Chanting the Shoshinge

At our last memorial service, we chanted the Shoshinge. At the time, Sensei Ulrich noted that the "Hymn of True Faith" can be chanted several different ways. Here is a sample we discovered on YouTube:


Future of Buddhism in North America

Charles Prebish discusses current and future trends of Buddhism in North America at a conference titled, “The Swans Came to Canada Too: Looking Backward and Looking Forward”.

Professor Prebish holds the Charles Redd Endowed Chair in Religious Studies at Utah State University, where he also serves as Director of the Religious Studies program. Back in 1993, he held the Visiting Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies at the University of Calgary, and in 1997 was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation National Humanities Fellowship for research at the University of Toronto. 

This was the keynote address at last month’s “Buddhism in Canada: Global Causes, Local Conditions” conference at the University of British Columbia on October 15, 2010.

From the conference website:
“The Swans Came to Canada Too: Looking Backward and Looking Forward.”

Following the change in immigration law by Canada and the United States in the mid-twentieth century, Buddhism exploded on the North American continent. Buddhism is now found everywhere: from the cover of TIME magazine to the Simpson’s TV show; from Leonard Cohen practicing as a Zen priest to the Dalai Lama visiting the White House. Some estimates place the number of Buddhists on the continent as high as six million.

This paper traces the development of the study of North American Buddhism as it developed as a legitimate sub-discipline in the larger discipline of Buddhist Studies, and highlights both the similarities and differences between Canadian and American forms of Buddhism.

It looks at the early pioneering works of the past half-century, examining the Buddhist communities in North America, the theories that have developed to understand their growth and development, the scholarly and popular studies that have appeared in the literature, the scholars and scholar-practitioners who have offered seminal studies, Buddhist teachers—Asian and Western—who have appeared on the scene, and the new emphases which have recently appeared which may shape Buddhism’s development in North America in our new century.

Older, and now outmoded theories such as “two Buddhisms” or “three Buddhisms,” focusing on the disconnect between Asian immigrant and American convert Buddhists, will be considered only insofar as they are no longer applicable to the rapidly changing Buddhist scene. Newer theories like “hybridity” and “regionalism” will be explored in their role as valuable tools that will frame the emerging studies that are already beginning to define North American Buddhism in the twenty-first century. In broad perspective, this paper will provide a new insight into the current shape of the North American Buddhist landscape.

Butsudan for iPad

For the Buddhist on the go....
How about a Bustudan for your iPad.

screenshot of the Butsudan for iPad

From PeeVee corporation:
"BUTSUDAN(the Buddhist altar)" has been a major Japanese furnishing goods not only as an altar to enshrine Buddha, but also as superior traditional handicrafts. However today, as the living environment around Japanese families change, there are only a few families have "BUTSUDAN" in their homes. We have worked out to create a compact "BUTSUDAN" that may fit in the modern Japanese families and homes. Now, we have brought to complete "BUTSUDAN" application for iPad. As you know iPad is very thin device, so that it's easy to place "BUTSUDAN" in your home, and you may also use this device as an iPad when you don't use "BUTSUDAN". enshrine picture and name plate "BUTSUDAN" application has some important functions that makes what this is as "BUTSUDAN" Selecting a picture from picture library and inputting name on the name plate, then you can enshrine pictures and name plate in "BUTSUDAN". This application also has other ordinary "BUTSUDAN" functions such as lighting candles and sticks of incense, offering flowers and rice-cakes, sounding a temple block and a bell.
*This App is not a formal buddhist altar.


Cy Saimoto was the embodiment of the Japanese-Canadian experience

Globe & Mail - November 3, 2010

In his 82 years, Vancouver entrepreneur Cy Saimoto toiled in an internment camp, built a company and shook hands with an emperor.

The arc of his life – from the dark days when his family was uprooted from the coast, to his giddy delight when Japan’s royal couple visited Vancouver in 2009 – mirrors the trajectory of the Japanese-Canadian experience in British Columbia over the past century. He has died at 82.

“We always told him that he was living history,” says his daughter, Laura Saimoto. “His life and the immigrant experience and rebuilding after the war – he lived through that whole era.”

