Materialien zum Neobuddhismus


Wilhelm II.: "Völker Europas, wahrt Eure heiligsten Güter!"

4. USA und Hawaii

4. Japanischer Buddhismus in Amerika

4. Buddhist Churches of America

von Alois Payer


Zitierweise / cite as:

Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Materialien zum Neobuddhismus.  --   4. USA und Hawaii. -- 4. Japanischer Buddhismus in Amerika. -- 4. Buddhist Churches of America. -- Fassung vom 2005-06-24. -- URL: -- [Stichwort].

Erstmals publiziert: 2005-05-31

Überarbeitungen: 2005-06-24 [Ergänzungen]

Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung Neobuddhismus, Univ. Tübingen, SS 1987, SS 2003, SS 2005

Copyright: Dieser Text steht der Allgemeinheit zur Verfügung. Eine Verwertung in Publikationen, die über übliche Zitate hinausgeht, bedarf der ausdrücklichen Genehmigung des Verfassers.

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Diese Inhalt ist unter einer Creative Commons-Lizenz lizenziert.

Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Buddhismus von Tüpfli's Global Village Library


Dieses Kapitel enthält umfangreichere Materialien zu den Buddhist Churches of America als Ergänzung zu den übrigen Kapiteln zum japanischen Buddhismus in Amerika

Auszüge aus: Dharma school service book (1981)

Dharma school service book / Dharma School Department, Buddhist Churches of America. -- [ohne Ort : ohne Verlag], 1981. -- 115 S. : Ill.



Buddhist Etiquette and Symbols
Buddhist Observances
Golden Chain
Jodo Shinshu Creed.
Junirai (English Translation)
Jusei Ge (English Translation)
Noble Eightfold Path
San Butsu Ge
San Butsu Ge (English Translation)
Selected Sayings
Shoshin Ge
Shoshin Ge (English Translation)
Six Paramitas
Three Treasures
Vandana Ti-sarana


Amida Buddha is With Me
Amida's Children
Amida's Paradise
Amida's Shrine (At Our Altar)
Amida's Way
Asa no Uta.
Buddha Loves You
Buddha's Child.
Children in Japan
Church Bells
Dedication (English Ondokusan)
Evening Gatha
Golden Chain of Love
Hanamatsuri Koshin Kyoku
Happy Buddha's Day
Happy Little Children
Hasu no Hana.
Homage to Buddha
Hotoke no Kodomo
Hotoke Sama.
I Love the Story
In Lumbini's Garden
It's Raining
Jodo E no Uta
Kyo wa Tanoshii Nichiyobi
Listen to His Voice
Long Ago in India
Morning Gatha
Namu Amida Butsu
Nembutsu II..
Nobiyo Nobiyo
Obon no Uta
Obon, Obon, It's Festival Day
Omairi Shimasho
Ondokusan I
Ondokusan II.
Our Pledge
Praise to Buddha
Quest of Life
Right Meditation
Saint Shinran I
Saint Shinran II
Shinran Sama
Shinshu Shuka
Six Paramitas
The Teachings of All Buddhas
The Texture of Life
Thank You Buddha
Tsuki ga Deta
When We See the Golden Sun
With These Hands
Yube no Uta

[Quelle: Dharma school service book / Dharma School Department, Buddhist Churches of America. -- [ohne Ort : ohne Verlag], 1981. -- 115 S. : Ill. ]


I affirm my faith in Amida's Infinite Wisdom and Compassion. Reciting his Sacred Name, I shall live with strength and joy.

I shall look up to Amida's Guiding Light. As I reflect upon my imperfect self, I live with gratitude for His Perfect Compassion which surrounds me at all times.

I shall follow Amida's Teachings. I shall understand the Right Path and resolve to spread the true Teachings.

I rejoice in Amida's Wisdom and Compassion. I shall respect and help my fellow men and work for the good of my community.

[Quelle: Dharma school service book / Dharma School Departmen, Buddhist Churches of America. -- [ohne Ort : ohne Verlag], 1981. -- 115 S. : Ill.  -- S. 1]


Every day we are surrounded by Amida's light of Wisdom and Compassion. When we become aware of this light, there is no need to designate special days. However, we tend to forget the meaning of Buddhist history and, therefore, the observance of a special religious day sharply focuses our attention on some historic event or an important Buddhist practice and deepens our appreciation of our rich heritage.

January 1 — New Year's Day (Shusho-e)

This is a day of dedication. With renewed resolution we dedicate ourselves to the way of the Nembutsu.

January 16 — Shinran Shonin Memorial Day (Ho-on-ko)

Ho-on-ko is a service in memory of Shinran Shonin (May 21, 1173-January 16, 1262) the founder of Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land Sect). Shinran Shonin was the first to teach absolute faith in Amida Buddha.

February 15 — Nirvana Day (Nehan-e)

On this day we solemnly observe the passing of Sakyamuni Buddha into Parinirvana.

March 21 — Higan (Higan-e)

Higan, meaning Other Shore, is a service conducted in spring on or about equinox day. At this time harmony rules throughout the universe. Therefore, we gather before the shrine of Amida Buddha to devote ourselves to the realization of this harmony in our inner lives.

April 8 — Buddha Day (Hanamatsuri)

This service is held to commemorate the birth of Gautama in Lumbini Garden. During the service a flower shrine known as Hanamido is set up in front of the main shrine as a symbol of Lumbini Garden. The sangha offers flowers and pours sweet tea over the image of the infant Buddha.

