Posts Tagged ‘Mammoth Mountain’

by James C. Stephens


April 27, 1973

This month in fact, ever since Sepulveda became a chapter I have gone through some changes. My district chief Mike Lisagor has really helped me understand more of the spirit of this Buddhism and of President Ikeda. He has had many of the same problems that I have. We are definitely kenzoku.

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For the last four or five Fridays I have been working on the Malibu Training Center. The Training Center is right next to the ocean. I can’t say but the feeling is so fresh and pure like the beautiful forests. Not like Mammoth Mountain, but a feeling of serenity and power and freshness. I believe it must be President Ikeda’s spirit.

Recently, I freaked out when I was really sick, I could hardly breathe and I can really understand shiki-shin funi from this. What was strange about this time that I got that titan feeling, was it so and ugly I thought what would I do if I wasn’t in Nichiren Shoshu; so instead of waiting around for someone to feel sorry for me and encourage me, I called my soshibucho Gary Curtis, and told him my problem. He told me I had no goals in my life. Even if its just to get across the street a person must have a goal he can reach. I told him I used to enjoy things so much and he said when you get older that fortune goes away, but by chanting you can get that excitement back. He said to call him back in a couple of days after I chant three hours of daimoku a day. Well I chanted and it felt like a new beginning. I didn’t stay home and chant those three hours, but I reached my World Tribune goal. I got one World Tribune on the street which was such a good feeling.

My brother flew in from Colorado earlier and we went out to Two Guys from Italy for dinner with my dad before the meeting. After the meeting I freaked out about being alone, but its so strange I am feeling stronger inside about just standing up.

My problem is just keeping going. I have a lot of things I want to do, but I am so lazy I never do anything, so I really chanted to overcome this and even more my on-shitsu nature. I really weep many tears during my daimoku and then Mr. Williams came and chanted many daimoku with us in Brass Band. I just don’t understand but I really felt alot for Mr. Williams. He has so much patience to put up with people like me. I was really choked up with tears while chanting to the Joju Gohonzon. Even with my bad nature Sogohonbucho really loves us. I’m really a fortunate person to be with him last night.

Russ explained at Band what he explained to me earlier when I called him that it is our Christian nature to be defeated and accept it. He said Sogohonbucho is always victorious. He never just stops, but always fights to win.

 

 

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by James C. Stephens


File1170In 1967, my family moved back to California during my sophomore summer at Hellgate High in Missoula. Yes, it was called Hellgate. Attending James Monroe was a big change. I immediately got involved in extra-curricular activities, Junior Achievement, joined the Debate team and also student council. I was the Treasurer and later the Parliamentarian. During my senior year, I won Outstanding Debater of the Year award.

Highlights. I remember that I enjoyed eating lunch with Rodney Dilger and James Glanville. They were down to earth, counter cultural hippies. I was the Montana kid who was on the ski team and fairly naive about the city. One day they had given me a ride home and were smoking something in the back seat of their old Corvair and I said, “Hey, that better not be marijuana! They joked, “Of course not, we’re just smoking tea leaves!”  Yeh, I believed them.

On another occasion my debate partner, David Goldberg who I had won a gold medal with at a debate tournament at Taft High had grown muttonchops and was told that he had to cut them to meet the dress code or be suspended. He wouldn’t comply. So Dilger, Glanville and I put together a little counter cultural magazine called *The Gadfly* patterned after what the Greeks called Socrates and passed our mimeographed rag out on campus. We gave it our best shot.

File1108 - Copy - CopyRemember the Winter of ’69? The storms unceasingly hit the country for thirty days and snowplows couldn’t keep up with ole man winter. In some parking lots at Mammoth Mountain, California entire parking lots looked like well spaced bamboo forests where poles marked  cars submerged under feet of snow. My brother Ron and I were on Kratka Ridge Ski Team, a southern California team coached by Robin Morning, formerly on the US Ski Team and Pia Riva McIssacs, three time Italian downhill Olympic gold medal winner.  The storms were great for the local ski areas.  I had invited a girl that I was interested in up to watch me at an Alpine race up at Kratka Ridge. While,  I was warming up, I decided to take a run by her and show her what I had. As I hit an icy mogul, I caught a tip, dug in the snow, and did an unintentional cartwheel, crashed, burned and ended up breaking my arm. She wasn’t impressed. I would of buried myself in a snowdrift if I could have found one.

