American Gatha

Scott A. Mitchell is trying to understand the role of music in Jodo Shinshu Buddhist culture. Mitchell is currently a teacher at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California. He is also a co-contributor to the Dharma Realm podcast.

His project is called American Gatha. Mitchell wants to go beyond the gathas we sing and the sutras we chant. He sees a new generation integrating music like never before.

I’m interested in the types of music being composed, performed, and played within US Shin Buddhist communities today, who’s making this music, and why. My long-term goal is to write a book on the subject which will focus primarily on music performed as practice during Shin Buddhist rituals, services, and celebrations. I am curious about the place of music-as-practice within the borader context of Shin Buddhist ritual/practice life. How does music making compare to, say, reciting the nembutsu, reading a book about Buddhism, mediation, or hearing a Dharma talk? --Scott Mitchell

Scott Mitchell wants to know what is happening today and he is looking for your help. Check out the website, and maybe add your own contributions.


Nakai featured in Tricycle

Reverend Patti Nakai of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago is featured in this month's Tricycle magazine. Nakai is a third-generation Japanese-American. Her mother was Baptist, her father Buddhist, but she attended a Presbyterian church as a child. Her journey back to Buddhism is chronicled here. For of interest to Canadians and anyone else who may be there, Nakai will be the keynote speaker at the 2015 World Women's Conference in Calgary, Alberta.

Nakai is interviewed by one of the editors, Emma Varvaloucas. The article is titled "Get Real". Here's her response to the question:

One of your favorite quotes is “Rather than answer your questions, the Buddha questions your answers.” How does that come into play in Buddhist practice?

People come to Buddhism looking for answers, but Buddhism is not about giving you some easy formula. It’s all about you needing to question yourself. When you think you’ve got it, that’s when you especially need to question it—and if you don’t question it right away, you’ll run into situations that will make you question it, if you’re fortunate. Life is always throwing monkey wrenches into the machinery of your calculating mind.


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."


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

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.



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.



Over at Barbara's Buddhism Blog, she recently posted a wonderful photo on her website describing the Japanese Buddhist practise of Takuhatsu. She correctly described it as a practise performed by monks. But in this case, as "Jeff" pointed out in her comments, these were not monks, but members of the New York Buddhist Church. He was able to identify them by the wisteria crest on their kesa (ribbon around the neck).

We can further tell you that the man leading the group is Jodo Shinshu minister, Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki of the New York Buddhist Church.

Traditionally, Buddhist monks would walk through their communities pausing for donations of food or money. Today, Takuhatsu is more commonly used as a meditative practice.

All Photos by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In the case of these photos, Rev. Nakagaki was experimenting with the practise in North America. He was also taking donations for his temple. In 2008, a member of the New York Buddhist Temple wrote about the experience:

We went by subway to “Strawberry Fields” of John Lennon and Yoko Ono fame in Central Park, where we began the traditional meditation walk. “Ho ho ho ho, ho ho ho.” Stop. Ring the bells and gong simultaneously. Start again. “Ho” means “the Dharma” (the Teaching of the Buddha) -- not Santa Claus. This continued all the way to and around Columbus Circle and Midtown Manhattan. We walk to bring the Dharma to the city. --Dimitri Bakhroushin, New York Buddhist Church


Father and Son

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A Sense of Community

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The Mindful Candidate

More connections to Barack Obama and Buddhist philosophy. Quotes are from an article in the Bangkok Post examining his leadership qualities.

In Buddhism, people who are transformed become selfless and dedicated to serving others. This is what many people felt when they watched the broadcast of Obama giving his somber, determined victory speech in Chicago on election night.

It may seem incredible that a person with such a humble beginning as Obama could have made it this far. Yet, when looking through the lens of Buddhism, it should not come as a surprise. This is a mindful and humble candidate with a deep understanding of dhamma running a thoughtful and honourable campaign, encouraging people to be selfless and join forces to create good karma for the purpose of lifting others out of suffering.


Gay Marriage

The recent marriage of George Takei and Brad Altman grabbed headlines recently. Foremost as news of "Proposition 8" rose to the forefront, but probably more notably on the fame of the former star of "Star Trek."

Takei,and Altman exchanged vows at a Buddhist ceremony pre­sided over by Rev. William Briones, Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

But, it also brings into light, the subject of gay marriage from a Buddhist perspective. Jodo Shinshu Ministers have been performing same-sex marriages for thirty years. Rev. William Briones is the first Mexican-American Jodo Shinshu Minister in America. He is also the person who officiated the marriage of Takei and Altman. He writes in November's BCA newsletter that Amida's Primal Vow does not discriminate.

