Healing of Two Great Faiths

You may remember the Buddhist statues destroyed by the fundamentalist Taliban army in 2001. Many around the world were horrified that these ancient monuments were attacked. And while that event was not long ago, the incident is part of a long history that has seen these two faiths clash for centuries.

In an effort to bring peace to these two communities, the Manitoba Buddhist Temple invited members of the Muslim community to an interfaith service on Sunday, November 27, 2011.

Hammad Ahmad represented the Winnipeg Ahmadiyya Muslim community. He spoke on how the Buddha was not any different from other prophets of God, that have appeared throughout the world. And that the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism are at one with the rest of the other world faiths.

It is hoped the service will initiate a healing movement between the two faiths of Islam and Buddhism and help to promote a mutual understanding and respect between the followers of the faiths.


Jeff Wilson in Winnipeg

Our weekend with Jeff Wilson was a resounding success! Whenever our temple has a special guest like Jeff Wilson I am always amazed at the work that goes behind the scenes.

The planning for Jeff’s visit began over one year ago. Finally, he had an open weekend in June of 2011. We had to worry about promotion and advertisement. Luckily, the late, Dr. Leslie Kawamura promised to have the Living Dharma Centre in Toronto help our temple with Jeff’s travel and accommodations. Our temple Board had to meet to iron out the details of the visit such as the fundraiser lunch, the cleaning of the temple and temple grounds, transportation, clean-up after the event and meals for our guest. Then there was the matter of how to plan the service for Sunday as well as the format for the Saturday evening lecture. Posters were designed and distributed and notices in the Winnipeg Free Press were arranged. Sections of our wonderful website were devoted to Jeff’s arrival. These were some of the activities required for Jeff’s visit. Many people, who prefer to remain unnamed, worked diligently behind the scenes to prepare for this important visit.

Then Saturday and Sunday arrived. We were privileged to hear two remarkable presentations. They were remarkable because our guest Jeff Wilson was a top-notch scholar who was able to relate the basics of our wonderful Nembutsu teaching in clear down-to-earth language. To be able to do well in both worlds - the academic and the world of the average temple member - is a genuine gift. It is nice to know that our tradition has academic respectability. It is touching to know that we who live outside the walls of a university can understand and live this important teaching of the Nembutsu.

On Sunday, June 12, Jeff talked about three hallmarks of Shinran’s teachings: Relax, Trust and Thank. I could never do justice to his talk. It was the kind of presentation that requires being-there, with Jeff himself present. So to paraphrase:

Relax, because our Nembutsu teaching gives us permission to be ourselves just as we are in the flow of our natural lives. Amida’s Vow to bring spiritual fulfillment to all beings is just for us. Flowing beneath the events of our daily lives is a warm nurturing presence—even in the most difficult of times.

Trust is not only found in the Vows of Amida but also in the Sangha, our community. Finding true words worthy of trust, a community of trust and people to trust is a deep need for all of us. When we cannot have them, life seems a joyless affair, scary even. We find these things in the Buddha, Dharma Sangha and in the Nembutsu.

Thank, gratitude is also found when we become aware of all the causes and conditions that support us.

It is really a great privilege to arrive at a place in our journey of life where we can relax, find something worthy of trust and give expression to our gratitude. Please read his book, "Buddhism of the Heart" for further explanations. I am sure everyone there would have their own story about Jeff’s visit. Please reflect on his words and feel free to share your experiences with each other.

I am always proud of our community. Our ability to work in a relaxed friendly manner with trust and gratitude is an amazing feature of our experience together. Remember how we close our chanting? “Together we all share the truth of this Dharma, which gives rise to Bodhi mind (bodaishin) and birth in true serene joy.” How true, how true.

In deepest gratitude.

Sensei Ulrich

On the Cover of Tricycle

This season's Tricycle Magazine puts the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, Shinran Shonin on the cover. The 15-foot bronze statue of Shinran Shonin was taken outside the New York Buddhist Church.

But the Jodo Shinshu connection goes one step further with a feature interview with a Canadian who re-dedicated her life to Jodo Shinshu after growing up in a Anglican and Buddhist family.

Rev. Patricia Usuki became the head minister of the San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, near Los Angeles, California, in 2004. In 2007, her master’s thesis was published as a book, "Currents of Change: American Buddhist Women Speak Out on Jodo Shinshu."

Usuki was interviewed by author, Jeff Wilson. They discussed the Shin teaching of the Primal Vow and the role of women in Buddhism.

Here's a preview:

What about today? What about female clergy in the institution?