After that, I spent a lot of time on the bench during PE healing and recall getting into some philosophical discussions with my classmate, Russ Dilando, who had been my locker partner and classmate in my Russian class. One day, he sat next to me and showed me *Seikyo Times* a Buddhist magazine with my picture next to Joe Landis who was a television director and the moderator of a televised debate I participated in. Russ told me that Joe was a Buddhist and that I was going to be a Buddhist too.

“No way!”I said, “That’s communism.”

Russ said, “No, it’s Buddhism.”  I really had no clue at the time what he was talking about, but he and two other classmates Jim Jay and Carol Dell were really into it. He was Shakubukuing me, the Buddhist equivalent of sharing his faith with me. It was but a seed that he had planted.

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Student politics. I decided to run against Kathy Kelly and Steve Knowles for Student Body President. It was not a memorable campaign. What was memorable was that we were able to get Strawberry Alarm Clock to play at our weekly student assembly. “Incense and peppermint, color of time” still rings in my mind.

 

 

 

 

File1154The clock was ticking and Senior Prom was approaching. No date. Every guy I knew was afraid to ask Deborah H. who looked like Kathryn Hepburn to the Prom. One day, I was in the library and I said to myself, “I like her, why not?” So I went up to Debra and asked her if she would like to be my date to the Senior Prom. She said, “Yes.”  I was ecstatic. I enjoyed our Prom date. Those were the days you could walk on the Santa Monica Beach at night. It was a romantic evening. Yes, I was a perfect gentlemen. At least that’s what I remember…

 

 

 

 

 

File3025Although this picture was not taken in 1970 (let’s pretend it was), it takes me back to February 1970 when I worked for my Dad at his Mobil Station on the corner of Westwood & Santa Monica Blvd., in West Los Angeles just south of UCLA. Years later, my wife Elizabeth told me she used to get off the bus right by these gas pumps when she was returning home from University High School. She was in her senior year when I was pumping gas just prior to going to Cal State Northridge. We never met:(

James C. Stephens


January 17, 1971

The month of December was unbelievably heavy but I made it and I’m happy for that. During the week before New Year’s I chanted to get closer to my leaders and also to create value and make causes for the New Year. I went to Brass Band one day, but the next day I left for Mammoth for two days, to have “someone” ride home with Mom. But really I had opportunities to stay home and go to Brass Band. Well, Dick Bond told me to chant and see what happened. The Two days at Mammoth were really a blast. I saw Karen and Shakubukued her. I really seem to like her, but I saw later what value such relationships create; and how girls really can break the bond between you and the Gohonzon, or at least take your Ichinen off practicing to change yourself during young days in faith. But those two days were a tremendously valuable experience.

The day I got back I went to a Yusohan meeting and volunteered and was chosen as a Yusohan for Shibucho. This was to be the start of my biggest benefit since I joined Nichiren Shoshu in May. From that moment I was Shibucho’s Yosohan. It was not just a valuable experience, but it showed me where my life was and where it is going to go hopefully into the future.

That night at 2:30 I went with Soshibucho to LA International to pick up baggage of Kansas City and saw the Kanki of “out of town” members. But they didn’t seem out of town at all. Then on the way back to the Honbu I got to talk to Soshibucho. But it’s hard to talk to him for me.

When I got back I was told to take a nap. So I went up to the second floor, boy was it humid, a million bodies were lying all around. So I didn’t lay down but five minutes and felt there was more to be done so I went downstairs and worked on the “Space Needle” in the Band room. While I was painting, Sogohonbucho walked in and wow. He was carrying his saxophone to find a place to practice, but he was checking on our progress I know. But I heard him in his office practicing his sax. Time passed by fast and at 4:30 I went upstairs only to find that Shibucho had gone to the airport.

Later that morning I went to sleep around 5:30 in the World Tribune room and really enjoyed my sleep. Then I was busy doing odds and ends in the morning and by afternoon Shibucho said, Well you can go see the parade and do New Year’s Gongyo at the Temple. So during that afternoon I knew there was more to do, I don’t know why I wanted to do more but I did. As I was changing I asked Gohonzon, first for something to do and something to eat. Well, instantly a member came up to me and said, “Jim, got time?” Yep! “Ok, let’s go deliver dinners to New York and Hawaii. Inga guji. So we delivered dinners to New York and Hawaii; and I had dinner with Hawaii. Good dinners too.

