Report on the 16th Shokai Retreat

Encountering the Origin of Harmony within Diversity – The 16th Shokai Retreat

The theme of our 16th Shokai Retreat held from 23rd to 25th October was the question, What is the origin of “harmony within diversity” for Dharma followers?” For the first time the Retreat was led solely by Rev. Kenshin Ishii as Rev. Kemmyo Sato was away at our head temple, Shogyoji, in Japan. Rev. Ishii guided the Retreat with great warmth and humility as we considered throughout the Retreat the meaning and relevance of harmony within diversity in our personal and inter-personal lives. We were also very grateful to welcome three first time participants: Tina, Liz B and Jumpei K who brought in their own individual ways a fresh new energy to the Retreat.

Despite not being present at this Shokai, Rev. Sato sent to us a special welcome message to set the theme for the rest of the Retreat. After reflecting on the meaning of harmony within diversity, especially as related to the creation of the Three Wheels Sangha in the U.K., Rev. Sato posed us a further question to contemplate, “How can we realise harmony within diversity , burdened as we are with the weight of our own karmic existence?” Despite his absence we all felt very close to Rev. Sato who was invisibly supporting us all during our time at this Shokai.

The opening Vow of Sincere Practice was given on behalf of the Sangha by Mrs Sanae Ishii who reflected on some recent spiritual challenges in her life and the turning point she received after listening to the advice of Dharma-friends. This inspired her to take a harmonious new attitude towards her participation in Sangha activities. The opening service was followed by the first of the Retreat’s Zadankai meetings in which a natural conversation flowed between the participants about various daily life experiences related to our own understanding of harmony within diversity.

Based on his recent participation in the Summer Training Assembly held earlier this year at Shogyoji Temple, Rev.Kenshin Ishii delivered a profoundly direct and engaging talk in which he explored some of the key spiritual encounters to emerge from that event. Through being given by Dharma-friends the firm spiritual direction to look into himself and reflect on what had been done for him by others, Rev. Ishii was able to refresh his attitude towards the Sangha and aspire towards realising the peaceful sense of harmony within diversity that is the spiritual fruit of taking refuge in Amida Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Following Rev. Ishii’s talk, Mrs Mako W shared with us her own special experience of attending the Summer Training Assembly in which she was able to realise an entirely new perspective about her life. As a result of this even seemingly negative events shone out as a necessary, meaningful part of her existence and became a source of joy and gratitude for her.

On the final morning of Shokai another Zadankai meeting was held amongst all the participants in which we shared our impressions of what we had received during the Retreat. Here are just a few of the words spoken during that meeting:

We are conditioned by society to feel nervous around each other but this feeling was overcome by the welcome I was given at Three Wheels.

I have been hearing about harmony within diversity for the past twenty years at Three Wheels but for the first time I understood it as a personal teaching pointing to me. You are all the harmony I have been seeking.

The words we read from the Shoshinge, “The Great Compassion is always shining untiringly on me” reminded me of how I have been looked after by the Sangha.

At the beginning of the Retreat I felt so nervous but I realised this feeling was because my natural negativity was under attack.

I learnt that the origin of harmony within diversity comes from within the heart. It was very heart-warming to find this harmony at Three Wheels.

At last night’s meeting I was reminded we are all together for only a short point in time. I felt so grateful we could share this unique time together.

It gave me strength to see the bonds of friendship between people at  Three Wheels and the love shown to each other.

Even though he was not here I thought I heard Rev. Sato voice during the chanting of the Nembutsu. I then remembered the advice given to me by Mrs Sato, “You won’t ever be on your own, you will be with Amida”.

Andrew Webb