May 21 — Shinran Shonin Day (Gotan-e)

Shinran Shonin was born near Kyoto on May 21,1173. On this day we observe his birth as the founder of Jodo Shinshu.

July — August — Bon

Bon is a Buddhist Memorial Day. It is an occasion for rejoicing in the enlightenment offered by the Buddha. It is often referred to as a "Gathering of Joy."

September 1 — BCA Founding Day

This day marks the official introduction of Jodo Shinshu into the mainland United States. The Reverend Shuye Sonoda and the Reverend Kakuryo Nishijima arrived in San Francisco on September 1, 1899.

September 23 — Higan (Higan-e)

The sangha gathers twice a year during the spring and autumn to recall the practices of Six Paramita.

December 8 — Bodhi Day (Jodo-e)

Gautama meditated under the Bodhi Tree (Tree of Enlightenment) and became a Buddha, perfect in Wisdom and Compassion.

December 31 — New Year's Eve (Joya-e)

On New Year's Eve we meditate on the countless blessings we have received throughout the year and express our gratitude to our parents, our nation, all beings and Amida Buddha.

[Quelle: Dharma school service book / Dharma School Department, Buddhist Churches of America. -- [ohne Ort : ohne Verlag], 1981. -- 115 S. : Ill.  -- S. 13f.]

(Three Sacred Vows)

(Read Down)

Ga gon cho se gan
Hisshi mu jo do
Shi gan fu man zoku
Sei fu jo sho gaku

Ga o mu ryo ko
Fu i dai se shu
Fu sai sho bin gu
Sei fu jo sho gaku

Ga shi j o butsu do
Myo sho cho jippo
Ku kyo mi sho mon
Sei fu jo sho gaku

Ri yoku jin sho nen
Jo e shu bon gyo
Shi gu mu jo do
I sho tennin shi

Jin riki en dai ko
Fu sho mu sai do
Sho jo san ku myo
Ko sai shu yaku nan

Kai hi chi e gen
Messhi kon mo an
Hei soku sho aku do
Tsu datsu zen shu mon

Ko so jo man zoku
I yo ro jippo
Nichi gatsu shu ju ki
Ten ko on pu gen

I shu kai ho zo
Ko se ku doku ho
Jo o dai shu chu
Seppo shi shi ku

Ku yo issai butsu
Gu soku shu toku hon
Gan e shitsu jo man
Toku i san gai o

Nyo butsu mu ge chi
Tsu datsu mi fu sho
Gan ga ku e riki
To shi sai sho son

Shi gan nyakkoku ka
Dai sen o kan do
Ko ku sho tennin
To u chin myo ke


Gan ni shi ku doku
Byodo se issai 
Do hotsu bodai shin
Ojo anraku koku


















I establish the Vows unexcelled,
And reach the Highest Path, Bodhi,
Were these Vows unfulfilled,
I would never attain Enlightenment.

I will be the great provider,
Throughout innumerable kalpas,
Should I fail to save all in need,
I would never attain Enlightenment.

Upon my attaining Enlightenment,
If my Name were not heard anywhere,
In the ten quarters of the universe,
I would never attain Enlightenment.

Practicing the Holy Way -- selflessness,
Depth in right reflection and pure wisdom,
Aspiring toward the highest path,
I will be the teacher of devas and men.

My wondrous power by its great light,
Brightens the countless lands throughout,
Removes the darkness of the three defilements,
And delivers all from suffering and pain.

Opening the eyes of Wisdom,
I will end this darkness of ignorance.
Blocking all the paths of evil,
I will open the gate to Attainment.

Having attained Buddhahood untainted,
My august air shall illumine the ten quarters.
The sun and the moon being outshone,
The celestial lights shall hide in shame.

I will open the Dharma-storehouse
And bestow upon all the treasure of my virtues.
Constantly going among the masses,
I will preach the Dharma with a lion's roar.

Paying homage to all the Buddhas
I will be endowed with all virtues.
Vows and Wisdom completely realized,
I will be master of the three worlds.

As Buddha's wisdom unimpeded
Has no place its light cannot reach,
So my power of Merit and Wisdom
Shall be equal to the Honored One's.

If my vows be certainly fulfilled,
May this whole universe quake.
And may the host of devas
Rain wondrous blossoms from the sky.


[May the merits of the Vow benefit everybody equally. May all develop bodhicitta and may they be born in the land of tranquil pleasure. ]

[Quelle: Dharma school service book / Dharma Schol Department, Buddhist Churches of America. -- [ohne Ort : ohne Verlag], 1981. -- 115 S. : Ill.  -- S. 23,114f.]

Die Originalfassung in chinesischer Schrift sowie die Ergänzung bei der Übersetzung habe ich dazugefügt aus: -- Zugriff am 2005-05-31

Gathas (Lieder):

Abb.: Amida Buddha is with me [a.a.O., S. 32]

Abb.: Amida's Paradise [a.a.O., S. 36]

Abb.: A. R. Zorn: Right meditation [a.a.O., S. 83]

Weitere Lieder:

Lieder von Dorothy Hunt in

Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Materialien zum Neobuddhismus.  --   4. USA und Hawaii. -- 2. Buddhismus in Hawaii. -- URL:

Lieder von Paul Carus in:

Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Materialien zum Neobuddhismus.  --  4. USA und Hawaii. -- 3. Paul Carus (1852-1919). -- URL:

Aus: Traditions of Jôdoshinshû Hongwanji-ha


Kodani, Masao ; Hamada, Russell: Traditions of Jôdoshinshushû Hongwanji-ha. -- 4. printing, revised. -- Hanamatsuri : Pureland Publications, Senshin Buddhist Temple, 1995. -- 84 S. : Ill. ; 22 cm.