Cy Hisao Saimoto was born in 1928 in Steveston, B.C. fishing village that at the turn of the century was a beacon for Japanese immigrants. The sixth of 10 children, he grew up in a community where families were large, work days were long and children played at the ocean’s edge. The sounds of Japanese rang through village streets and shops, making Steveston as much of a ‘Japantown’ – and as much as a ghetto – as Vancouver’s Powell Street enclave.

His parents insisted that Saimoto and his siblings attend Japanese school after regular, English-language school – something that he balked at, preferring to play outside. But it likely played a role in his lifetime commitment to Japanese language and culture.

By the time he was a teenager, the family was well-established. His grandfather owned four fish-packing boats, which were leased to fishing crews that numbered 200 in peak season. The family owned a car and lived in a two-storey house with a big front porch.

Those prosperous days ended on Dec. 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On Dec. 8, more than a thousand Japanese-Canadian fishing boats were impounded. By early 1942, mass evacuations had begun. The Saimotos, along with hundreds of other families, lost nearly everything they owned.

For the rest of his days, Saimoto would be haunted by the image of Japanese-Canadians, including family friends, crowded in the stables of Vancouver’s Hastings Park, from where rail cars would carry them to ghost towns in the interior.

The Saimotos wound up in the former gold-mining town of Minto. At Minto, Saimoto’s grandfather and father were soon running logging crews. He worked as a labourer – clearing brush, loading and unloading trucks, slinging blocks of ice in an icehouse. He finished high school in Revelstoke.

The family returned to the coast in 1949, a year after Japanese Canadians were granted the right to vote and by which time, the last remaining restrictions on Japanese-Canadians’ movement in Canada had finally been lifted.

Saimoto’s father and grandfather started over, launching an import-export business that specialized in shipping B.C. salmon roe to Japan. Saimoto also went into business, with the Great West Paper Box Co. Ltd., in 1955. He served as chairman until he died and the company is now run by his two daughters.

Told that golf was popular with businessmen, he took up the sport, becoming one of the first non-white members of the Point Grey Golf & Country Club. Around the same time, Saimoto also went house-shopping, determined to find a home where his parents could live out their days in comfort. He and his father went door-to-door in Kerrisdale, a well-to-do neighbourhood on the city’s west side. Many homeowners slammed the door in his face, saying they did not want to sell to a ‘Jap,’ Laura recounts. Finally, one homeowner was receptive, saying his money was as good as anybody else’s. Saimoto bought that house in 1955 and lived there for the rest of his life. Until he became ill in June, he went to his office daily to keep an eye on company affairs.

He devoted countless hours to the Vancouver Buddhist Temple and the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Hall. The school and hall – in the heart of Vancouver’s Japantown – opened in 1906 and have operated since, except between 1942 and 1952, when the property was confiscated and used first by the Canadian military and then by local businesses.

In 1953, after a lengthy campaign by Japanese-Canadians in Vancouver, half of the property was turned over to the community. Of all the assets seized from Japanese-Canadians during the war, the school is the only property to have been returned.

As the years passed, Vancouver’s Japantown fell on hard times, squeezed by the poverty and social problems of the Downtown Eastside. Saimoto, however, never gave up on the neighbourhood. He spearheaded the construction of a new temple and an expansion of the school.

In 2009, Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Canada, marking the first time that the Emperor had been to Canada since 1953, when he visited as the crown prince. When the royal couple’s official itinerary was announced, it did not include a visit to the Language School in what had become a rough-edged neighbourhood.

Aghast, Saimoto and others launched a fierce campaign, writing politicians, tapping connections in Vancouver and Japan and insisting that the historic school merited a stop on the royal tour. After weeks of behind-the-scenes lobbying, those efforts paid off, with officials even acquiescing to Saimoto’s insistence that more people be allowed inside the school to meet the royal couple and that there be minimal restrictions on crowds outside.

Cy Saimoto, Honourary Chairman of the Japanese Language School,
raises his arms while escorting visiting Emperor Akihito of Japan (L) in Vancouver, B.C. July 12, 2009. --

When the royal couple visited the site, Saimoto was there to greet them. As the couple departed in a chauffeured limousine, waving at the crowds that lined the street in front of the school, he could not stop grinning.

