Jodo Shinshu In Montreal

For an interesting historical look at Jodo Shinshu and how it came to Canada, here is a report conducted by students at McGill University. The Montreal Religious Sites Project was set up to give the public an understanding of our multicultural society in Canada. They did this by documenting the religious sites of the ethnic and religious minorities in the city of Montreal.

The project was conducted by Prof. Victor Sogen Hori, who was ordained in Japan as a Zen monk in 1976. He is a professor of Japanese religions in the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University. Hori was the guest speaker at the Buddhist Churches of Canada annual general meeting in 2006.

The reports were done by students as part of a course in Religious Studies. In most cases, several students studied a single religious site. Moarco Ovolio reported on the Montreal Buddhist Church.

Ovolio writes in his conclusion:

The difficult situation that the MBC (Montreal Buddhist Church) finds itself in today is largely a consequence of the fact that the experience and function of Jodo Shinshu in North America has been more or less the opposite of other Buddhist schools that migrated here in the twentieth century, such as Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. Where others were welcomed by and opened up to affluent North American culture, Jodo Shinshu was the focal point of an oppressed, alienated and far from wealthy demographic. Even its Christianization, paradoxically, was part of the effort to preserve a Japanese national consciousness. However, with this experience receding further from the present reality for Japanese Canadians and turning more and more into history, Jodo Shinshu temples and churches no longer need to function as the anchors of their communities’ social life and culture. If the Montreal Buddhist Church and others like it are to survive, they will have to shed the skin of their former functions and discover a new niche in North American society.

It's something to think about as we continue into the future.

Prof. Hori is currently working on a major exhibit at the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, titled "Buddhism in Canada."