"Within our teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, there are no doctrinal grounds that exist the prohibits neutral-gender marriage. Within the compassionate light of the Amida Buddha, all beings are equally embraced."


Dalai Lama on Barack Obama

The Dalai Lama congratulated US President-elect Barack Obama on his election victory on November 4 with the following letter:


Dear President-elect Obama,
Congratulations on your election as the President of the United States of America.
I am encouraged that the American people have chosen a President who reflects America's diversity and her fundamental ideal that any person can rise up to the highest office in the land.  This is a proud moment for America and one that will be celebrated by many peoples around the world.
The American Presidential elections are always a great source of encouragement to people throughout the world who believe in democracy, freedom and equality of opportunities.
May I also commend the determination and moral courage that you have demonstrated throughout the long campaign, as well as the kind heart and steady hand that you often showed when challenged.  I recall our own telephone conversation this spring and these same essential qualities came through in your concern for the situation in Tibet.
As the President of the United States, you will certainly have great and difficult tasks before you, but also many opportunities to create change in the lives of those millions who continue to struggle for basic human needs.  You must also remember and work for these people, wherever they may be.
With my prayers and good wishes,
Yours sincerely,


Bring Your Children up Buddhist

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Living Peace

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Buddhist Economics

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Dharma Talks on iTunes

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Buddhism in a Global Age of Technology

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Obama Buddha

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Bad Buddha

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Former BCC Bishop dies

The former Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of Canada has passed away. Rev. Toshio Murakami's life ended on May 26, 2008 at the Pali Momi Hospital in Hawaii. He was 77 years old.

Toshio Murakami was born in Fukuoka, Japan on October 5, 1931. He came to North America in 1959 after receiving his kyoshi certification. His first assignment was at the Berkeley Buddhist Church in California. He was the minister at several temples on the U.S, west coast before working at the BCA headquarters in 1977.

On March 15, 1986, Rev. Murakami began his term as the Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of Canada. Here's a short video clip of Bishop Murakami during a short documentary produced in 1989. In it, he explains his vision for the future of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in Canada.

Canada's current Bishop, Socho Fujikawa writes, "He will be remembered as the Bishop who had helped the 1990 World Buddhist Women’s Convention in Vancouver."

After serving the BCC for seven years, Rev. Murakami served the Australian Jodo Shinshu community. He would eventually retire as the minister of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, but continued to be the resident minister of the Pearl City Hongwanji Mission.

His funeral was held on June 6, 2008 at the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin. It was officiated by Bishop Thomas R. Okano and sponsored by both the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and the Pearl City Hongwanji Mission.

Rev. Murakami leaves behind his wife, Yoko, two daughters, Mari and Rumi and two grandchildren. If you would like to make a donation, the Murakami family has requested that it should be made directly to the Pacific Buddhist Academy.

Buddhist Way of Life

Ogui Socho of the Buddhist Churches of America makes a very special appearance on this internet video on the DharmaNet web site. Learn why he chose the Buddhist path and more about his Zen mentor, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Also find out why he was "kicked out" of his first temple in the United States and how he eventually overcame that setback to become the Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America.

The video is a part of an online video series called "The Buddhist Way of Life." In 2005, the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism (Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai) [BDK] initiated a BDK-TV Series shown in Southern California. The weekly 15-minute shows featured interviews and teachings from major American Buddhist followers and teachers. 


Hanamatsuri Celebrates Buddha’s Birth

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Tiger Wood's Secret

He's having an incredible year so far and the Masters is just around the corner. Tiger Woods is on par to win his fifth green jacket in Augusta, Georgia.

So what's his secret?

Meditation. This is an excerpt from an article from the UK Times web site:

Woods does not talk much about the fact that he meditates, something he learnt from Kultida, his mother, who is a Buddhist. “In the Buddhist religion you have to work for it yourself, internally, in order to achieve anything in life and set up the next life,” he said. “It is all about what you do, and you get out of life what you put into it. So you are going to have to work your butt off in every aspect of your life. That is one of the things that people see in what I do on the course.”


Dharma Realm

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Barack Obama, An Inspiration to the World

As the race for the democratic nomination for President of the United States nears the finish line, here's an interesting take on Barack Obama. The positive values that Obama exemplifies can be compared to many of the teachings of the Dharma. This is why the blogger believes that this is a big reason why he is the inspirational figure that he is today.