“It meant a lot to the people, to the Japanese community. And the Downtown Eastside. Because the first Japanese settlement was here,” he said at the time.

In November, 2009, he travelled to Japan to receive the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor, in recognition of a lifetime of volunteering in the Japanese-Canadian community.

He leaves his wife Ritsu and his children Mark, Laura and Debbie.

Namu Amida Butsu


Sensei Ulrich Engages Calgary

Sensei Ulrich played a major role at the 2010 Alberta Buddhist Conference. The Manitoba Buddhist Church minister opened the conference, with discussions on "Engaged Buddhism". He also closed the weekend's events by giving a dharma talk at the Sunday service.

Over one-thousand people took in the event on October 29-31, which included a Buddhist film festival and Calgary Buddhist Temple's Shinran Shonin's 750th Memorial celebration.


Buddhists Get the Vote

Barack Obama and Rep. Mazie Hirono

The United States Midterm election is over and three Buddhists have been voted into the House of Representatives.

• Congresswoman Mazie Hirono represents Hawaii's 2nd congressional district. She was first elected to Congress in 2006 and easily won re-election this past Tuesday. Rep. Hirono was raised Jodo Shinshu.

• Congressman Hank Johnson represents Georgia's 4th congressional district. With Rep. Maizie he was first elected in 2006 and won re-election on Tuesday by a comfortable margin. Rep. Johnson is a member of Soka Gakkai International.

• Our third Buddhist in Congress is Colleen Hanabusa, who was elected to represent Hawaii's 1st congressional district. Rep. Hanabusa had served in the Hawaii state senate for 12 years and had been senate president since 2007.  She also was raised Jodo Shinshu, and in a campaign flier distributed among Hawaiian Buddhists she promised to integrate "Buddhist values into American political leadership."

Thanks to Barbara's Buddhism Blog

Meditation and Jodo Shinshu

As we continue to hold our monthly meditation session at the temple, it's interesting to note that meditation is not a true practise of Jodo Shinshu Buddhists.

While temples in Calgary and Vancouver are both holding "Walking Meditation Relays", these are held as events and not a regular practise of our sect of Buddhism.

Jodo Shinshu Buddhists do not believe in self-power practises. To use an analogy (from the blog, Nembutsu), if we are like the circus tightrope walkers, then meditation provides us with the technique of how to walk and the pole to balance ourselves. In contrast, Jodo-Shinshu lends little assistance on the "how" of walking but simply says, "Don't worry, there is a safety net in case you fall!"

Traditionally, Shin Buddhism has limited its meditation practices to sutra chanting and recitation of the Nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu). However, there is an increasing demand from within our temples and from those wishing to join us, for "quiet sitting" meditation instruction in addition to chanting meditation.

So, the debate continues on the website, Echoes of the Name. Here's an excerpt from one of the articles.

If we take the word meditation in the proper sense of its consideration, study, self preparation, exercise, practices, declamation, then Shin Buddhism has five kinds of meditation activity or service. These do not form an actual practice, though Shin dislikes and even refuses the word. Moreover, since Shin is a fusion of the principles of the ancient Sanron and Kegon sects reflected against the Buddhism of the Kamakura era, Shin does not define certain activities or services as practice, but insists that every action, even the most insignificant of daily life, may be an essentially religious action within the Way of Buddha …The goals of all such meditative exercises in Buddhism must be carefully analyzed. Westerners, and even ill informed Buddhists, too easily fall into the trap of believing that the goal of Buddhist “meditation” is the attainment of enlightenment of Nirvana. This however, is an erroneous notion …The correctly aware disciple knows that his meditation was undertaken as a result of past conditioning, and that, however much he thought he was doing it of his own innate volition, he actually was caused to meditate. The five kinds of meditation which are practiced in Shin are: ritual service, practical service, regular service, social service, and quietist service.”

--On Meditation by Rev. Phillip Karl Eidmann


Calgary Buddhist Film Series

A note from our sister temple in Calgary:

32nd Annual Alberta Buddhist Conference
With Jodo Shinshu Internationally, our own Alberta Temples are together this year commemorating 750 years of the life and teachings of Shinran Shonin!

