A New Beginning

Shimmon Kojun Ohtani, the next Head Minister of the Hongwanji-ha

In preparation for the 750th Memorial for Shinran Shonin observance at Hongwanji (Kyoto, Japan) this year, the overseas districts including mainland U.S. (Buddhist Churches of America, BCA), Hawaii, South America, and Canada have each conducted the memorial in their respective district. The overseas memorial observances wrapped up last year in Canada, where special services were held at each of the four local districts.

In September, the British Columbia district observed its memorial observance with the attendance by Shimmon Kojun Ohtani, the next Head Minister of the Hongwanji. With the older members who had overcome great hardships, as well as newcomers just beginning to learn more about Shinshu and Buddhism, coming together for the Memorial, it is hoped that this will be the start of a new beginning.

As the first Japanese immigrants landed on Canadian soil in 1877, it was said that many of the hardships were overcome through the spiritual support of the Nembutsu. Coming from areas in Japan where Jodo Shinshu had been flourishing, many of the men who eventually became fishermen or farmers were supported by their religious faith. However, without a temple to go to the Japanese felt a void and sent a request to Hongwanji for a minister. In 1905, Hongwanji dispatched Rev. Senju Sasaki as the first minister to Canada district and a lodging facility in Vancouver was renovated into a temple.

A century has passed since overcoming the many hardships along the way including the confiscation of the temple building during WWII and forced removal of the Japanese from the coastal region sending them further inland where harsh living conditions were waiting. Having lost their jobs, personal possessions, and property, it took many of them awhile before being able to return to the west coast. Despite being offered only low paying jobs, they worked hard and pulled together in rebuilding the Vancouver Buddhist Temple and a new temple in Steveston.

With the memorial for Shinran Shonin conducted once every fifty years, members of Canada district gathered at the Steveston Buddhist Temple on September 29 for the district’s observance of the memorial. The chanting was officiated by Shimmon Kojun Ohtani. A youth gathering was held on the 28th in conjunction to the observance.

With the increase in interracial marriages and Christianity as the basis of the public education system, the foundation of the Japanese community in Canada is on the verge of crumbling. In the midst of these transitions, propagation work must now be able to adapt and cater to both the needs of the Japanese and non-Japanese membership.

With the BCA youth study programs as a hint, the Young Buddhist Association (YBA) of Vancouver Buddhist Temple has been conducting a program educating the temple youth on Buddhist and Shinshu teachings for the past four years. Resident minister, Rev. Tatsuya Aoki comments “There is never a better time than now to learn (about Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu).” In addition to the weekly study sessions, Aoki and neighbouring Steveston Buddhist Temple resident minister, Rev. Grant Ikuta, are currently putting together an overnight mini retreat program that is scheduled to be offered twice annually, focusing on Buddhist rituals and liturgy.

Austin Fisher, who commutes by bus for an hour and a half to the temple shares, “My parents are Christians. But in reflecting on world peace, I found the way that Buddhism teaches the importance of respecting the lives of one another to be appealing.”

Vancouver Buddhist Temple member David Ohori comments, “To my grandfather and great-grandfather, the temple was important to them as if it were their own life.” Ohori and his mother, Junko are glad to see the youth coming to the temple and learning about the teaching.
The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada is faced with a shortage of ministers as the four local districts of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Eastern district currently consisting of twelve temples are being overseen by ten ministers.

The truth is, whether it may be the temple or people interested in learning about Buddhism, it is difficult to cater to everyone’s needs with the shortage of ministers. There is hope for our future if members from our youth program become ministers, new temples become established in this vast area of Canada, and more people can come to appreciate the Nembutsu, Aoki said.

It was one hundred thirty-four years ago that the first Japanese travelled across to Canada. Today, third and fourth generation Japanese Canadians with an interest in Buddhism gather at the temple. The Nembutsu is also beginning to grow within the non-Japanese who until now had no encounter with Buddhism.

Aoki closed by saying, “With the memorial observance as the opportunity, the Nembutsu torch of our forefathers is now being passed on to the next generation.”

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.

Steveston 750th Memorial Convention

Six BC-based Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temples are also holding their annual convention at the Steveston Buddhist Temple.

All interested are invited to join in  as we walk for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more in a 750 minute relay starting at 8:30pm on Saturday September 25th, 2010. Please take a look this video to see what the Nembutsu Walking Meditation Relay is all about.

For more information about the walking meditation and the 750th Memorial of Shinran Sh┼Źnin in the Vancouver area, please contact sbtwalkingmeditation@gmail.com.

As part of the 750th Memorial events in Vancouver, Professor Reverend Mark Unno will be lecturing on Shin Buddhism and Inter-religious Dialogue at The University of British Columbia.


