Walking Meditation

The British Columbia Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples Federation (BCJSBTF) consisting of temples in Steveston, Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Kamloops. Kelowna and Vernon held their annual convention on Saturday, September 25th and Sunday, September 26th at the Steveston Buddhist Temple.

As part of the convention, a 750 minute (12 & ½ hours) walking meditation relay took place from Saturday at 8:30 to Sunday at 9:00am.

The event was to commemorate the memory of Shinran Shonin (1173-1263), a Japanese Buddhist practitioner from the 12th century and the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.

The 750 minutes represented a remembrance of the 750 years since the passing of Shinran.

Some 100 individuals took part in the relay in his memory and it is wonderful to report that there were participants at all times even in the wee hours of Sunday morning. These early morning relay spots were taken naturally by our youth who would lead the 2:00am service.

Participants recited Namu Amida Butsu as they walked slowly around the perimeter of the hondo. Many of the participants wrote the names of loved ones they wished to remember and honour on sheets of paper and placed them on the pews so they could reflect on them each time they passed by. Participants walked various durations from 20 minutes to several hours. Some used timer candles to mark the duration of their walk.

These walks represented an abbreviated version of the practices by Shinran and other monks on Mt. Hiei. Shinran originally practiced a form of walking meditation as a young monk on Mt. Hiei, near present-day Kyoto, Japan. Monks would take turns walking in two-hour blocks, continuously chanting the name of the Buddha Amida, with beautiful rhythm and tone. The practise would continue throughout the day and night for 90 days.

After the walk, the participants were able to rest quietly in the gym or the classroom and have some tea, water, onigiri or pastries prepared by the SBT Fujinkai.

The walking meditation itself works in multiple registers: it is a basic form of self-cultivation and purification of the mind, it is an expression of gratitude for those who have come before us, and it is a difficult practice helping to loosen the bonds of ego and self-reliance, an opportunity to be opened to the true nature of this world and the compassion of the Amida Buddha. The participants all experienced these benefits from the meditation in varying degrees.

Everyone who participated were grateful to have had the opportunity to remember and thank Shinran Shonin and relatives and friends who had passed away.

Many thanks to Elmer, Greg, Joanne and Naomi who took on the inspiration from Reverend Dennis Fujimoto of the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple to create this Nembutsu walking meditation relay experience.