The Alberta 750 Conference is October 28th - 31st, 2010 in Calgary. This year will feature the Calgary Buddhist Film Festival, speakers on Engaged Buddhism (including Manitoba minister, Fredrich Ulrich), Buddhist discussion break-outs, art from local artists, and social activities for the young and young-at-heart! Through this Celebration, we hope to again set in motion the dharma through our Vision of 'living, learning and teaching a life of joy and gratitude through Jodo Shinshu Buddhism'.

If you are reading this, you are Invited and welcome!"

By the way, great poster for this year's Buddhist Film Series.


Sutras for Shinran's 750th

In 2011, Buddhist memorial services to commemorate the 750th anniversary of Shinran Shonin’s death will be held in Kyoto. These ceremonies, called onki in Japanese, are held every fifty years for founders and prominent religious figures.

In preparation for next year's event, the sutras that will be performed, have been made available for free downloading at the official website of the Nishi Hongwanji.

Sorry, but the website is in Japanese. The first list are for the chants that will be performed for the celebration. The lower set on the website page is organ accompaniment for other ritual selections.

Just click on your selection. If you want to download them, right click on your selection and choose to save.

The chanting is a joy to listen to and quality of the recordings are excellent.


Anti-Muslim, Anti-Buddhist

Many are making the proposal to build an Islamic community centre, just a few blocks from the World Trade Centre site into a controversy.

Some recent articles on the web have been connecting the recent hostility towards Muslims, to the prejudice against Japanese-Americans, many of whom were Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, during the Second World War.

Here are some excerpts:

Tricycle Editor's Blog:

University of Michigan professor Scott Kurashige, author of The Shifting Ground of Race, notes a parallel between the hostility toward Japanese-Americans during WWII and hostility toward Muslims in America today. Kurashige notes that in both cases, the United States was attacked on its own soil by a foreign enemy, leaving Americans sharing either the religious beliefs or  ethnicity of the attackers the targets of their fellow citizens. In the case of Japanese-Americans, organizations like the Anti-Asiatic Association and the Asian Exclusion Association attempted to designate certain areas off limits to non-whites and protested the building of Buddhist temples and even Japanese Christian churches. Eventually, this threatened to interfere with the US government’s efforts to convince East Asian nations they hoped to align with that this was not a war of race.

Barbara's Buddhism Blog:

I did a little more digging and learned that Jodo Shinshu priests were arrested by the FBI and imprisoned separately from the internment camps. (Jodo Shinshu is the largest Japanese Pure Land school.) The priests were targeted for arrest because they were community leaders.

Public Radio International interview with Scott Kurashige, University of Michigan

I think it actually does bring to mind a number of parallels with what happened to Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War Two. Just after Pearl Harbor, again the government did arrest anyone they possibly thought could be even a remotely potential threat. In many cases these arrests were unjustified. My grandfather, for instance, had committed no crime. His only act of causing him to be suspicious was to be a Buddhist minister. So, again, roughly 5,000 had already been detained and yet there were so many in American society that felt that was not sufficient. What they wanted was to simply wipe the influence of all Japanese Americans, immigrants who are American born, out of their neighborhoods, out of their cities. And it ultimately led to an extremely irrational case that Japanese were suspected of being threats and saboteurs and fifth columnists.


Shinran's 750th in Japan

This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

On May 15, 2011, join Jodo Shinshu followers from around the world in commemorating Shiran Shonin's 750th Memorial Service at the Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto, Japan.

Tours are being planned through Kinetsu Tours from May 12-23.


The Future of Buddhism

An increasingly popular tradition, Buddhism continues to penetrate western ideas of science, psychology, and spirituality. What might we expect from the sectarian facets of the Buddhist community? How will American Buddhism differ from its historic roots? Patheos engages these questions in its Future of Religion series.

A discussion on the future of Buddhism is taking place on the Patheos website. Of particular interest, we suggest:
"Challenges and Opportunities: Speculations on a Buddhist Future" by Jeff Wilson, Renison University College
"An Editorial Introduction to The Future of Buddhism" by Gary Gach, Patheos
"Heresy and the Future of Japanese Buddhism in Hawaii" by George Tanabe, University of Hawaii

Patheos claims to have balanced view of religion and spirituality. It includes portals to information from Judaism to Islam and articles featuring comedian, Jon Stewart to the effects of Supreme Court decisions. The Future of Buddhism is part of a series titled, The Future of Religions.