Officially founded on September 1, 1899 in San Francisco, what is today the Buddhist Churches of America began as an overseas missionary program of the Jodoshinshu Hongwanjiha (浄土真宗本願寺版), headquartered in Kyoto, Japan. Formerly known as the North American Buddhist Mission, (Hokubei Bukkyodan), the name was changed in 1944 to the Buddhist Churches of America or BCA. This was done by the national organization of Buddhists then headquartered in the Topaz Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah, one of the many camps in which Japanese and Japanese- Americans were incarcerated during World War II. It was an attempt to reorganize and "Americanize" the Sangha and to shift emphasis from the Japanese to the English language.

There has been a move in recent times to change the word "church" to "temple". The objection to the word "church" lies in its meaning of "house of God" since the Buddhists deny the existence of a supreme creator God. The word "temple" is preferred since the Japanese word "tera" (寺 )and the usual English translation "temple" both mean simply "a space marked off for a religious purpose."

To date, the BCA temples have been largely ethnic institutions composed almost entirely of Japanese and Japanese-American members. There has however, been a small but continuous participation in temple life of non-Japanese priests and laymen since the early 1900's.

Since Jodoshinshu is a layman-centered, non-monastic sect of Buddhism, the buildings of the temple complex are designed to serve a lay community of Buddhists rather than a separate order of monks. The Jodoshinshu clergy is by tradition and doctrine a married clergy, and its temples are committed not to a mountain seclusion but to cities and towns. Unlike other Buddhist traditions, the Sangha in Jodoshinshu refers to all Buddhists and not just to the order of monks or priests. Thus the buildings in a typical BCA temple complex serve three basic purposes:
  1. A ceremonial or ritual purpose: This takes place in the Hondo or main hall of the complex. The Hondo houses the altar and is the main building of the complex. The Hondo is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Seido (sacred hall), a word used in reference to the main hall of a Confucian temple or to the sanctuary of a Christian church. A large temple may have one or more additional altar rooms usually referred to as "chapels," which are used for family memorial services. There may also be a Nokotsudo (納骨堂  -cremated-remains-hall) or columbarium. These may either be a part of the Hondo or a separate building.
  2. An instructional purpose: There is usually a classroom building or area of classrooms for instruction. Instruction ranges from Buddhism, Japanese language, Japanese and/or Buddhist culture to crafts, cooking, etc. Meetings, community programs, etc. also take place in these classrooms.

  3. A social-cultural purpose: Usually called the Social Hall, this building invariably contains a large kitchen and seating area for banquets, shows, receptions, various cultural events, and the serving of Otoki or vegetarian meals after Buddhist holiday services.

In some cases all three buildings are combined into one multi-purpose building. Some temples have gymnasiums, teahouses, bell towers, minister's residence, etc.

Traditionally the temples were not only religious centers, but social, cultural, educational, and economic self-help centers as well. Prior to world War II, almost the whole of Japanese-American life outside the home took place at the temple. This was in keeping with the tradition of village temples in Japan being the center of village life. This tradition was reinforced from the outside in America by a history of strong anti-Japanese sentiment, especially in the Pacific coast states. In the early period, old Christian churches were bought and converted into temples. It is only in more recent times that new temples have been built along more Buddhist lines. The Christian influence in architecture, music, and service format however is unmistakable. Recent trends have shown a return to more traditional forms of architecture and liturgical music.

In the traditional language of Jodoshinshu, in its architecture, and in its liturgical music and ritual movements, there is a strong sense of the horizontal rather than the vertical. References are to the "inner" and "outer," to the "left" and "right" rather than to "above" and "below". In architecture, the roof is the main element of the buildings, with a sweeping horizontal thrust. The buildings are rectangular with the entrance on the widest side rather than on the narrow side as is the case in Christian buildings. As you enter the building, the altar area will be along the entire length of the opposite wall. The eye is drawn from side to side rather than upwards. The seating area is tatami mats placed between the many pillars which support the roof. The effect is one of walking through a forest towards the altar of Enlightenment - recalling the origins of Buddhism in the forests of India.

In BCA temples, the tendency has been to use a central aisle with the entrance to the building placed at one narrow end and the altar at the other end. Although this has solved the "problem" of seating in chairs the largest number of people in the space allotted, it has also resulted in a confusing clash of lines; a long narrow seating arrangement with a central aisle which draws the eye upward, in a building whose lines are otherwise horizontal.

The expressions of Jodoshinshu awakening have always been horizontal. There is a strong sense of being in touch with the earth, of being supported by it, of being rooted in it. The expression is not one of going upward and out of what we are, but one of going down and inward into what we really are. Instead of soaring vertically, it is a vibrating horizontally. This horizontal "feel" will be encountered again and again in Buddhist music, dance, ritual, architecture, etc.

HONDO - 本堂  - "main-hall": The Hondo is the principal building of the temple complex and is divided into two parts: the Naijin (内陣 - inner-area) or altar area, and the Gejin (下陣  -outer-area) or seating area. With the rise of the Pure Land schools in Japan, a new type of architecture was created to meet the needs of its followers. Prior to the 13th century in Japan, the Naijin took up the major portion of the floor space of a temple. This was to accommodate the large number of monks who lived in monastic surroundings. Rituals were conducted by the monks alone. Laymen did not participate in the rituals but only attended as observers in a small area called the Gejin. The new emphasis placed upon communal gatherings of laymen and priests together by the Pure Land schools resulted in the shrinking of the Naijin area and the enlarging of the Gejin area.

