New Year’s Greetings from the Bishop

Rejoicing in this peaceful day, I bow before the Buddha in gratitude
(Translation of verse from Raisan-ka, Praise of Amida)

Bishop Ikuta with Sarana participants at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple

The beginning of the new year is traditionally a time for us to send out greetings to our family and friends, wishing them a “Happy New Year”. Yet at times, it seems to be getting harder and harder to wish someone a “Happy” New Year when we see all the turmoil and suffering going on throughout the world.

Just yesterday alone, I saw a news report on the firing of the long range rocket by North Korea, which they claim for the purpose of sending a satellite into orbit. The Western Nations are condemning this act as they feel it is only a front for the testing of long range missiles, heightening tensions being felt amongst the neighbouring countries.

In an unrelated story, I saw a news report on the debris created by the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan in 2011. The report stated that from the beginning of 2013, the west coast of USA and Canada will be overcome by a deluge of debris which has travelled across the Pacific Ocean to reach North America. Estimates for the amount of debris expected range from anywhere between 14 million tons up to possibly as much as 25 million tons of debris. In fact, there has never been any recorded data of so much floating debris being produced in such a short span that the scientists are even in the dark as to what effect it will have on our coastlines. The best case scenario is that the vast majority of the debris will have filtered out to the bottom of the sea, where it will be broken down over time with minimal effects both financially as well as ecologically. In the worst case scenario, scientists are fearing that the vast amount of plastic material that was washed away be the tsunami will eventually enter our food change causing serious damages to not only wildlife, but to our own health as well.

These are only a couple of random news items which I happened to catch yesterday. Aside from this, there is still ongoing unrest in the Middle East, there is ongoing tension between Japan and China over territorial claims, and the list of worrisome news items seem to go on and on.

In such a world of chaos and uncertainty, it is important for us to try to find peace in the New Year. Reflecting on this, I’d like to share with you a story of how I spent my New Year’s when I was still a student studying in Japan. It was one of the first years I was in Japan; I spent the New Years at my mother’s home temple in Kyoto. On New Year’s Eve, the family has a tradition beginning with a service at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve. First, we gathered in the main Hondo of the temple and held a service before the shrine of Amida Buddha. Then, the whole family moved to the family Buddhist Altar room where a short service was held in front of their own personal shrine.

At the end of the service we sang together one verse from a Gatha (Buddhist Song). Having not heard this particular song growing up in Canada, I had no idea where it came from, or what it was about. Subsequently, I found out the song is titled “Raisan-ka”, which is translated as “Song of Praise (to Amida)” and the particular verse that my mother’s family sang is the third verse of the song, written by Lady Kinuko Ohtani, the mother to Zen Mon Sama, Kosho Ohtani. “Raisan-ka” has become one of my personal favourite Gathas as it always reminds me of the New Year’s service at my mother’s home temple. More importantly, this simple verse reminds us how we, as Jodo Shinshu followers can lead our life daily. Rather than thinking about the course of a whole year, it is important to be mindful of the moment, understanding peace comes about when we realize that no matter what is happening in our lives, we are within the Great Compassion of the Oneness of the Universe which is defined by Amida Buddha. What a wonderful year it would be if we were all were able to do as Lady Ohtani stated, “Rejoicing in this peaceful day, I bow before the Buddha in gratitude”.

As we usher in the year 2013, may I thank you for sharing the Nembutsu path during the past year and may you have a meaningful year embraced in the power of Namu Amida Butsu.

In Gassho,
Grant Ikuta, Bishop
Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada

JSBTC Day Message 2012

Waking up in the morning, there is a crispness in the air signalling the onset of Autumn. It is also a signal that the JSBTC Day will soon be commemorated in temples across Canada. May I begin my message by thanking you for your continued support and dedication towards your local temple as well as to the National organization.

For this year’s JSBTC message, I would like to talk a little about the three Dharma Seals of Buddhism. Like the seal on an envelope identifying the author of the letter inside, the three Dharma Seals are principles which make the teachings unique to Buddhism. The first seal is impermanence, all phenomenal things are constantly changing; nothing remains permanently. The second seal is the concept of non-self or put in a positive way, interdependence. All phenomenal things are a result of causes and conditions, there is nothing which exists independently of all other things. The final seal is Nirvana, the state of peace and calm when the first two seals are truly realized.

In examining the first of the three seals, at first glance, it may seem like a very harsh message. All things are impermanent, everything is constantly changing. If we put this into the context of our JSBTC organization, we can see the changes in the declining numbers in our membership over the past number of years. Do we suffer because of the actual decline in the membership, or is it because we cling to the notion of maintaining status quo? If we are able to let go of our attachments, acceptance of change can be the first step to renewal. Examples of this can be seen within our own organization.