Thanks to Casey for writing and providing the link.


Message from Monshu Koshin Ohtani

Upon the occasion of the 750th Memorial for Shinan Shonin in Canada, The Monshu, Ohtani Koshin prepared this special message of gratitude of the past and hope for the future.

His Eminence is the 24th generation descendant of the founder of Jodo Shinshu, Shinran Shonin. The Monshu is the spiritual Leader of the Honpa Hongwanji and the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada.

Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, a Pureland tradition, was founded nearly 800 years ago in Japan.

Dalai Lama Asks Japanese Priests to Produce Buddhist Scientists

His Holiness the Dalai Lama holding a interactive session with Buddhist practitioners from
various Buddhist temples at a hotel in Nagano

On June 20, at an informal discussion with over 200 Buddhist priests in Nagano, Japan, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said Japan with its highly developed scientific knowledge combined with its ancient Buddhist tradition can produce Buddhist scientists.

He said Japanese Buddhist practitioners should engage in dialogues with scientists to explore areas where science and religion can find a common ground i understanding universal values like compassion and kindness.

Meditation is a healthy way to develop a calm mind. You don’t have to use injections or drugs to achieve peace of mind,” he said. Interests in Buddhist science, which has little to do with abstract and esoteric notions of religion like after-life, has grown over the past years as scientific findings increasingly point to the inherent connection between physical and emotional well-being, he said.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting Japanese children

In the United States, universities of Stanford, Wisconsin, and Emory have already established programs to study the development of a peaceful life. Tibetan monks in India now study modern science in addition to regular Buddhist curriculum. All western scientists interested in Tibetan Buddhism were either Jews, Christians or non-believers, he said, but Japan with its background in Nalanda tradition of Buddhism that emphasizes logic and investigation in reaching the ultimate reality has the potential contribute a lot in such secular dialogues.

According to Ven. Yukai Shimizu, an official with Zenkoji Temple, this exchange of ideas between His Holiness and Japanese priests on Buddhism which was held at the convention hall of Kokusai Hotel is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” because not many Japanese priests get such forums to discuss and debate. “It’s a great opportunity for them to learn from His Holiness,” he said.


Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism

Shinran Shonin’s Wish for Us and the World

Earlier this year, the Buddhist Churches of America's celebrated their 750th Memorial Observance of Shinran Shonin San Jose, California. The keynote speaker was Rev. Dr. Kenneth Tanaka of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies. His talk was entitled “Shinran Shonin’s Wish for Us and the World: From Inner Peace to Outer Peace”.

In his speech, Rev. Tanaka encourages North American Buddhists to look ahead to the future. He pays tribute to the past, recognizes the good work being done currently and how we should move forward in the future. He also tells us that there is a new spiritual reality growing in America, one that de-emphasizes God, sin, and repentance and emphasizes connectedness, peace, and harmony. This shift favours Buddhism because of its rituals and practises.

Tanaka tells us that we need to be innovative and have a greater emphasis on meditation, chanting, silence and the act of offering incense. He encourages more discussion on the teachings of Jodo Shinshu.

Dr. Tanaka says that Jodo Shinshu congregations must send a message to the general public that our temples are open for business to everyone, all cultural groups and all nationalities. And that the family-based quality of our religion is precious and will serve us well in the future.

He concluded that we can make Shinran's wish for the world come true. Enjoy.

Stand with Suu Kyi

Myanmar's military rulers have detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate and prisoner of conscience Aung San Suu Kyi for 14 of the last 20 years. Although she is imprisoned, Suu Kyi's message of hope and dignity remains strong. Show your support for her and human rights in Myanmar!

Help gather at least 2,100 photos to represent the 2,100 political prisoners detained in Myanmar. You can take pictures anywhere - at your school, near local landmarks, with community leaders - get creative!

Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)



An informal poll was taken last fall at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. Many people requested an interest in meditation.

While meditation is not a Jodo Shinshu tradition, it has become something that North Americans have shown an interest in practising.

During regular Sunday services, we now sometimes spend a third or more of our service in meditation. It is a good practise to prepare for the ceremony and to listen to the dharma.

