The coronavirus may have curtailed social gatherings, school and work, but it has not stopped spring.
Diverse faith groups throughout the Yakima Valley are continuing to honor time-held traditions, observances and holidays that fall within these spring months, albeit with changes.
Wednesday marked the Buddhist observance of Hana Matsuri, or Buddha’s Birthday Flower Festival.
The day honors Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, and is a time to celebrate life, honor the intertwined nature of life on the planet, and to express gratitude.
The day also is a reminder to honor the Buddha’s teaching of interdependence — that all life is connected and that the actions of one person impact everyone.
Last year, brightly colored flowers bedecked the altar of the Wapato Buddhist Hall. Church members gathered for meditation, a prayer service and a Dharma talk. Dharma, which translates roughly from Sanksrit to “cosmic law and order,” is a key concept in Buddhism related to teachings about virtues, conduct, duties and the right way of living.
This year, due to social distancing guidelines and a statewide ban on social gatherings, the small church congregation can’t gather to celebrate. Lon Inaba, president of the church, said he’s referred members to online services and Dharma talks instead.
Inaba said the physical distancing has been hard on members, more so, even, than the lack of scheduled services.
“We are all connected, and we support each other. That’s much harder to do when you can’t see a person,” he said. “It’s tough for us because it’s more the fellowship that’s holding our community together.”
Inaba said the celebration this year, falling during the coronavirus pandemic, is a reminder that people should strive to be like the Buddha no matter what is going on in the outside world.
“Being like the Buddha is the ideal thing to shoot for,” Inaba said. “You have to have compassion for people. It’s the way we should be living our lives anyway, with wisdom and compassion and gratitude.”
Inaba said another focus for the church community at this time is the Sangha, another core tenet of Buddhism that translates to “community.” Church members are checking up on each other. Inaba also is considering setting up meetings for church members through Zoom, a videoconferencing tool he hadn’t used prior to the pandemic.
Inaba said takeaways from the Buddhist observance of Hana Matsuri also apply to the coronavirus situation.
“It’s the realization that we are all interconnected, and what one person does impacts everyone else,” he said. “Maybe when this is over, people won’t spend so much time on cellphones, watching TV or playing video games, but rather spending time with people. When you can’t have that interaction, you really learn to value it.”