Honbucho from Hawaii asked me if they had the generator yet for their float, so I ran over to the warehouse and talked to Soshibucho. He told me they needed two generators and two floats were stranded at the warehouse. Well, it was about 5:30 and the parade started at six. By the time we got everything loaded and everyone fed it was almost 6:00, and no communication from the warehouse to anywhere. So we got everything loaded and hustled to the beginning of the parade route and I and two New York members chanted all the way for Gohonzon to help everything work out. Immediately everyone loaded the dishes and I called Shibucho. It was a blow mind because a guy just gave me the money (member from N.Y.) no hassle. Shibucho said get those floats down here and he told me where the Ryder truck and stake truck were. Everyone’s karma was really oozing out by this time. I found the stake truck but unfortunately the New York skyline was built on it. I found on of the three Ryder trucks, someone lost the keyes. The other Ryder truck was emptying dishes and the last was without a driver. By this time I was a little frantic. But I got one on its way and finally got the other on its way. Then I was assigned to a Sr. leader from Chicago and his float was the one of two missing. But through their faith the floats arrived two minutes before parade time. It was a fantastic parade. I was a self assigned runner for Shibucho Jim Cuda. Never ran so much and felt it so little, it was unbelievable. The Gohonzon brought out my true vitality.

You know after a Christian parade how long it takes to clean up? Well we had the entire parade route cleaned, the floats demolished, the warehouses cleaned in tow hours at 25 to 12:00, unbelievable. True unity. Afterwards I went back to the Honbu and we loaded food for the Min-on on New Year’s Day. Then I went to the Shibu washed my pants, did Gongyo and crashed until 5:30. Then I went straight to the Honbu and reported to Shibucho. He kiddingly said I looked terrible, as I had clean pants and a new sweatshirt. So we got them dirty working that day getting things ready for people leaving after the Min-on. I didn’t get to the Min-on but I felt it. That morning I got to say Gongyo with the NY members and Sogohonbucho. Later as I was loading trophies and gifts from Sogohonbucho, he came up and asked me to count the trophy’s. It’s hard to express how it is to look up and look Sogohonbucho in the eye. It’s much like looking at a sun but can see the face. It’s the feeling. He doesn’t say anything, but you can feel it more than words could express.

That afternoon, I talked with a member that was from England and shared Toban with him. We had two or three very strange experiences with people coming in. About 7:00 I decided to take a nap for an hr. in a guidance room. One person came and shut the door so I wasn’t disturbed. At 1:00 I was awakened and promptly taken out of the room by another person on Toban. By morning I would have been dead by gas. But almosts don’t count, you win or lose in Buddhism. Why I wasn’t phased I don’t know.  I then did evening Gongyo on the third floor alone at 2:00. Really fantastic. Russ did it at home at 2:00 also; really mystic. Then I went and slept on the second floor, but only after I went down to see and smell the guidance room. Whew!

The next morning Mr. Kato asked me to clean the 2nd floor Butsudon. I was happy to serve the Gohonzon, but why me? It seems I am way too unworthy to have been given the opportunity to have been so close to the headquarters. Maybe one day I might fathom; why.

I really saw that I have to battle my ego, my big head. I have to be more humble.

I saw Brass Band is really important, and I still don’t know how Sogohonbucho does it. Maybe Gohonzon? Most definitely.


Sogohonbucho: General Director George M. Williams of Nichiren Shoshu Academy, aka Soka Gakkai, North American Division. His name at the time I believe was still Masayasu Sadanaga.

Honbucho: Headquarters Chief.

Soshibucho: General Chapter Chief.

Shibucho: Chapter Chief.

Shibu: Chapter meeting house usually belonging to the Chapter Chief.

Yusohan: Young Men’s Division group assigned to protect the Gohonzon, the buildings, leaders, and members.

Dick Bond: Leader of Young Men’s Division Brass Band and also of the Tribune Band which was an exclusive band that was on call for all sorts of VIP events held at the North American Headquarters.

Kanki: Basically life energy of a person.

Mr. Kato: The quiet right hand man, an administrator of General Director Williams.