As Buddhism evolves in North America, meditating may become a regular practise in the temple. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a segment of the PBS program, "The Buddha" that explores meditation.

The Worst (Horse) is the Best

The Worst Horse is doing some of the best work on the Buddhist blog roll lately (The Worst Horse has been on our blog roll from the beginning).

I have to relay some posts that we found interesting this week following his mention in the Winnipeg Free Press article.

First, the Worst Horse linked us to an interesting article on Slate, titled "You've Come a Long Way, Buddha."

The Slate article refers to two events in the mainstream media this week, that may create an interest in Buddhist teachings. The article asks to consider "With a little help from Tiger Woods and PBS, Buddhism may finally shake its counterculture image."

The second blog post is a fun one from this week's episode of the Simpsons. Watch it before Fox takes it down.

Keep up the great work at The Worst Horse!

It's wrong to cheapen Eastern religions

Sensei Ulrich is quoted in a recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press. Other notable names and blog roll members include Rod Meade Sperry of the Worst Horse and Scott Mitchell from the Institute of Buddhist Studies.

Although it seems that Mitchell does not recall doing an interview for the article.

Buddha statue at Wat Muang in Angthong, Thailand, for Macha Bucha Day ceremonies.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Have you heard about the Buddha Bar?

According to an ad in the Free Press, people who patronize Winnipeg's newest drinking establishment can expect to find "chic interiors" and "exotic electronic beats" to go along with the usual cocktail, beer and wine specials.

Winnipeg's Buddha Bar is just one more example of what has come to be called "Dharma Burgers," a phrase made popular by Rod Meade Sperry of the Buddhist pop and culture website The Worst Horse. According to Perry, it refers to "any example of Buddhist ideas or imagery in the marketing or production of (usually non-Buddhist) services and consumables."

How do Buddhists feel about "Dharma Burgers"-- seeing their religion used to sell stuff? I posed that question to Sensei Fredrich Ulrich of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. "Most Buddhists don't relish them, but seldom take offence," he says.

He did draw the line a few years ago when Victoria's Secret introduced a "Buddha bikini," with an image of a Buddha-like figure on the crotch.
"Using the Buddha to sell erotic garments is a misuse of the Buddha image," Ulrich states.

As for all the other "Dharma Burgers," Ulrich is resigned to seeing more businesses using his religion to make money. "As Buddhism becomes more popular, such things will become more numerous," he says.


Buddhism Grabs New York

Here is a 2006 story reporting the popularity of Buddhism in New York. The Reuters news report features Rev. Nakagaki of the New York Buddhist Church.

Thanks to Peter Terpstra for the upload.


A-List Buddhists

While Tiger Woods claims that Buddhism is an important part of his road to recovery. There are some other A-List Buddhists according to The Daily Beast.

The web magazine is run by former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor, Tina Brown.


The Buddha on PBS

The Buddha, a two-hour documentary for PBS by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere, tells the story of the Buddha’s life, a journey especially relevant to our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion. The program was produced in conjunction with the exhibition Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art, organized by Asia Society Museum, New York, opening in March 2010.

The companion website for The Buddha, launching in early 2010, will feature the work of some of the world’s greatest artists and sculptors, who across two millennia, have depicted the Buddha’s life in art rich in beauty and complexity. Hear insights into the ancient narrative by contemporary Buddhists — including Pulitzer Prize winning poet W.S. Merwin and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Join the conversation and learn more about meditation, the history of Buddhism, and how to incorporate the Buddha’s teachings on compassion and mindfulness into daily life.

Premiering April 7, 2010 at 7 p.m. CST on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings)


1910 Rogers Pass Disaster

"One hundred years ago tonight, 58 brave men lost their lives in a single avalanche at the summit of Rogers Pass, in the Selkirk Mountains northeast of Revelstoke. This evening, we are assembled to honour their memory, to reflect on our relationship with the mountains, and to hope for the safety of all those who travel in the mountains in the winter,"

Those were the words of Karen Tierney, Superintendent of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Park and Rogers Pass National Historic Site, as she addressed a crowd of over 500 people at a special commemorative service held in Revelstoke, B.C. this week.