Over this past year there has been a renewed optimism as we saw many new faces at the national AGM in Winnipeg, individuals who were representing their temple for the first time on a national stage. Another positive change has been in the four individuals who have successfully completed their training and received their Tokudo ordination during this year. Of the four individuals, three are not of Japanese heritage, yet all are just as dedicated to the Jodo Shinshu teachings. Most recently, at the recent British Columbia Jodo Shinshu Federation Convention, close to one-third of the participants (24 out of 83) were of non-Japanese heritage. These are just a few of the positive changes seen in our organization over the past year. By not dwelling on the declining membership of the past and refocusing on the potential for the future we can create a positive outlook.

The second seal, the concept of non-self, states that there is no such thing as an independent and permanent self, that all things are interdependent on one another. A negative expression may be non-self, but the same meaning put in a positive phrasing is that we are all one. There is no self apart from the other, we are one and the same. If we again put this seal into the context of our JSBTC organization, we can see that the JSBTC does not exist without each of our contributions. Each of us is the JSBTC. Any changes which may promote growth and harmony will only come about when we work together collectively as one, realizing that each individual is important to the whole organization.

When we come to the understanding of the above principles, we may not achieve Nirvana, but we can see our future with clear insight. Knowing what needs to be done, but more importantly, getting it done.
Keeping this in mind, may I ask you to continue supporting both your local temple as well as our National organization. The future is definitely looking up as we move forward.

Grant Ikuta, Bishop
Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada

Health and the Human Spirit

Sensei Ulrich is proud to be part of the team that worked on this spiritual health plan for the Manitoba provincial government. Read the release below:

The Manitoba government has released Health and the Human Spirit, the province’s new spiritual health-care strategic plan, Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affairs Minister Jim Rondeau announced today (Sept. 20) at the opening of the Hospice & Palliative Care Manitoba conference in Winnipeg.

“Our new, four-year strategic plan, the first of its kind in Canada, enhances awareness and gives direction for spiritual health care in Manitoba,” said Rondeau. “It will promote opportunities for Manitobans to experience spiritual health through better awareness, understanding and healing.”

The new plan was informed by a spiritual health-care strategic planning session involving a wide range of community and professional stakeholders, spiritual care providers, volunteers, counsellors, physicians, psychiatrists, policy analysts and individuals who have experienced spiritual care in a health-care context, the minister said. Research has shown that higher levels of spiritual well-being, along with a sense of inner meaning and inner peace, are associated with better health outcomes, lower levels of depression and anxiety, and a better quality of life.

“Manitoba has been a leader in Canada in consistently supporting the development of spiritual care as part of overall health care,” said Health Minister Theresa Oswald. “We now have seven spiritual health-care co-ordinators across the province to help connect patients and families with the spiritual supports they need, a unique-in-Canada provincial spiritual health-care co-ordinator and legislation that enshrines the special role of faith-based organizations in our health-care system.”

“Manitoba has taken an important step forward with the release of this plan,” said Fr. Vince Herner, chair, Manitoba Multi-faith Council. “It sets out a vision and goals for Manitoba and recognizes the increasing awareness that spirituality is an important part of human wellness.”

The ministers noted a four-year work plan is currently under development and will enable implementation of the spiritual health-care plan. The plan will build on previous accomplishments in spiritual health care including a province-wide spiritual health-care volunteer education course, titled The Spirit of Caring, core competencies for spiritual health-care practitioners and the incorporation of traditional Aboriginal healing space at a number of health facilities across the province.


Video Lecture "An Unfolding Dialogue on Buddhism and Neuropsychology”

Dr. Steve Prime, a Neuro Scientist from the University of Manitoba, stops off in Calgary and Vancouver Buddhist Temples to share his thoughts about Buddhism and Neuro psychology. Some treatment schools use techniques founded on principles similar to the four noble truths.

Dr. Prime talks about the controversial correlation between spiritual practices and neuro cognitive science observations. Empirical studies comparing the brain activity of highly trained meditation practitioners with those who do not meditate including the significant effects of the Nembutsu practice of the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddhism amongst many other techniques such as love and kindness meditation. This clip was filmed in the Vancouver Buddhist Temple with the support of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada.

Your Brain on Buddhism - an unfolding dialogue on Buddhism and Neuropsychology from Greg Chor on Vimeo.

Dr. Steve Prime is currently at the University of Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand. While working as a CIHR-funded Postdoctorate Research Fellow in Dr. Jonathan Marotta's Perception & Action Lab at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Prime researched the cognitive and cortical processes that underlie perception and sensory-motor coordination. He developed a multi-disciplinary research approach that combines traditional cognitive and psychophysical methods with sophisticated eye tracking technologies, motion capture systems, computational modelling, and an innovative technique called trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Obon Cemetery Visiting

Obon is an opportunity for us to reflect upon the innumerable causes and conditions that continue to influence our lives and those benefits we have received from the countless lives of others. It is a time to express our gratitude and appreciation for being given those conditions to live this life. So, it is with this understanding that we visit the graves of our loved ones and attend memorial services.