Like the Buddha, Barack Obama learned in his early adult years as a community organizer that poverty is the root of much suffering in the world. He saw how poverty seeps into people's lives like a poison that drives people into a life of crime and overall suffering. He understands that to bring people out of poverty is to improve society as a whole. He is known as a uniter, he is quite gifted at being able to bring about compromises that work for all sides involved.


FYI, even Barack Obama's sister, Maya, considers her outlook on life as "Buddhist".

And the Survey Says...

If you're Buddhist in the United States, you're most likely a white convert who lives in the American West.

That's one of the findings of a the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, released Monday (Feb. 25), by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reports what many of the Jodo Shinshu community in Canada are already experiencing. It says that Buddhists are among the faiths with the lowest retention rates of childhood members and that many Buddhists have married someone of a different religion.

A study also concludes that of more than 35,000 adult Americans that were interviewed, .07 percent consider themselves followers of Buddhism.

Hindus Thrive as Buddhists Struggle to Pass on the Faith
by Andrea Useem, Religion News Service

For Buddhists, the data show "convert Buddhist communities face a significant challenge in engaging their children and keeping them in the tradition," said Thomas Tweed, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many Buddhist converts "didn't really attempt to bring their children into Buddhism," added Robert Seager, a religious studies professor at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. "They said, `I don't want to lay my trip on my kids."

There is good news, 44 percent of Americans say they're no longer tied to the religious or secular upbringing of their childhood. They've changed religions or denominations, adopted a faith for the first time or abandoned any affiliation altogether which could lead to more people looking into Buddhism as a choice for religious beliefs.

Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum predicts that as world religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism will continue to grow in the USA through immigration and conversion, workplaces, schools and eventually the courts will face increasing challenges over religious accommodation.


Bush Honours Dalai Lama

October 17, New York Times

Over furious objections from China and in the presence of President Bush, Congress on Wednesday bestowed its highest civilian honor on the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists whom Beijing considers a troublesome voice of separatism.

True Compassion

The following is a letter sent to the White House in 2001, stating the feelings of all Higashi Honganji ministers regarding the World Trade Center tragedy and their future American foreign policy.

September 24, 2001

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President

The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on September 11th have brought tremendous confusion and suffering. We, the followers of Shin Buddhism, express our deepest condolences to the victims, their families and friends. This tragedy reminds all of us how helpless we are in the face of such a catastrophe where only sadness, pain, and anger remain.

However, while we do not accept any act, terrorist or otherwise, in which the dignity of human life is ignored, we cannot condone any retaliatory acts that can lead to war. Such actions will only result in spreading more hatred and violence throughout the world and lead to the suffering of innocent victims. We therefore urge you to seek a course of non-violent action to detain and bring before a world forum of justice, those who may be responsible for the acts of September 11, 2001. We further urge you to seek a way of building bridges of understanding and reconciliation with all those who have harmed us. In addition, we ask that you do everything possible to defend the safety and rights of citizens here in the United States who may be targeted because of their ethnic or religious background.

Six years ago, in June 1995, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, our Headquarters, Shinshu Otani-ha of Kyoto, Japan, issued an Anti-War Statement which reaffirmed that all followers of our tradition should do our best to work for world peace and walk the same path as all people, regardless of their ethnicity, language, culture, and religion. Buddhism is a religion to free oneself from sufferings, one of which is the attachment to one’s own views and the imposing of it on others. This attachment hinders true dialogue.

The terrorist attacks and the probable American retaliation reconfirm the urgent need for our pledge to be practiced. The primary wish of all humanity, past, present, and future, is to live peacefully in a world free from discrimination. Only through realizing this universal wish, may all human beings be united as one.

It is our fervent hope that America display her greatness by looking deeply into the nature of all suffering and showing true Compassion.


Ministers of Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temples
(North America and Hawaii Districts.)

Shinran Shonin - A Symbol of Peace

On the anniversary of 9-11, we looked for a symbol of peace and harmony. We found this video taken at the New York Buddhist Temple. In such a big and busy city, it is interesting to see Shinran standing there all alone. The statue of Shinran Shonin survived the bombing of HIroshima. It was brought to New York as a symbol of peace. The person who posted it says that children usually leave paper cranes at his feet.

The New York Buddhist Temple is led by Sensei Nakagaki. He has been called upon to lead the lead the Buddhist and interfaith community during the memorials of 9-11.