Thirty-two of those men were Japanese immigrants and were most likely Buddhists. So, as part of the ceremony, their names were read and a short service was performed by Bishop Fujikawa of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada.

There is another event planned for August 15, 2010. CPR and Parks Canada will be designing a memorial monument at Roger's Pass. The 1910 Avalanche Committee wish to have an Obon Service and Bon Odori to be part of the centennial events. Sensei Doctor Leslie Kawamura of Calgary will be in Revelstoke to perform the service.
Should you be planning your holidays around this time, please try to include a trip to Revelstoke and take in this event.

-With information from Roy Inouye


Loving-Kindness in Kansas

Sensei Ulrich of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple took some time to visit his 93-year old mother in Lawrence, Kansas in January. And through his sister, Dr. Lois Kay Metzger, he was invited to teach a two hour meditation session on Loving-Kindness (Metta) to a unique women's group.

The Woman's Spirit Connection is a support group that includes women of all faiths and ethnic derivations. The evening of meditation was a success because the women were well prepared by their years together. Rev. Ulrich claims that it was one of the best Loving-Kindness sessions that he has ever experienced. And while there were some participants who were new to this kind of practice, the positive relationships in this spiritual group readily included these 'beginners' in the activities.

Many of the participants have since reported to have continued these meditations on their own as an important component of their own private practice. It turns out it was an important two hours for everybody.


Tiger Woods Apology

I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better man. I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a creation of things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.

And with that announcement, Tiger Woods sent searches for the word "buddhist" into the top 10 on Google Trends. Here's a sample of some of the articles written following the announcement:

Buddhist scholars say that forgiveness and redemption are core components of the faith. "You're always beginning again in the Buddhist tradition," said John Kornfield, a prominent Buddhist teacher based in California. "You see that you're causing harm, you repent and ask forgiveness in some formal or informal way, and you start again."

Thankfully for Tiger, Theravada Buddhism does have a tradition of atonement. There’s no specific ritual, but in Thailand, for instance, Buddhists will go to a local temple to light incense and offer alms to the monks to repent for their sins. However, Tiger should keep in mind the effectiveness of this process is contingent on following the principle of “right effort,” says Donald Williams (a professor of philosophy at Purdue University). For Woods, that means he will have to identify those behavioural patterns that led him to stray from the precepts and cut them out entirely.

Chicago Sun-Times
Buddhism does allow for forgiveness and redemption, but not in the same way as Christianity. Patti Nakai, an Associate Minister, Buddhist Temple of Chicago, was addressing controversial comments made by Fox News' Brit Hume made earlier this year urging Woods to turn to Christianity because Hume didn't think Buddhism offered the forgiveness and redemption offered by Christianity. Buddhism focuses on the need for followers "to get to that place where you can totally accept who you are and all the circumstances that brought about that,"

Newsweek-Washington Post
People recover from addiction even when they find themselves unable to believe in any form of Higher Power apart from the men and women they attend meetings with, and with whom they struggle to recover a meaningful and valuable life. That notion of Higher Power is remarkably similar to what Buddhists find in Sangha, the community of fellow practitioners who are doing their best to live compassionately and to live well.

We leave the last word to Jodo Shinshu scholar, Taietsu Unno from his book, "Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turn into Gold":
"Foolish beings, however, are the primary concern of Amida, and it is upon them that the flooding light of boundless compassion shines, eventually bringing about a radical transformation in life–hopeless to hopeful, darkness to light, ignorance to enlightenment, bits of rubble to gold."


In 2008, the Vancouver Buddhist Temple organized a series of lectures featuring ministers from North American temples. The West Coast Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples Lecture Series was very well received and thanks to the Living Dharma Centre, some of the talks were recorded.

Another talk by Sensei Bob Oshita of the Buddhist Church of Sacramento was recently uploaded. His presentation was titled "Buddhism for Dummies". Rev. Oshita is an excellent speaker who is able to connect with all audiences.


The Singing Priest

While looking how groups are celebrating Shinran's 750th anniversary, I came across the "Singing Priest". Fukashi Hojo is a singer-songwriter who recently celebrated Shinran's Memorial by holding a concert in honour of our founding father.