Our visitation to the cemetery and conducting memorial services is no more than an expression of the gratitude that arises when we embrace the Truth of those causes and conditions of our life

Manitoba Buddhist Temple Cemetery Visitation Schedule
Sunday, July 8, 2012

All services conducted by Rev. Fredrich Ulrich

9:00am Brookside Cemetery
-at the burial site of Mrs. I. Okano

10:00am Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens
-at the burial site of Mrs. S. Miyahara

11:00am Waverley Memorial Gardens
-at the niche of Endo Family

11:30am Thomson “In The Park” Cemetery
-at the burial site of Nakano Family

12:00pm St. Vital Cemetery
-at the burial site of Saito Family

12:30pm Glen Lawn Memorial Gardens
-at the niche of Mr. Y. Tsutsumi

1:00pm Green Acres Memorial Gardens
-at the burial site of Watanabe Family

1:30pm Elmwood Cemetery
-at the burial site of Mrs. Y Takaki

2:15pm Glen Eden Memorial Gardens
-at the niche of Takeshita Family

4:00pm Obon Service
-Manitoba Buddhist Temple

Manitoba Hosts the JSBTC

By all accounts, the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada annual general meeting was a big success. Forty-five delegates from all across Canada congregated in Winnipeg from April 26 – 29 for this annual event. The out of town included representatives from the Hamilton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Lethbridge, Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Steveston and Vancouver.

The Delta Winnipeg Hotel was the main meeting site. The Ministers Association met on April 26th. The JSBTC Board, Women’s Federation and Minsters Association, and pre-AGM meetings were held on April 27th. Later that evening, the delegates were transported by a school bus to the Manitoba Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre where they dined a wonderfully prepared Japanese meal. The AGM and BCCWF meetings were held on April 28th that was followed by a reception at the hotel attended by 75 guests.

A continental breakfast prepared by the Dharma School parents and the Tsuito Hoyo and Closing Service were held on April 29th. Approximately 150 people were in attendance. Jim Hisanaga chaired the service and Sensei Ulrich led us through most of the program.

Socho Grant Ikuta delivered a humorous Dharma talk in both English and Japanese and then installed the newly elected JSBTC Board of Directors. Everyone then went downstairs for a potluck lunch that was prepared by several members.

Based on the feedback I have received, we should be very proud to have hosted a successful fun filled event. Many of the delegates approached me to say what a wonderful job we did and for the wonderful hospitality they received. I believe we truly lived up to the phrase “Friendly Manitoba” on our license plates.

In Gassho,

Harvey Kaita
JSBTC AGM Coordinator


Hanamatsuri 2012


2012 JSBTC Annual General Meeting

Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada
2012 Annual General Meeting
April 26 – 29, 2012
Delta Winnipeg Hotel/Manitoba Buddhist Temple

Thursday, April 26
2:00 – 5:00 Ministers’ Association Meeting - Manitoba Buddhist Temple

Friday, April 27
7:00 Breakfast Buffet (no host) - Blaze Restaurant
8:30 – 9:00 Morning Service - Campaign B
9:00 – 3:00 Directors’ Meeting - Campaign B
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch Buffet (no host) - Blaze Restaurant
1:00 – 3:00 Delegate Registration
2:00 – 5:00 Ministers’ Association Meeting - Westminster Room
2:00 – 5:00 Pre-AGM Meeting (Directors & Delegates) - Campaign B
5:30 – 7:30 Dinner (no host) - Japanese Cultural Centre
8:00 – 10:00 Women’s Federation Meeting - Strathcona Room
8:00-10:00 Pre-AGM Meeting (Directors & Delegates) - Campaign B

Saturday, April 28
7:00 Breakfast Buffet (no host) - Blaze Restaurant
8:30 – 9:00 Morning Service - Manitoba Suite
9:00 – 4:00 JSBTC AGM - Campaign B
9:00 – 4:00 Women’s Federation AGM - Campaign B
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch Buffet (MBT host) - Campaign B
6:00 – 9:00 Dinner

Sunday, April 29
9:00 Continental Breakfast (delegates) - Manitoba Buddhist Temple
10:30 – 12:00 Tsuito Hoyo, Closing Service - Manitoba Buddhist Temple
12:00 – 1:30 Lunch - Manitoba Buddhist Temple

Delta Hotel - 350 St. Mary Avenue
(204) 942-0551