This is particularly the case with Jodoshinshu where Shinran Shonin had effected the most radical changes in the definition of the Buddhist clergy and its function. Until Shinran, Buddhist monks maintained a celibate life of secluded practice in mountain monasteries or taught in metropolitan temples that catered to the aristocracy. They were required to cut off all ties with their families and the secular world. Shinran however, viewed himself as being "neither monk nor layman" (Hiso-Hizoku), a position which gave rise to a new definition of Buddhist clergy, one which is perhaps best translated as "priest". Shinran considered all beings as "fellow travellers" (Ondogyo) and "fellow brothers and sisters" (Ondobo) on the same path of the Nembutsu. Laymen as well as priests were to be participants in ceremonies and rituals and not simply observers. With no monks or nuns, Jodoshinshu clergy, male and female, were simply termed priests. Later history was to complicate this egalitarian view of Shinran with the creation of a hereditary priesthood in Jodoshinshu.

Although the idea of communal gatherings of laymen and priests in the temple was to greatly change the course of Japanese Buddhism, certain distinctions between priests and laymen continued. One such rule is the tradition that only a priest may enter the Naijin, and this only when he or she is in full vestments. There are no doubt sociological reasons for this rule, but the religious reason is fairly clear. The Naijin is a representation of the Buddhist concept of the universe, and more importantly, of the realm of Enlightenment. Thus only one who was well versed in the meaning of the symbols found in the Naijin was prepared enough to enter it. This meant a priest in full vestments, full vestments being a sign of his qualification. One who entered the Naijin had to know what he was entering into, what was required of him in thought, speech, and action, so that the ritual he performed resulted in the deepening of understanding and naturalness of action which was his goal.

In Jodoshinshu the order was reversed - the Naijin and the ritual performed in it was ideally the natural expression of what one had been awakened to. The ritual was in praise of the Truth called Amida that one had been made aware of. It was not a means to that awareness but rather the result of it. Like the Nembutsu, the chanting and other ritual acts were seen as the expression of gratitude and joy which naturally arose from the awakening experience. In orthodox language, they are the expressions of gratitude and joy for the Wisdom and Compassion bestowed upon us by Amida Buddha.

Short of this awakening experience however, the ritual and Nembutsu nevertheless have a powerful teaching function. Just as the formal study of the doctrine prepares the mind to truly receive the Dharma, so chanting and Nembutsu, and the physical movements of the ritual prepare the other five senses to receive the Dharma as it is (sono mama). Together they are the practices which reorient our six senses from the normal order of things to the natural order flowing beneath them. As regards the rule of entering the Naijin, practical considerations have made the rule more flexible in BCA temples."

[Kodani, Masao ; Hamada, Russell: Traditions of Jôdoshinshushû Hongwanji-ha. -- 4. printing, revised. -- Hanamatsuri : Pureland Publications, Senshin Buddhist Temple, 1995. -- 84 S. : Ill. ; 22 cm. -- S. 1 -4]

"NENJU - 念珠 - "thought-beads": The Nenju is also called a Juzu ( 数珠 : chapelet, rosaire  -"bead-counter"). Because Jodoshinshu does not use it as an aid in meditation, it is more properly called a Nenju-a string of beads which directs our thoughts on the Buddha. The Nenju is a string of beads used in rituals and in other Buddhist meditations. The Catholic rosary and the Muslim "worry beads" are thought to have been derived from this string of beads from Buddhist India. Through the centuries, the symbolism of the Nenju has evolved to a degree of considerable complexity. There are as many meanings of the size and number, shape and material of the beads as there are Buddhist sects. In general, the use of the Nenju is limited to the Mahayana schools of Buddhism and is most highly developed in the esoteric schools. Jodoshinshu has not developed a separate symbolism of their own.

Abb.: Nenju (念珠)

Jodoshinshu priests carry a Nenju of 108 beads. This number does not count the 4 small Shitenno (四天王  - four-heavenly-kings) beads which represent the Four Heavenly Kings said to dwell on the four sides of Mt. Sumeru, the central mountain of any world system. Also not included in the counting are the two large beads called Oyadama (親玉  - parent beads) and the auxiliary beads hanging from the Oyadama. The remaining 108 beads represent the 108 Bonno (百 八 煩惱  - afflicting passions) of man that bind him to the world of Samasara, the Ocean of Birth-Death. The following breakdown of the 108 Bonno is the most common.

  • Six types of Bonno can arise when the sense organs (eyes, ears, tongue, nose, body, and mind) perceive an object.
  • The objects perceived may be considered desirable, undesirable, neither desirable nor undesirable, pleasurable, painful, or neither pleasurable nor painful.
  • Six possibilities for each of the six sense objects gives 36 possibilities.
  • Each of these 36 possibilities exist in the past, present, or future so that a total of 108 possibilities exist.

The number 108 is traditionally an ideal number since it is a multiple of the number 9 which has the greatest potential for variation.

In Buddhist India, the Nenju was a special attribute of the Bodhisattva Avalokites'vara (Kannon Bosatsu - 観音菩薩 ). Since the 108 beads represented the 108 Bonno of the Samsaric world, the Nenju of Avalokites'vara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion signifies the Bodhisattva's desire to liberate sentient beings from the 108 fetters. And since Avalokitesvara is the Bodhisattva emanating from the Buddha Amida, the Nenju, be closely associated with Amida.

