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."


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


Shinran Anime

Concerned that Buddhism is no longer part of everyday life, the Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto sought to reach out to the younger set by coming out with a DVD depicting the life of its founder, Shinran, of Shin Buddhism. The 108-minute Japanese anime DVD, comes with collectible miniature characters, key rings, pens and notes.

Sorry, no English subtitiled version seems to be available yet.

Monshu Koshin Ohtani

Monshu Koshin Ohtani is the spiritual head of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto, Japan. He is a scholar whose articles have appeared in major magazines for several years, including an interview with the Dalai Lama in 2008 in which they exchanged views of religion in to­day's world.

Jodo Shinshu members in North America have had limited opportunities to read Monshu's messages in English. Now, for Shinran Shonin's 750th Memorial, an English translation of his 2003 book, "Ashita niwa Kogan arite" is available as "The Buddha's Wish for the World." It gives English-speaking Shin Buddhist members a wonderful oppor­tunity to get to know Monshu Ohtani's views on life, family, religion and society.

Here is a brief excerpt from a recent interview with the Monshu, courtesy of the American Buddhist Study Centre:


Nishi Hongwanji International Centre

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled.

An Invitation

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Funeral Buddhism

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Shinran and Rennyo on the Amazing Race

This week on the Amazing Race, Jodo Shinshu Buddhists may have recognized two very famous statues. Part of this week's show was to go to the 16th century, Kita-Mido Temple in Osaka, Japan. Both, Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin, make a cameo appearances on prime-time television.

A Zen Life

D.T. Suzuki is often credited with spreading interest in Zen and Shin Buddhism to North America. Interestingly, later in life Suzuki was more inclined to Jodo Shin (True Pure Land) practice on a personal level, seeing in the doctrine of Tariki, or other power as opposed to self power, an abandonment of self that is entirely complementary to Zen practice and yet to his mind even less willful than traditional Zen.

Director Michael Goldberg recently sent us this note about his film, "A Zen Life - D.T. Suzuki." It was one of the films recently shown at the Calgary Buddhist Film Series. The documentary is now for sale:

"A ZEN LIFE - D.T. Suzuki" is a 77-minute documentary about Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966), credited with single-handedly introducing Zen Buddhism to the West.

D.T. Suzuki was highly successful at getting Westerners to appreciate the Japanese mentality, and Japanese to understand Western logic. The effect he had on Western psychoanalysis, philosophy, religious thinking, and the arts was profound. His numerous writings in English and Japanese serve as an inspiration even today. Dr. Suzuki message is all the more important now, in light of contemporary conflicts stemming from divergent ways of thinking.

Gary Snyder calls Dr. Suzuki "probably the most culturally significant Japanese person in international terms, in all of history."

Along with Gary Snyder, there are exclusive interviews of many people, respected in their own right, who knew D.T. Suzuki in person, including Huston Smith, Mihoko Okamura, Dr. Albert Stunkard, Elsie Mitchell,
Robert Aitken, Donald Richie, Wm. Theodore de Bary, and rare footage of Thomas Merton, John Cage, Erich Fromm, and Suzuki himself.

The DVD contains an additional 10-minutes from a hitherto unknown interview of Daisetz Suzuki by Huston Smith. There is also a printed "Supplementary Text" inserted in the case, with quotes from Dr. Suzuki's talks in English never before published.

"A ZEN LIFE - D.T. Suzuki" can be ordered at:

Immeasurable Light and Life - 2008 New Year's Message from the Monshu

May we all continue to live every moment and every day of this year in appreciation of the Nembutsu.

I wonder how you all spent this past year. There are a number of armed conflicts all over the world and climate change seems to have occurred. Those whose work or daily lives have been directly affected by these things must feel particularly threatened, but even those of us who are not directly influenced feel somewhat anxious. All lives are interrelated, and therefore, armed conflicts or climate change cannot be regarded as the problems of other people. We must address them as issues that concern us all.

Some of you may wonder how peace issues and environment concerns are related with the teaching of the Buddha, or how on earth they are connected with being born in the Pure land to attain Buddhahood. I recognize that the basis of Buddhism is my attainment of enlightenment or my birth of in the Pure land, and so the teaching is not a wonder drug which can immediately solve those problems. Taking into account, however, the fact that the human race has caused serious problems on a global scale by pursuing self-centered desires without careful consideration, you cannot say that Buddhism is not irrelevant to these issues. Buddhists seek enlightenment because actual humans, due to their ignorance and blind passions, constantly cause damage to their own lives and the lives of others, thereby deepening everyone’s suffering. It is said that Bodhisattva, who are regarded as ideal beings in Buddhism, can not feel happy unless all others people also become happy. As we have been given only limited amounts of air and water on this planet, let us make every effort to lead a moderate way of life and realize a society where everyone helps each other, so that all people are able to live life fully and with joy.

Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha

Cafe de Shinran

Looking for quick cup of tea and enlightenment in Tokyo? Why not try a restaurant in the area called “Café de Shinran”. Patrons can enjoy organic food and the temple’s Buddhist atmosphere. By the way, what are those monks drinking?

Tokyo Bouz Collection

Japanese Monks Stage Fashion Show
The fashion show opened with a Buddhist prayer set to a hip-hop beat at the centuries-old Tsukiji Honganji Temple, where nearly 40 monks and nuns from eight major Buddhist sects showed off elaborate robes in an effort to win back believers.

Five monks from each school walked on the runway, then chanted prayers and wrapped up in a grand finale with confetti resembling lotus petals.


Jodo Shinshu Reaches Out

In Japan, Jodo Shinshu Buddhists are reaching out with a fashion show and rap music.

Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple held an innovative and very extraordinary event called Tokyo Bouz Collection. This event is supposed to introduce Buddhism more casually to today’s people to make them feel that Buddhism is relevant by showing live music which is a mix of sermon and rap, bonzes’ costume display and meditation.

Japanese monks try to promote Buddhism through fashion, rap music
International Herald Tribune
December 15, 2007

In the "Tokyo Bouz (monk) Collection" held at Tsukiji Honganji, nearly 40 monks and nuns from eight major Buddhist sects joined in the event aimed at winning back believers.

Following a rap version of a Buddhist sutra, five monks from each school walked on the runway, then chanted prayers and wrapped up in a grand finale with confetti resembling lotus petals.

"We wanted to show the young people that Buddhism is cool, and temples are not a place just for funerals," said Koji Matsubara, a chief monk at Tsukiji.

More than 1,200 years after it first arrived from mainland Asia, Buddhism in Japan is in crisis, priests say. Almost three-quarters of Japan's population of 120 million are registered as Buddhist, but for many, the only time they enter a temple is to attend a funeral. That has sent many of the country's 75,000 temples into financial trouble.

"Many of us priests share the sense of crisis, and a need to do something to reach out to people," said priest Kosuke Kikkawa, 37, one of the organizers of Saturday's event. "We won't change Buddha's teachings, but perhaps we need a different presentation that can touch the feelings of the people today."

The Tsukiji Honganji offers theological seminars in English for foreign visitors, and has fitted its main hall with a pipe organ for Western-style weddings to attract young couples. Some other temples have also introduced cafes, art galleries and other innovations to reach out to young people who are interested in a different lifestyle.

Japan's aging population has meant more funerals, but the declining population and birth rate means fewer young people to share the bill to keep temples afloat.

Buddhist monks traditionally wear simple black robes. But to appeal to more fashion-conscious youth, the monks wore green and yellow clothes, some with gold embroidery. Others wore elaborate, multilayered robes.

"Their robes were gorgeous," said Sayaka Anma, one of the audience in her 20s, after the monks' show. "I was a bit surprised in the beginning, but it was very moving."

Niigata Earthquake Relief

On July 16, 2007, a powerful earthquake magnitude 6.8 struck the northwest Niigata region of Japan. There were several deaths and numerous injuries. Buildings were destroyed. The earthquake created havoc to large manufacturing facilities such as Toyota, Mazda and Honda and caused minor damage to the electrical transformer at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. The earthquake also affected 80 Jodo Shinshu Temples in the region.

Tasukei Campaign
Hongwanji, the headquarters of Jodo Shinshu in Kyoto, has asked Canadians to assist these temples by contributing to the Tasukei Campaign. Your support will make a tremendous difference and will be wisely spent to rebuild these wooden structures. To help, make a donation to your local temple by October 16, 2007. Tax deductible receipts will be issued.

Copying Sutras to Boost Brain Power

This article by Jeff Wilson was found on the Tricycle Blog:

One aspect of aging that many Japanese greatly fear is memory loss. To combat this scourge, a number of Buddhist options have appeared. A popular one is pillow covers blessed by Buddhist monks to ward off dementia. These items are purchased at temples and taken home to be put on your bed pillows. As you sleep on them, the power of the Dharma helps ward off senility and other mental problems. Perhaps this is the religious equivalent of students putting their textbooks under their pillows so they'll pass a test the next day.
The Japan Times carried a story about another strategy. Some temples, such as Honjuin, a Tendai temple in Tokyo, offer Sutra copying to visitors in order to prevent memory loss. This is an ancient practice: laypeople have been sponsoring the copying of Sutras or doing it themselves for centuries in an effort to bring about all sorts of results, medical and otherwise. But now there seems to be some science to back the practice up. Dr. Kawashima Ryuta of Tohoku University discovered that copying Sutras promotes brain activity in senior citizens.

Want to try it out yourself? You don't even have to go to temple. Higashi Honganji, one of the largest Buddhist denominations in Japan, offers English-speakers the chance to copy a holy text online. Technically, it's a commentary, not a Sutra, though the text itself (Tannisho) is revered above many Sutras in the Jodo Shinshu tradition. Higashi Honganji doesn't promise memory retention, only that it can help settle your mind.

Jeff Wilson is a contributing editor to Tricycle magazine and the web site, Killing The Buddha. A Ph.D. candidate in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he is dual-trained in Buddhist Studies and American Religious History. Jeff is a certified Lay Teacher in the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition.

A Thousand Winds

Further to Sensei Ulrich's Dharma Talk....

Tenor Masafumi Akikawa originally released this song in May 2006.

"Sen no Kaze ni Natte" has been selling incredibly well since Akikawa's appearance at last year's Kohaku Uta Gassen (New Year's program on NHK TV in Japan). In January, the single became the first by a classical artist to reach #1 on the charts in Japan.

The song's total sales are over 500,000 copies, breaking the record for a single by a classical Japanese artist. Akikawa also holds the records for highest-ranking album and best-selling album by a Japanese vocalist.

Temples of the Whale

Great report by the BBC on whaling in Japan. The article tells us how Jodo Shinshu Buddhism explains the tolerance for this act which some Westerners find inhumane. It also helps us to understand the love, compassion, and reality, we face in our daily lives.

The writer goes to the Koganji Temple in Nagato, Japan. He speaks to Buddhist monk, Kensai Matsumura to explain the history of whaling and Buddhism in this fishing village.

This tells a story concerning Shinran Shonin (the founder of the sect). "He was in a fishing village in 1207. A fisherman and his wife approached him and told of their worries, saying 'we live on catching fish and eating them and selling them - would we go to hell after we die?' "And monk Shonin said, 'if you thank them and give proper service to them, praying for the resting in peace of those fish, then there will be no problem at all'. The husband and wife listened and cried with relief on hearing this."


John Safran vs God