Shin Buddhism in Inter-religous Dialogue

Mark T. Unno
East Asian Religions, Japanese Buddhism
Associate Professor

Biographical Information
Ph.D., 1994, Stanford; M.A., 1991, Stanford; B.A. Oberlin, 1987. (2000)

Professor Unno's interests lie in Medieval Japanese Buddhism, specifically in the relation between intellectual history and social practices. He also researches and has published in the areas of modern Japanese religious thought, comparative religion, and Buddhism and psychotherapy.

He is the author of Shingon Refractions: Myoe and the Mantra of Light, an study and translation of the medieval Japanese ritual practice of the Mantra of Light. He is also the translator of Hayao Kawai, The Buddhist Priest Myoe-A Life of Dreams (Lapis Press, 1992) and author of over a dozen articles in English and Japanese including: "Questions in the Making - A Review Essay on Zen Buddhist Ethics in the Context of Buddhist and Comparative Ethics," Journal of Religious Ethics (Fall 1999); "Myoe Koben and the Komyo Shingon dosha kanjinki: The Ritual of Sand and the Mantra of Light," study and translation, in Re-visioning "Kamakura" Buddhism, edited by Richard Payne (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998); and "Divine Madness-Exploring the Boundaries of Modern Japanese Religion," Zen Buddhism Today 10.

Member, Executive Board, Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies; Editorial Board, Journal of Religious Ethics; former Executive Board member, ASIANetwork. Member, Association for Asian Studies, American Academy of Religion, Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies.


An Olympian LDC Manning Park Family Retreat in 2010!

We did it, all of us, all 105 participants of this year's LDC Manning Park Family Retreat!

This Olympic year was marked by the strong presence of young adults and youth attendees and organizers. Participants from Kelowna, Kamloops, Vancouver, Steveston, Fraser Valley, Vernon, Washington and Calgary all gathered to meet old friends and make new ones. This year you joined 54 adults, 30 youth (13-25) and 21 children (12 and under) and one lonely black bear to share an incredible weekend of great food, profound dharma sessions, exciting activities and most of all wonderful company!

Whether you participated in the morning walks through the forest, sat in on the services, sang along with "I Believe", took a dip in the pool, lit the campfire, flipped some steaks on the barbeque, threw a bocci ball, chased a ground squirrel, decorated a bike, attended a social, discussed the dharma, or simply gathered together in a cabin with your friends, we truly hope you had an extraordinary experience at our very own Olympic Games! 

Please take this opportunity to share the spirit of the weekend with your friends and family who did not have a chance to come out to Manning Park this year. I've attached a couple of pictures. Please also send your memories or pictures to retreat.vbt@gmail.com.

The poem, I am Thankful, read by Dr. Bob Akune in his Dharma talk is at http://www.joke-archives.com/inspire/iamthankfulfor.html

We all join in gratitude to the LivingDharmaCentre, BCJSBCF and Women's League for their financial and moral support of this year's event.

Your participation has inspired the members of the Organizing Committee with renewed vigour to make next year's retreat even better.  Please let us know if you would like to be a part of organizing next year's retreat.

Thank you for your invaluable contribution to make this retreat truly memorable.

Your LDC Manning Park Retreat 2010 Organizing Committee

2009 Manning Park Retreat

Clear skies and warm rays of sunshine touched our bodies throughout the day and dark, chilly nights with bright twinkling stars brightened our evenings.

During the Manning Park Family Retreat everyone greeted each other with warm smiles. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, meeting old friends and making new ones.

This LDC (Living Dharma Centre) sponsored program took place May 16-18 at the beautiful Manning Park in BC. It was attended by 112 participants including 62 adults, 26 youth (13-25), 16 children (6-12) and 8 children (5 and under). We were also honoured to have the presence of six Sensei’s who prepared seminars and dharma talks. 

The LDC, JSBTC (Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada) and our BCJSBCF (British Columbia Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Churches Federation) graciously provided funding to have local Sensei’s and their families attend.

Everyone helped to prepare, cook, cleanup and eat the fantastic meals during the weekend. The menu was unexpectedly enhanced with Kaz's home made soup. The youth entertained with a scavenger hunt, hide and go seek "Sardine Tag” and a create your own story/solve the mystery game called “Mafia”. The sunny afternoon was filled with a sports tournament including bocce ball, bedrock golf, horseshoes and ping pong. Bicycle decorations lead up to a grand parade and, like so many others in the past, Sora and Courtenay celebrated cycling without training wheels.

Mornings started with Nature Walks with Sensei Akune with an astounding attendance of 62 participants. After sewing chickens, adults finished their evenings by letting their chins wag and wet their lips with some rotted grapes. Workshops included self-defence, quiet sitting mediation, dharma discourse, self lead dharma discussions and gatha review.