The Nenju of 108 beads is divided into two sections of 54 beads each, hence the two Oyadama or parent beads. Each side is further divided into sections of 7, 14, and 33 by the two Shintenno beads. With this arrangement, the four Shintenno beads form a square representing the four cardinal directions when the Nenju is folded in two.

Various explanations are given for the division of the strand of beads into 7, 14, and 33. In the Shingon School for example, the formula Namu Daishi Henjo Kongo is recited 7 times, or 3x7 times. Thus one recites the formula once for each bead until he comes to the first Shitenno bead (for a total of 7 recitations) or until he comes to the second Shitenno bead (for a total of 21 recitations). There are other traditions which also use the Nenju as a counter and the arrangement of the beads is explained according to their own particular doctrine. The word Juzu (bead-counter) refers to this use as a means of counting recitations, one's breath, etc. in meditative exercises. Jodoshinshu however, does not stress the number of times one recites the Nembutsu and the Nenju is used only symbolically in the Gassho.

For this reason, it is more proper to refer to this string of beads as a Nenju rather than a Juzu. The arrangement of the beads has no meaning peculiar to Jodoshinshu doctrine but is simply a traditional arrangement common to most schools of Buddhism. The symbolism of the Nenju is therefore largely a product of those schools prescribing a specific meditative practice, the Shingon Sect in particular.

The Jomyo bead is a counter bead which is slipped up the string when the counting of the beads is begun and slipped down at the completion of the counting of one cycle of 108. The Kazutori consists of a double row of 5 beads representing the Ten Perfections or Paramitas. In the above diagram, two sets of Kazutori are found at one end of the Nenju. In some cases, one set is placed at each end of the Nenju, but the double set at one end is the arrangement used in Jodoshinshu. The set of 10 Kazutori represent the Ten Paramitas which lead to Enlightenment.

  • Dâna Giving
  • S'îla Keeping the Precepts
  • Kshânti Perseverance
  • Vîrya Vigor
  • Dhyâna Meditation
  • Prajñâ Wisdom
  • Upâya Skillful means
  • Pranidhâna The will to act
  • Bala The strength to act
  • Jñâna Knowledge, comprehending and expounding

At the end of the Kazutori are the Tsuyudama (dewdrop-beads) named for their shape and representing the Wonderful Twin Fruit of Bodhi and Nirvana. The Wonderful Twin Fruit are reached by descending the Ten Paramitas symbolized by the Kazutori (count-taking) beads. Honen Shonin was known to have used this type of Juzu as a counter for the recitation of the Nembutsu.

The single strand of beads is an abbreviation of the 108 bead Nenju used by the priests. Laymen generally carry the single strand Nenju. The single strand Nenju should have 2 Shitenno beads, 1 Oyadama, and 9 beads or a multiple thereof (9, 18, 27, 36, or 54) depending on the size of the beads. The number of beads between the Shitenno beads and the Oyadama is 8 beads in a 36-bead strand, 6 beads in a 27-bead strand, and 4 beads in an 18-bead strand. In some cases where unusually carved or unusually large beads are used, the number of beads is not strictly adhered to. This is especially the case with the small wrist Nenju whose bead number is according to the size of the wearer's wrist. Single strand Nenju with a tassel are usually for women and those with a simple string arrangement are usually for men. The 108-bead Nenju can have either string or tassel, or very often both. The Hongwanji-ha or Nishihongwanji tradition generally does not use the round, pom-pom-like tassel.

The Nenju is always held in the left hand since the left hand represents the world of Samsara with its 108 Bonno. The right hand represents the world of Nirvana. It is through the use of the Nenju that the two utterly different worlds of Samsara and Nirvana are seen in their essential Oneness - that is to say, the bringing together of the left hand of Samsara and the right hand of Nirvana into the Oneness of the Gassho. From a Jodoshinshu point of view, one can say that the left hand of Samsara, of the 108 passions of egotism is the world of Namo, of "I, myself, me". The right hand of Nirvana is the world of Amidabutsu, the real world of Amida Buddha. The Nenju brings together these two seemingly opposite worlds into the Oneness of Namoamidabutsu; not Namo, or Amidabutsu separately, but Namoamidabutsu.

In the Nishi Hongwanji tradition of Jodoshinshu, the Nenju encircles the hands in Gassho, with the tassel or strings hanging below the two palms and the two thumbs resting lightly on the beads. There are a number of ways of holding the Nenju depending upon the sect, school, or tradition of Buddhism. The Jodo Sect of Honen Shonin for example, places the Nenju around the thumbs of the hands in Gassho. The Higashi Honganji tradition of Jodoshinshu places the Nenju around the hands in Gassho with the string or tassel end held between the thumbs and base of the index fingers. Priests of the Shingon Sect (Koyasan) use several gestures depending upon the ceremony, one of them being to drape the Nenju around the index finger of the left hand and the middle finger of the right hand at the Oyadama and enclosing the strand of beads between the two palms. The beads are then rubbed together producing a rattling sound. When not in use, the Nenju is held in the left hand or placed around the left wrist since they represent the left hand world of Samsara."

