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.
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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.
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."
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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
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:
Barbara's Buddhism 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.
Public Radio International interview with Scott Kurashige, University of Michigan
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.
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.
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.
READ MORE AT PATHEOS...
Thanks to Peter Terpstra for the upload.
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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.
VISIT THE WOMAN SPIRIT CONNECTION IN KANSAS...
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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.
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.
READ BISHOP OGUI'S COLUMNS...
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.
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
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.
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."
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,
THE DALAI LAMA
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.
So what's his secret?
Meditation. This is an excerpt from an article from the UK Times web site:
READ MORE IN THE TIMES...
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.”
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.
Hindus Thrive as Buddhists Struggle to Pass on the Faith
by Andrea Useem, Religion News Service
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.
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."
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.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES...
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
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Monks are bald, so they couldn’t rip their hair out. But were they angry? Did they curse?
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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.
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.
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.