The end of June typically marks the annual Obon Festival celebrating everything Buddhist and more in Lodi.
The festival, held in Lodi since at least the 1960s, featured Japanese cultural performances, an Obon dance, two days of bingo and traditional Japanese food on Saturday and Sunday.
And the Rev. Harry Gyokyo Bridge took the opportunity of having a captive audience to introduce the religion of Buddhism during both days.
Twenty people showed up Sunday to learn more about Buddhism, which Bridge described as not being monotheistic.
"Buddhism does accept the idea of multiple Buddhas and future Buddhas," Bridge said.
Ordained in the Jodo Shinshu branch of the Buddhist faith, Bridge said that his faith asks people to aspire to be compassionate and friendly. Yet Buddhism also recognizes that no one is perfect.
"Buddha accepts me for what I am," Bridge said. "It doesn't mean I can indulge myself and do bad things."
Bridge recalls a time he worked at a bookstore in Berkeley in the late 1990s, and a rude customer yelled at him. Bridge said he was angry and yelled back at her. The exchange caused Bridge to learn something about himself - that he could become angry even though he thinks of his personality as mellow and laid-back.
"She taught me about myself," Bridge said of the customer.
That's a tenet of Buddhism - striving to be a good person while realizing people have their limitations and that it may be hard to help people sift through emotional issues. "Jodo Shinshu doesn't preach a solution to one's problems like Dr. Phil does," Bridge said. Lodi resident Stephen Brady said he came to Bridge's introduction to Buddhism because he knew little about the subject and enjoys the idea that Buddha accepts your mistakes without you feeling blamed for indiscretions, as some Christian denominations assert.
"I'm not here trying to dodge lightning strikes," Brady said. "It gives you a higher path."
Lodi's Obon festival commemorates one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors' spirits return to earth in order to visit their relatives.
The weekend also featured a tea ceremony, martial arts demonstration, classical Japanese dancing, children's game booths, bingo and Obon Odori traditional festival dancing.