[Kodani, Masao ; Hamada, Russell: Traditions of Jôdoshinshushû Hongwanji-ha. -- 4. printing, revised. -- Hanamatsuri : Pureland Publications, Senshin Buddhist Temple, 1995. -- 84 S. : Ill. ; 22 cm. -- S. 27 - 30]


In English the word "ritual" is very often used to mean a habitual, mindless activity. Ritual is often regarded as unimportant relative to the activity of logical thinking. The Buddhists have long known the importance of their being a balance in the six senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought. Awareness is not limited to mental awareness, but is one which involves the totality of the senses. Buddhist ritual is an exercise towards awareness with one's body, speech and mind - the three categories of Karma or "action". The body-action takes the form of various body postures and hand gestures; the speech-action takes the form of chanting, singing, recitations, and breathing; and the thought-action form of study, deep thought, calm thought, etc. and does take all three forms of thought, speech, and action.

GASSHO - 合掌 - "joined-palms": Añjali in Sanskrit. The Gassho is considered one of the most beautiful of gestures and is the Indian gesture of greeting, farewell, thanks, and reverence. In ancient India, there were twelve forms of the Gassho. In Jodoshinshu, the first of the twelve forms is used. It is called the "Kenjitsushin Gassho" (堅 實 心 合掌 - "steadfast-being-Gassho"") and is formed by simply placing the palms and ten fingers together at chest level and at a 45 degree angle. It is the symbol of the multitude of different things being, at the same time, One. Among Buddhists the world over, this Gassho is used to express hello, good-bye, and thank you. As a gesture of reverence for the Buddha, this Gassho is performed with a deep bow from the waist called Raihai in Japanese. In later centuries, this Gassho was adopted by the Christians as the gesture of prayer.

RAIHAI - 礼拝 - "acknowledge-revere": The physical postures of revering or worshipping the Buddha are many. In India there were nine forms in ascending degrees of formalness, in China there were eighteen, and in Japan there were three forms.
  • Gotaitochi Raihai "five-body parts-cast to-the ground-Raihai" - This is the most formal of the Raihai in all Buddhist countries. It is performed by touching the ground with both knees, both elbows, and forehead. In some traditions, it is done by lying completely flat on the ground face down.
  • Choki Gassho Raihai - "tall-kneeling-Gassh ô-Raihai" - This form of the Raihai is performed by kneeling with knees and toes touching the ground and the thighs and body erect. A slightly different form of this Raihai is performed in very formal ceremonies by Jodoshinshu priests.
  • Teishu Gassho Raihai - "lowering-head-Gassho-Raihai" - This is performed by sitting or standing erect, bowing ones head, forming the Kenjitsushin Gassho, and bowing the body from the waist to a 45 degree angle.

The above are the three kinds of Raihai in Japanese Buddhism in descending degree of formalness. In Jodoshinshu, only the Teishu Gassho Raihai is used, with the exception of very formal ceremonies performed by priests.

YUHAI - "salutation-bow": This is a slight bow from the waist without the Gassho and to an angle of about 15 degrees. One performs the Yuhai when entering and exiting the Hondo and when passing in front of the Gohonzon.

HOKO - "walking": One begins walking with the left foot and withdraws with the right foot. When entering the Hondo or Naijin of the Hondo, one begins with the left foot which represents the world of Samsara. When one exits, one exits with the right foot which represents the world of Nirvana. One indicates where one is coming from: when entering the Hondo, one comes from the world of Samsara when exiting the Hondd, one comes from the world of Nirvana.

CHODAI -"place on the head": Raising something to one's head while bowing slightly is the most formal way of reverently receiving something. Before opening a religious book, the book is raised to the forehead, then opened. Likewise, when finished with the book, it is closed and raised to the forehead before being put down. This is called Chodai sum or "to perform the Chodai".

HAICHO - "bow-hearing": This is the bowing of the head slightly when listening to a reading of the Gobunsho or other religious text read in formal style.


Variously called the Triple-Gem, Ti-Sarana, Tri-Ratna, etc. the Three Treasures is the basic affirmation of ones being a Buddhist. It is the simple ritual of reciting:

I put my faith in Buddha or, I take refuge in the Dharma
I put my faith in Dharma or, I take refuge in the Sangha
I put my faith in Sangha or, I take refuge in the Buddha

There are many other translations whose differences revolve around the Sanskrit word "Namo" (南無), which has the meanings of to take refuge in, to return to, to rely upon, etc. Shinran Shonin, in his Kyogyoshinsho, defines Namo as meaning Kimyo (歸命) or "to take refuge in". Kimyo literally means "impelled to return to ". The word "Buddha" refers to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni as a man who awoke to the Truth; or to the Truth itself as Buddha - in Jodoshinshu, the Buddha Amida. "Dharma" is the teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni; or the teaching which leads to the Truth (Amida Buddha). "Sangha" in the Mahayana tradition is the brotherhood of Buddhists, priest and lay alike. In the Theravada tradition, the Sangha refers only to the brotherhood of monks and nuns. The Three Treasures are not separate entities but three aspects of a single whole. For this reason, Triple-Gem or Triple Treasure is perhaps a more accurate translation. In any case, the recitation of the Three Treasures is the basic ritual act, whether it is recited in English (Three Treasures), chanted in Shomyo style (Shishinrai), or recited in Japanese, (Sankiemon - 三帰依文).

NEMBUTSU - 念仏 - "recite-Buddha's name": The recitation of the Nembutsu is the practice emphasized in Jodoshinshu. This is the simple recitation of Namoamidabutsu. The recitation of the Nembutsu is not the cause of ones awakening but it is encouraged as a practice to keep the teaching of the Nembutsu before the "mind's eye." Independent recitation of the Nembutsu is traditional. The leader-and-response repetition of the Nembutsu is an American invention created to encourage independent recitation of the Nembutsu. More often than not however, it has resulted in a reluctance to say the Nembutsu unless someone is there to lead in its recitation.