"My own experience has been very positive. Perhaps when you start from the understanding that the Primal Vow is meant for all people without discrimination, and that it works in your life regardless of distinctions that include such dichotomies as good and evil or priest and lay practitioner, then how could the question of gender possibly be a consideration? This should be empowering to anyone. As a consequence, when social stumbling blocks occur— and sometimes they do—it’s easier to realize that the institution is made up of human beings, and human beings are imperfect. That’s why an individual like Shinran or me or you cannot hope to realize the mind of nirvana through our self-power alone."


Buddhism of the Heart

Discover how Shin Buddhism may have become the religion “best adapted to life in North America.”

Learn how your life can be full of grace, despite blind ambitions and foolish passions, by just entrusting ourselves to the compassion that exists in our interdependent universe.

Saturday, June 11th, 7:00pm at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple, 39 Tecumseh Street.
Admission is free. Donations accepted.

Jeff Wilson is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo. He is also the founder of the “Buddhism in the West” program unit at the American Academy of Religion and author of numerous books and articles on the development of Buddhism in North America. His most recent books include: Mourning the Unborn Dead: A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America (Oxford University Press 2009) and Buddhism of the Heart: Reflections on Shin Buddhism and Inner Togetherness (Wisdom Publications 2009). His next book, with University of North Carolina Press, will examine Buddhism in the American South.

Poster for Japan

Yasuko Akiyama is a Japanese woman living in London. She was haunted and moved by the recent disasters in Japan, and decided to undertake a fundraiser for the people who were hurt and displaced by the tsunami, quake, and nuclear disaster.

She along with several others around the world, including Manitoba's Sensei Ulrich, translated Miyazawa Kenji's beautiful poem "Unbeaten By Rain" into English. She then produced a beautiful poster with a lovely typographic treatment of the poem. She's selling the poster as a fundraiser for £20, with all net proceeds go to Ashinaga, a 40-year-old Tokyo nonprofit that provides "education-focused financial and emotional support to children who have a parent/guardian with a serious disability, or who have lost one or both parents/guardians due to illness, accident, disaster, or suicide."


More Tributes for Leslie Kawamura

Dr. Kawamura receiving the Order of the University of Calgary in June 2010

Danny Fisher has posted interviews with two men who knew Rev. Leslie Kawamura very well. The article was written for "Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly Online" and features John Harding, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge, and a co-editor of "Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canada" and Charles Prebish, the recently-retired Charles Redd Chair in Religious Studies at Utah State University, and author of "Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America".

The highlight of my time in Calgary was our daily lunches. Usually, around noon, Leslie and I would meet in his office, often with other faculty members and students included, and just brainstorm about all things Buddhist. Nothing was ever pre-planned. We just spontaneously discussed whatever came up on any specific day. It didn’t matter whether it was Vinaya or Vimalakirti, monasticism or meditation, the discussions were lively and free-spirited. --CHARLES PREBISH

Rev. Leslie Kawamura’s influence goes beyond his role with the Raymond temple and includes important innovations at the Honpa Buddhist Temple of Lethbridge from the end of the 1960s to the mid-1970s when he took an academic position. This history deserves more attention as does the more recent period in which Leslie served Jodo Shinshu in Canada as the Director of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada – Living Dharma Centre. --JOHN HARDING


Unbeaten by Rain

"Unbeaten by Rain" is arguably the most memorized and quoted modern poem in Japan. It often hangs in schools or homes. Both intensely lyrical and permeated with a sophisticated scientific understanding of the universe, Kenji Miyazawa's poem is a testimony to his deep love of humanity and nature. And now, it is also a fitting tribute to people of Japan.

Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) is widely viewed as Japan's greatest poet of the 20th century. He was born and lived in Iwate Prefecture, which suffered severe damage in Great East Japan Earthquake.

We have featured this poem on our website for many years and we have recently updated the translation upon request, so that it will be used on a poster as a fundraising tool for earthquake relief.

It turns out, we are not the only ones who have made the connection to Miyazawa's poem to the tragedy in Japan.

Actor, Ken Watanabe has recited the poem as a tribute to the people of Japan. But thats not all. He has also created a web site that hopes to heal Japan and bring a smile back to the people. He calls it Kizuna311. Kizuna means “bonds” or “ties” and 311 is for March 11th, the date of the earthquake and tsunami.

To overcome this painful catastrophe, we must find a way to unite and find our Kizuna among people. We decided to create a video library showing the power and benefits from voluntary work efforts. We wish to deliver the message of hope to the victims and kindle a light in each one's heart.

