s teachings that are said to allow all to live each moment with reverence and gratitude; the aura is full of compassion.

In my own life, I try to carry the trait of compassion with me; however, I found mingling with the Buddhists, there was a raised-state of compassion, complete with a peaceful feeling in the air as we moved from one location to the next.
In the gymnasium, dozens of tables were set for people to enjoy their meal. People were friendly and instantly introduce themselves in a quiet tone, while nodding.

Students dressed in white attire showed their amazing skills of defending themselves with Akido (Japanese Martial Arts). A great highlight was couples demonstrating with each other and the wife defending herself, putting her husband down for the count.

We visited the Dharma School where religious Buddhist education begins at the age of three and continues through high school. Teachers work to ensure learning is fun and creative, and a place where friendships with other children their age can be formed.

At the school, there are displays of Japanese people in concentration camps and other historical artifacts. Attending that day was a 95-year-young lady, Kazumi, who was there with her husband Pastor Arthur Takemoto. She told of the time in 1942 when the Japanese people in America were relocated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The Buddhist Church also provides cremation facilities for its members and offers small glass containers for the loved-ones cremated remains. The area is again, laden with breath-taking beautifully-arranged flowers.

Outside, there are plants, bonsai trees and flowering plants arranged serenely amid decorative stones. It’s possible to feel the stress of one’s body, falling away while gazing at the creative work completed by their members.
The bookstore offers a book about merging secular and spiritual life and cultivating a culture of compassion; an inspiring experience mingling with the Buddhist members, all in a calm atmosphere.

Compassion for each other is what our Savior Jesus Christ has been teaching mankind for thousands of years.
After our visit, I vowed to practice compassion every second of my life and share that with others who come my way, that it’s an ideal way to live life. I’m glad that my lovely daughter Leslie invited me to experience the festival. It was one of the most enjoyable outings I have experienced.

A person can pray all day long in a church; however, with this remarkable trait of compassion it makes all prayers much more worthwhile. Faith is not a feeling, it is Action and the first act every human being would be better to observe is being compassionate to the homeless in the streets and others in need.

Once we practice compassion for others, everything else will fall into place like God’s grace abundantly filling our lives and when that happens, we all can shout, “Life is indeed beautiful because I am a compassionate human being.”

Kazumi Takemoto aged 95 looks lovingly at her late husband Arthur Takemoto, pastor of the Japanese community interred in camps from 1942-1945 during World War II. Photo by Leslie Stoddard.