MON SOKU SHIN - "listening-is-awakening": After having physically bowed to the Dharma, and after having vocally "returned" to the Dharma, one now mentally listens to the Dharma in the form of readings from scripture, readings from commentaries, sermons, etc. Having done all three ritual acts, one is now hopefully prepared to "hear the light" ( ^^ -monko) of the Dharma, that is to say, to hear the Light of Truth of the Dharma with ones entire being."

[Kodani, Masao ; Hamada, Russell: Traditions of Jôdoshinshushû Hongwanji-ha. -- 4. printing, revised. -- Hanamatsuri : Pureland Publications, Senshin Buddhist Temple, 1995. -- 84 S. : Ill. ; 22 cm. -- S. 31 - 33]

Buddhist Sangha Award for Buddhist Scouts

Abb.: Sangha Award



The purpose of the Sangha Award is to give the Buddhist Scouts a practical guidance in achieving the spiritual pledge made in the Scout Oath and Law, thereby developing a boy whose views and actions in life would stem from the highest of the Buddhist thoughts.

The Sangha Award program aims to do this by leading the boy:
  1. to attain understanding and faith in the Buddha,
  2. to learn the Teachings, and
  3. to practice the harmonious Buddhist way of life, in the spirit of universal brotherhood of all living things.

These are the dynamic aspects of the boy's complete acceptance of the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha).

Further, the Award program duly recognizes the twelfth point of the Scout Law that the scout "is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion." The scout is expected to receive religious training and participate actively in his temple program.

Finally the Sangha Award program gives the scout a solid basis for fuller understanding and a greater appreciation of all phases of the scouting program.


The Sangha Award is a medal consisting of a pendant, ribbon, and a bar. The pendant is the Wheel of Dharma, sometimes called the Wheel of Life. It is a symbol which represents the spreading of Buddha's Teachings. The Wheel is suspended from a multi-colored ribbon representing the aura of Buddha's many virtues. This ribbon is attached to a crossbar in which is inscribed the Sanskrit word, "Sangha," meaning brotherhood.

The Boy Scouts of America has authorized the Sangha Award to be worn on the Official Uniform over the left breast pocket, to the left of the Eagle Badge, or, when the Eagle Badge is not worn, centered above the flap of the left breast pocket.

The Award is presented by the temple to a Buddhist Scout in recognition of his spiritual growth as shown by his fulfilling the Award requirements.

The requirements are made quite flexible to suit different conditions, so that any Buddhist Scout who sincerely and earnestly applies himself to meeting the requirements of this Award will find it to be very rewarding.


Any Buddhist boy who is a registered member of a Scout Troup or Explorer unit may apply and begin qualifying for the Sangha Award. Since this is an individual program, a Buddhist Scout who is a member of any unit may qualify whether or not his unit is sponsored by a Buddhist temple. A boy can start at any rank in scouting, but in order to receive the Award he must be at least a First Class, and an Explorer must have had at least one year in exploring.


  1. Send for an application form by writing to the National Buddhist Committee on Scouting.
  2. Mail the application form together with a one dollar registration fee. On approval of your application, you will receive a Service Record Book and a suggested list of study materials.
  3. Begin your study under close guidance of your minister or a counselor appointed by your minister.
  4. After you have fulfilled all the requirements of stage one satisfactorily, have your minister write a letter of certification and you will be given a certificate.
  5. After fulfilling all the requirements for the Sangha Award to the satisfaction of your minister or counselor, arrangements will be made for you to appear before the Sangha Award Board of Review.
  6. If the Sangha Award Board of Review finds that you have maintained the high standard set for the requirements, your Record Book will be certified, and with a letter of certification, sent to the National Buddhist Committee on Scouting for final approval.
  7. When all approval is made, a Sangha Award will be forwarded to the minister of your temple to be presented to you at an appropriate ceremony.


The Sangha Award program is administered and supervised by the National Buddhist Committee on Scouting. However, the Boy Scouts of America through its National Regional, and District Councils is giving full support and encouragement to this program. The scout leaders are acquainted with the church award program.

For further information contact your local Buddhist temple, your local Scout Executive, or the National Buddhist Committee on Scouting whose address is below.


1710 Octavia Street San Francisco, California 94109

Hawaii Area Office:

1727 Pali Highway

Honolulu, Hawaii 96813




  1. Relate briefly the life of Sakyamuni Buddha and name about five principal events of His life, their dates, and point out on a map where they occurred.
  2. Explain what is meant by a Buddha.
  3. Explain in your own words what Buddha means to you in your personal life.
  4. Show that you have provided the necessary daily care of the shrine in your home for at least three months.
  5. Demonstrate the correct method of shrine arrangement.
  6. Show evidence of personal daily morning and evening meditation before the shrine.
  7. Explain and demonstrate correct etiquette and procedures before the shrine, including gassho, use of meditation beads (juzu), incense burning, etc.; and give the symbolic significance of each.


  1. Explain briefly some of the principal teachings of Buddhism and answer the following:
    1. What are the Four Noble Truths? Noble Eightfold Path?
    2. What are the three characteristics of existence?
    3. Explain what Buddhist Karma means.
    4. What are the eight sufferings? The ten evils? The six para-mitas? The five precepts?
  2. State briefly the history of the founder and the development of your own denomination.


