Cooperation in the Philippines

This August in Manila there was a special speaking event. A Buddhist teacher, Mr. Shiina, came from Japan to give a talk on Buddhism at a public event hosted by the members of the Philippines. It is the first time a Shinrankai teacher has come to the Philippines to share Buddhism.

It required cooperation from the members in Manila to get the event up and running. A member came up with the idea of making a special Facebook event page, just for the event itself. It was a great idea, and our marketing efforts could be geared towards promoting this page. At this page, people who visited it could RSVP. We got up 26 affirmative responses. It showed how many people had visited the page, and how many had taken the time and interest to leave a reply.

On the day of the event, the schedule was for the lecture to be held in the afternoon, and before that in the morning, would be the granting of the Name ceremony. Since everyone was early, it meant that the ceremony was completed on time, and we were able to get a head start on preparing the conference room for the lecture. Many things needed to be done and organized: Setting up the welcome table, the projector and computer, the snacks counter, making name badges, organizing what would be given out to each attendee. There were several hand outs: a name tag, a flyer of the event time schedule, and a questionnaire. Through cooperation, everything was done in a smooth and timely fashion. And remember this was a first large event the members did working together.

But I also found out that no matter how hard you plan, things can always go wrong. The night before we had brought all the materials to the hotel with everything else to avoid any possible hiccup on the day. Yet, a bunch of sheets of the schedule of upcoming events mysteriously went missing, and 15 minutes before the lecture was to begin the projector stopped projecting the image from the computer to the screen. Fortunately we had another laptop computer and it worked without a glitch.

I have learned things from helping with the organizing of this event. One is that preparation in advance is crucial, and another is to always expect the unexpected, because, as we found out, the unexpected might just happen. Whatever you want to call it, Murphy’s Law or something else, things that can go wrong, might just do that. Being more aware of this has made me appreciate the importance of having a mind for looking ahead for any possible setback. When something is important, make sure that even more care than usual is taken, and to the point of excessiveness if necessary. When something does go wrong you then realize that no amount of attention to detail is too much when goal is important.

Twenty-four non-members turned up for the event, men and women and almost all were Filipno. A person who attended and who was not from the Philippines said that he didn’t think the Philippine people would be open to hearing Buddhism. His opinion changed for the better after he saw the attendance at the event. How I see it is that we are not sharing just “Buddhism”; we are sharing a philosophy for life, and more. One young man, a non-member who has been attending meetings, told me that one of the things he likes about the teachings is that it gives him a format or platform to help others. People ask his advice all the time he says and he doesn’t know what to tell them. But since he started listening to Buddhism he has been able to use the teachings to help.

The people that I’ve met in the Philippines are hungry to know deeply about the law of cause and effect. They are full of inquisitiveness, and the more answers they get the more they want to know. The Philippine people are known to be curious by nature, and like to ask questions. One member said that when you meet a Filipino don’t be surprised if very soon they ask you, “where are you from, how old are you, are you married?” So you can imagine what they ask when they hear the law of cause and effect.

One of the great things about Buddhism is that there is always an answer to a question. And I think this is what surprises them most. People are surprised when their question is answered with confidence. But it can be a little befuddling to the listener too. “Can there really be a teaching that can give answers as logical as this?” I feel they are asking. It’s not uncommon to get a look from a new listener of confusion, surprise, happiness, and suspicion all rolled into one.

The Philippine people are persistent. They do not give up easily. One or two setbacks do not deter them as it might with others. It is my wish that the Philippine people who have encountered the teachings of Master Shinran will persistently seek the teachings to the conclusion, and in the same manner share to their kababayan*. *countrymen

Frank Costelloe, Los Angeles

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #56 | 2015, Cooperation in the Philippines

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