We understand that each medium has its role. We would like to show a different point of view from what the mass media reports everyday. Our hope is that our message will show the uplifting efforts we Japanese are making to come together and help one another rebuild our lives after the earthquake and tsunami. We believe that this message inspires the power of Kizuna among the victims of these tragedies, and demonstrates our Kizuna to the world.


Leader in Buddhist Studies Dies

Dr. Leslie Kawamura — one of the titans of modern Buddhist Studies, Professor of Religious Studies and Holder of the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies at the University of Calgary – has died. --DannyFisher.org

Even in his final days, Rev. Leslie Kawamura expressed his desire for the growth and flourishing of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. He was determined to be in Winnipeg for our Hanamatsuri service. Sadly, Rev. Kawamura became ill and passed away in March 9, 2011.

Rev. Kawamura championed and supported new ideas. He leaves the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada - Living Dharma Centre having put in place a minister in training, a new youth retreat program, Jodo Shinshu Correspondence Course graduates, a library of video lectures, the Manning Park Retreat, Dharma School programs, lay minister training and other ongoing programs and relationships within our community and with the broader spiritual community. 

He will be greatly missed.


Japan Earthquake

For more than two terrifying, seemingly endless minutes, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan shook apart homes and buildings.

Then came a devastating tsunami that slammed into northeastern Japan and killed hundreds of people. The violent wall of water swept away houses, cars and ships. Fires burned out of control. The magnitude of the devastation and flooding is extensive. Now, over 10,000 people are feared dead.

Nuclear explosions and the chance of meltdown burden the earthquake-stricken country.

In Canada, many members of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple still have friends and family that live in Japan. Our sect of Buddhism originated in Japan over 800 years ago. We continue to have a very close relationship with the country where Jodo Shinshu Buddhism began. To be able to help is a privilege. It is now time to show compassion and help the people of Japan.

Speaking at the Sunday service following the earthquake, the Minister of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple, Sensei Fredrich Ulrich told the congregation,

“The best part of ourselves is each other. It’s the compassion we show after a tragic event like this that shows just how close the we and the other really are.”

Donations can be made to the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. The funds will be consolidated and directed to Canadian aid groups such as the Canadian Red Cross. Tax receipts will be made available for any donation over $10.00.

Charter for Compassion

On Wednesday, March 16, 2011, the Manitoba Buddhist Temple welcomed multi-faith groups from around Winnipeg to learn more about Karen Armstrong's "Charter for Compassion."

In 2008, Karen Armstrong won a prize to make her dream of a charter for compassion a reality. The Charter was crafted by people of different faiths from all over the world. It wanted to change toe conversation so that compassion becomes a key word in private and public discourse, making it clear that any ideology that breeds hatred or contempt, be it religious or secular, has failed the test of our time.

The night featured a video from Buddhist Tenzin Robert Thurman, guest speakers and shared conversation from the different multi-faiths in attendance.

Guest speakers included Sensei Fredrich Ulrich of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple, Bllquis Khan, and Rev. Angie Desrochers-Emond

Thanks to Lynda Trono for her good work organizing this event.

Now, more than ever, the time is right for the world to focus on compassion.


Calling All Religions to Compassion

A Message from Karen Armstrong:
Compassion is indeed central to every one of the major world religions — but sometimes you would never know it. Increasingly religion is associated with violence and intolerance; it seems preoccupied with dogma, belief, getting to heaven, or enforcing correct sexual behaviour. There are magnificent exceptions, of course, but it is rare to hear religious leaders speaking of the primary importance of compassion.

People don’t even seem to know what it means. It is often assumed to mean “pity” or “feeling sorry” for somebody. But the root of this Greco-Latin word is “to experience with;” compassion compels us to dethrone the egotism, self-preoccupation and selfishness that hold us back from the divine and put ourselves in the place of another.

All the great religious sages insist that compassion is the chief religious duty. The first person to do so was Confucius, who, five hundred years before Christ, was the first to formulate the Golden Rule: “Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” It was the central “thread” that ran through all his teaching and should be practiced “all day and every day.” Every single faith has evolved its own version of the Golden Rule, which requires us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain and refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever to inflict that pain on anybody else.

“My religion is kindness,” said the Dalai Lama; you can have faith that moves mountains, says St Paul, but it is worthless without charity; Rabbi Hillel said that the Golden Rule was the essence of Torah: everything else was “only commentary.” Muslims begin every reading of the Qur’an by invoking the compassion of God. But the religions also insist that you cannot confine your compassion to your own kind; you have to have “concern for everybody,” love your enemies, and honour the stranger.