Fukashi Hojo is also a practising Jodo Shinshu Minister in Tokyo. In an article posted on his website, Hojo explains how he combines him music with his beliefs, "When you breathe in and absorb the spirit of Buddhism, when we breathe out is the song . It is expressed in music. It is expressed in Buddhism."

While the teachings of Shinran may be influencing the music, listen for signs of Dylan who might have a larger role in Hojo's songs.

Here is an excerpt from a concert was called "Shinran Shonin on My Mind" that took place in Tokyo in 2009 as part of Shinran's 750th Memorial celebrations.



Socho Koshin Ogui, Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America

Living in San Francisco, Socho Koshin Ogui is the writer of the popular column “Nyozegamon,” which appears in the Hokubei community newspaper and website.

The English translation for "Nyozegamon" is "I have heard it in this way". This refers to the passing down of stories from generation to generation.

Recent column topics include "Finding Happiness in the Midst of Misfortune" and "Why Does She Say She Has Nothing When She Has Plenty?".

Upon his appointment as Bishop of the the Buddhist Churches of America, Ogui was asked what his goals were as Bishop. Ogui said that his personal goal is to convey the wonderful nature of Buddhist tradition in the U.S. Further adding, "To do this, we must convey the traditions in a manner that is convincing to Americans."

Nyozegamon is a wonderful way of communicating these ideas.


Oakland Buddhist Church

Great article from Oakland North, a website created by U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The page focuses on the Oakland Buddhist Church, its history and how the temple serve as a "point of community" for Japanese-Americans. It also serves as primer on Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.

Members stroll in early to Dharma Family Service, which takes place on Sundays in the hondo.

The gong-like sound of a bell called a Kansho reverberates throughout the hondo. The conversations in the room begin to trail off. After a few more strikes and silent pauses, the bell is hit rapidly. The chatter fades to a silence and the only sound left in the room is the lingering ring.The bell stops.Three ministers, all men, are dressed in long black robes. Around their necks, they each have a kesa, tightly folded cloth made from the robes that Buddhist monks traditionally wear. They sit in chairs on the sides of the altar and begin to chant. Their voices together create a drone that engulfs the room.

The item goes on to explain the 108 year history of the congregation and how the temple has evolved as the community around it has changed. The current minister at the Oakland Buddhist Church is Rev. Harry Bridge.

It features some great photos and sound, a recording of Nembutsu chanting.


Buddhist Military Sangha

With the recent news that President Barack Obama has decided to send more troops to Afghanistan, the argument continues if this war is necessary. Buddhists believe in non-violence but also know that the world is complicated and that there are many sides to this debate.

Courtesy Ekoji Buddhist Temple Dharma School in Fairfax County, Virginia

Caught in the middle are soldiers. Many soldiers are religious. In fact, right now, there are 1,900 Buddhists serving in the U.S. (Army Times).

A great blog that helps sort this out for many is the Buddhist Military Sangha. It is an unofficial online resource for Buddhists in the United States Armed Forces. One of the frequent contributors to the site is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Priest named Jeanette Shin. Shin was ordained at the Nishi Hongwanji, in Kyoto, Japan, in 2003. She was endorsed to become a military chaplain by the Buddhist Churches of America and served in the US Marine Corps from 1988-1992. She is a minister of the Buddhist Church of Florin, near Sacramento, CA.

How does she justify her role in the military?

Yes, there have always been armies and police, and there has to be some provision for defence. Even were we living in a world of wise rulers, protection is necessary. The Buddha speaks of this, as does Dogen. Aggression exists within each of us. But our wars today day wars are hardly the work of wise rulers (Neither were most wars in the past.). Whatever the issues may be, however just, the killing is fed by arms dealers and vast corporations who profit from the various technologies of killing. And by politicians driven by self-interest in raw form. And even by ourselves in a willingness to preserve privilege over groups and people elsewhere in the world.Having said all that, I would add that military personnel and families I have met often embody the highest principles of honour, duty, and self-sacrifice. They try to live according to what I might call “practice,” for the sake of their country and people. It is essential to hold this in mind.

I can’t help wondering, maybe naively, what would come of a policy that replaces retribution with generosity, that uses even a portion of the trillions we spend on war and destruction at home (prisons) and abroad for education, health, housing, and food? I would sign up in a New York minute as a chaplain to that kind of army.