Sensei Hideo Nishimura, the first minister of the Temple, leading children in Chigo Parade throughout the streets of Winnipeg in 1951. A Sunday service in 1987 and the exterior of the Temple after construction in 1951.
In 1946, these Manitobans began to organize to build a church for moral, spiritual, social and cultural activities. Hideo Nishimura, a farm worker in Emerson, Manitoba, became the lay minister and later, after study in Japan, a full minister (Sensei) of the fledgling church. An altar arrived in 1951 and by 1952 the church was up and running with a language school, a Dharma School, and regular Sunday services. It survives today because of the selfless devotion of its members throughout its history.
The money, time, and energy devoted to this church cannot truly be comprehended by those of us who stand as beneficiaries of those past efforts. Nor can we underestimate the difficulties they endured, difficulties that included racial prejudice and faith prejudice. Our only recourse is to express our gratitude by continuing to make the teachings of the Buddha available to the Winnipeg community. We are especially grateful to those who have persisted in their Buddhist faith against all odds. It is one of the ironies of history that Buddhism is now one of the fastest growing religions in North America. As the Buddhist scriptures become more available in English it is clear that they offer a sound faith that benefits family and community stability.
The Manitoba Buddhist Temple is a member of The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada. The JSBTC is affiliated with the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto, Japan. The JSBTC celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005 with 16 groups in Canada.
The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada, however, is presented with some interesting demographics. These loyal Canadians adopted the 'church' as understood in the Protestant traditions after WWII as a model for its spiritual community. Other Buddhist communities still offer the Oriental model and visiting them provides an altogether different experience. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of Canadian Western Buddhism. The future clearly lies with the use of the English language. Currently the chanting is offered in the liturgical language since we have not yet developed a good way to chant in English. All other elements of the services are offered in English. Two chants, the invocation and the Triple Treasure of Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, are done in Sanskrit, the language of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha.
As a 'church', it now is subject to all the challenges of churches. Challenges such as keeping young people involved, finding adequate materials on the faith in English, music and the all pervasive question of how to finance churches in Canada are held in common with the churches of other faiths.
There is also a 90% intermarriage rate in the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada. This means that we enjoy the privilege of interfaith marriages, interracial families and families with more than one language. Our success with this rich heritage moves us to be actively involved in the interfaith movement and movements for racial harmony.
We are rapidly developing the skills of learning to live in an interfaith and interracial city, now communities like the Manitoba Buddhist Temple are taking the leadership in evolving strategies for interfaith/interracial families to live together in mutual respect and support. We maintain a deep respect for the Japanese roots of the tradition, but realize that the modern plant has grown to include all Canadians in a movement to develop a Western Canadian Buddhism.
You are invited to join us in this adventure.