Sensei Nakagaki and Socho Ogui at the 9-11 ceremony, 2002

Every year, since 9-11, the New York Buddhist Temple has Memorial Floating Lanterns Ceremony. It is an ancient Japanese custom of floating lighted lanterns in waterways. It symbolizes respect for the lives of people who have gone before us (Obon). It is a quiet and serene ceremony that provides a place to reaffirm our commitment to building a peaceful future and to pay respect to the lost lives at the World Trade Center.

9-11 Memorial Floating Lanterns Ceremony in New York

READ MORE about Sensei Nakagaki in this article by the New York Times Magazine.

First Slurpee

Not sure many of you know this, but Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is the Slurpee capital of the world. We have retained the title for eight years in a row. Besides sales of over 8,000 drinks per store, per month, a spokesperson for 7-11 says one of the reasons for the Winnipeg winning the title is, where else would someone be drinking a Slurpee in -40'C weather.

7-Eleven began selling Slurpees, then called Icees, in its stores in the United States in 1965. Despite its history in North America, this eighteenth-generation Jodo Shinshu priest recently had his first one. Socho Koshin Ogui Sensei has been a resident of the United States since 1962, but he he seems to be enjoying his first Slurpee.


Socho Ogui became minister of the Cleveland Buddhist Temple in 1977 and of the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago in 1992. In 2004, he was appointed Socho (Bishop) of the Buddhist Churches of America and has been instrumental in the ongoing revitalization and outreach efforts of that organization. THe is the author of "Zen Shin Talks", and now lives in San Francisco.

For an interesting article on Socho Ogui's view on Jodo Shinshu and meditation, read this recent article from tricycle Magazine.

Uma's Dad

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Our First Advertisement

No, this doesn't mean we will start having pop-ups and ads blinking all over our site. But we would like to direct you to the BCA (Buddhist Churches of America) Bookshop. It's located in the new Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California.

The Online BCA Bookstore is virtual, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's a great online store to purchase books on Jodo Shinshu and other Buddhist merchandise. The prices are in US but there is little difference now between our loonie and the American dollar. So another good reason to shop.

They will be adding extra features as new items are introduced, so they request you come back regularly.

You can online order from their web site or contact: or phone (510) 809-1435, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

By the way, in the bottom left corner of the web site there is an odd reminder for a Buddhist store.....

Are You Ready?
Just 203 days 'til Christmas!

Toddler's Dance Destroys Monks' Intricate Sand Painting

May 23, 2007 The Kansas City Star

Talk about a test of faith.

Eight Tibetan monks spent two days cross-legged on the floor at Union Station, leaning over to meticulously create an intricate design of colored sand as an expression of their Buddhist faith. They were more than halfway done. And then, within seconds, their work was destroyed by a toddler.

Video from the Associated Press

Monks are bald, so they couldn’t rip their hair out. But were they angry? Did they curse?

Jodo Shinshu High School

Imagine a high school that has a curriculum based on Jodo Shinshu Buddhist teachings. Its more than an idea. In Hawaii, they are about to graduate their first class of students.

INCENSE drifts through this small school overlooking a white Buddhist temple in Nuuanu. Students and faculty bow their heads before and after class, and misbehaving children must do yoga and meditation as an alternative to suspension. Four years after opening, the Pacific Buddhist Academy, the only Shin Buddhist high school in the country, will graduate its first class Friday. Fourteen seniors will get their diplomas and chant in a ceremony at the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin temple, just steps away from a college preparatory school that taught them as much about math and science as it did about respect, gratitude and peace.


First Experience in a Jodo Shinshu Temple

In the Editor's Blog, we are on the lookout for interesting posts and articles. This posting came the blog, GODZ. The aim of this blog is to write about different religious experiences in various churches, mosques or temples. In this post, they attend a Buddhist temple. The article begins by being quite skeptical of Buddhism as a current trend.

As the sensei said in temple, your practice should be whatever floats your boat, but I'm talking about the kind of yogi who spends 400$ on a new meditation cushion or yoga mat and another 1,500 dollars on their yoga clothes.

After attending the temple, they have these observations after attending their first Jodo Shinshu service.

The sensei seemed real, honest, intelligent and content. It did not bother him that the folding chairs were only 1/5th full. I got the sense that he might actually have some inner peace.

The writer seemed to lump Buddhism with the "new age" movement. Buddhism is not new age. Jodo Shinshu is not new age. It is old age. It has a rich history. The writer seems to understand and appreciate this knowledge in the end.