The major task of our generation is to build a global community where people of all persuasions can live together in mutual respect. If we do not achieve this, we will not have a viable world to hand on to our children. We must implement the Golden Rule globally, treating other peoples ~ whoever they may be ~ as we would wish to be treated ourselves. Any ideology ~ religious or secular ~ that breeds hatred or disdain will fail the test of our time.

The religions should be making a major contribution to this essential task ~ and that is why it is important to sign on to the Charter of Compassion, change the conversation, and make it cool to be compassionate.

We hope that hundreds of thousands of people ~ Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Confucians and atheists all over the world will contribute their insights on line on our multi-lingual website.

The world will help to write this Charter to return religion to the spirit of the Golden Rule. Can we make a difference? “Yes We Can!”

“When I won the TED prize in 2008, I asked TED to help me create, launch, and propagate a Charter for Compassion that would be composed by leading thinkers and activists in a range of major faiths. Hundreds of thousands people contributed their ideas to a draft charter online, and with the aid of a council representing six of the major world religions, together we crafted the charter.”

The Charter is a special call to action, transcending religious, ideological, and national difference — and inspiring people around the world to campaign for a more compassionate global community. To add your name to the Charter, just visit the Charter of Compassion website — where you can find still more ways to act on making “the compassionate voice a more potent force in the world.”

Karen Armstrong is one of the most provocative, original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world. Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun who left a British convent to pursue a degree in modern literature at Oxford. Awarded the $100,000 TED Prize in February 2008, she called for drawing up a Charter for Compassion in the spirit of the Golden Rule, to identify shared moral priorities across religious traditions, in order to foster global understanding.


How Meditation May Change the Brain

Scientists say that meditators may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.


Abraxas the Movie

A new movie from Japan has its North American debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

In his youth, Jonen was a punk-rock musician, now he’s settled into a life as a Buddhist monk with a wife and five-year-old son. During his career-day speech at a local high school, however, Jonen has a public breakdown that leads to a deep depression when he realizes the importance of music to his life. In an attempt to raise Jonen’s spirits, the compassionate chief monk suggests he play a live show. As he plans for the concert, Jonen faces challenges from past loss, small-town resistance, and the possibility of alienating his family.

Full of authenticity and charm, “Abraxas” is a subtle exploration of a man’s journey to reconcile the spiritual and secular. Director Naoki Kato cinematically renders the film to complement its philosophy by uniting the everyday and the transcendent. Rich, rewarding, and profoundly moving, Abraxas affirms peace and happiness within and posits “once a punk rocker, always a punk rocker.” ----- IndieWire


2 Minutes of Doing Nothing

People often ask how can I meditate.
Here is a great way to start.

Created by Alex Tew, this website features an image of a sunset, the ocean, the sound of crashing waves and a small clock.

Try relaxing for the next two minutes. If you nudge your mouse or press a key on your keyboard, the clock resets.

Sound easy? Think again.

Going nowhere, being nobody, doing nothing... try it here.

In Memorian Doreen Hamilton 1938-2011

This post courtesy of For Our Grandchildren

About six months ago Doreen expressed her desire to work on behalf of For Our Grandchildren (FOG). During the fall she participated in the meetings of the steering committee. She was firm minded and fair, with a talent for thinking and speaking clearly.

As a grandparent, her commitment to the mission of FOG was evident. What may not have been as evident was the source of her commitment: Doreen became a Shin Buddhist and in 1988 was ordained as an assistant minister of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. She later served as an assistant minister at a Toronto Buddhist temple, and as a Buddhist Chaplain for the University of Toronto and for Federal Prisons.

Of all the great religions, Buddhism gives the most emphasis to the identification of humans with the natural world. Our self-deification as the controlling species is inconsistent with this teaching. Such deification regards nature as a resource, a means for increased consumption with its attendant over-population and pollution of the environment. Climate change is only one consequence of that attitude. In Buddhist thinking, ecological balance is restored through the philosophy of Sarvodaya (uplift of all), which is based on loving kindness, compassionate action, and altruistic job.

In Doreen’s words: “As Buddhists we have a deep sense of respect for nature just the way it is. We seek to understand and harmonize with nature rather than conquer or improve it.”

Doreen died on January 3, 2011 – a great loss to us as individuals, and a misfortune for FOG. She would not have considered her death in such negative terms. In the words of two poems she wrote:

Our short life.

Our short life can’t matter much.
What matters is what we leave when we die.
Will I leave love?
Will I leave beauty?
Will I leave peace?
Will I leave others stronger than before I came?
I’ll do my best!

Human Life.

We are briefly here,
like fish leaping out of the ocean!
“The Ocean of Infinite life”.
In human life, it is our thoughts that make our life here heaven or hell!
At human death we all return to the blissful emptiness from which we came.