  1. Show that you, express Buddhist gratitude regularly before and after meals.
  2. Describe the administration, the organization, and the affiliated organizations of your own local temple.
  3. Show that you attend Sunday School services regularly.
  4. Choice of one:
    1. Plan and complete a project satisfactory to the minister or qualified counselor.
    2. Give twenty-five hours of dana to your temple by any of the following methods:
      1. Distribution of temple literature, posters, etc.
      2. Collection of articles, etc. for the needy.
      3. Doing errands.
      4. Repairing temple property, decorating rooms.
      5. Cleaning yard, helping in the kitchen, etc.
      6. Clerical services.
      7. Others recommended by the minister or qualified counselor.
  5. Know the major acitivities and the events of your temple for the year.
  6. Name some of the social welfare activities of your temple and show how you had helped in one or more of them.



  1. Relate the life of Sakyamuni Buddha including the background of His time, the spiritual significance of the various events which led to His enlightenment.
  2. Explain Buddha-nature and why there could be many Buddhas.
  3. Give the meaning of your shrine symbol.
  4. Reach an understanding with your minister or qualified counselor on "Faith."
  5. Relate briefly the significance and development of the use of the shrine in Buddhist services.
  6. Give the meaning of the historic Buddhist symbols.
  7. Lead a family service at home for at least seven different times in three months, using Ti-Sarana (Three Treasures) and any of the following: A sutra of your temple, readings from Dhamma-pada, passages from the Sunday School text or Young Buddhist Association Service text, or similar text.


  1. Explain the following:
    1. The aim of Buddha's teachings.
    2. Enlightenment of Nirvana
    3. The Buddhist concept of self
    4. Rebirth
  2. Explain briefly the characteristics of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism.
  3. Explain the three aspects of Buddha (Trikaya).
  4. Name the sutras used in your temple, and give a brief explanation of the sutras and the fundamental teachings on which your temple is based.
  5. Exemplify in your daily living the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, the six paramitas, and the five precepts in the light of I he principal beliefs of your temple.


  1. Give the meaning and relate the history of the Buddhist Sangha.
  2. Show that you are giving financial contributions regularly to your temple, as well as attending your temple and/or Y.B.A. services.
  3. Know the history and the administrative organization of your temple system in our country, and include the counterpart of your temple in some foreign country.
  4. Explain one or more of your temple's foreign welfare services, and show how you have participated in it.
  5. Show active participation in the youth organization of your own temple.
  6. Show ability and willingness to do any one of the following:
    1. Lead a Y.B.A. service, Sunday School, or choir.
    2. Be on the Sunday School teaching staff.
    3. Serve as leading officer of the youth organization.
    4. Work as conference committee chairman.
    5. Any other recommended by the minister or qualified counselor.
  7. Describe a few of the present worldwide Buddhist movements.
  8. As a Buddhist, show how through your own daily living you can contribute toward the achievement of harmony among mankind."

[Quelle: Eidmann, Philipp Karl: Young people's introduction to Buddhism : a Sangha Award study book for Shin Buddhist Scouts. -- San Francisco, CA : Buddhist Churches of America, [o.J.]. -- 136 S. -- S. 129 - 136]

The History of the Buddhist Churches of America: Problems of Propagation and Projections for the Future / by Rev. Masao Kodani

"The History of the Buddhist Churches of America: Problems of Propagation and Projections for the Future

by Rev. Masao Kodani (Senshin Buddhist Temple)

Originally Published In: Senshin Buddhist Temple, Prajna: Light of Compassion, Vol. 41, No. 4, April 1995 [edited for Dharma Rain]

This paper is a short presentation of the history of the Jodo Shinshu Honganji-ha temples in the continental United States, its current problems, and a projection for the future. Because the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) has remained a predominantly Japanese-American based institution, this paper will discuss the history of the BCA in terms of a generational chronology; that is to say, into the periods of Issei (First Generation), Nisei (Second Generation), and Sansei (Third Generation).

The Issei Period:

The Issei period can be divided again into two periods. The first period, from 1885 to about 1907, is characterized by Japanese immigration to the US following the pattern of dekasegi immigration. The idea of dekasegi was to leave one's native place to find work else where and return with accumulated wages. The first large overseas dekasegi was to the kingdom of Hawaii in the period 1885 to 1894. This was followed by immigration to the continental US The Japanese government, not wanting to present a picture of "uncivilized Japanese laborers," was very careful in limiting the number and "quality" of these overseas Japanese laborers. These immigrant laborers were, for example, required to have proof of contracted labor and a guarantee of return passage. The attitude that the Japanese government showed towards these laborers was at best ambivalent. The problems of these laborers was not a concern of the Japanese government so long as the Japanese government or Japan more generally was allowed to look good. This attitude was not missed by these early immigrant workers who coined the phrase kimin, which literally means "an abandoned people," to describe themselves (see "The Issei," Ichioka, Yuji, The Free Press; p. 4).

Because the majority of Japanese immigrating to the continental United States (as well as to the Kingdom of Hawaii) came from areas of Japan that are traditional strongholds of Jodo Shinshu Honganji-ha (Nishi Honganji)--Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Northern Kyushu, and Kagoshima prefectures--a petition was sent to the Honganji-ha mother temple (Honganji) for permission to establish a temple in San Francisco and request that a priest from the Honganji be sent. A similar petition had been sent by the Japanese Buddhists living in the Kingdom of Hawaii ten years earlier. One of the reasons for this official request may have been due to the experience of bogus priests swindling money from the Japanese workers saying they were collecting funds to build temples. The petition was approved by the Honganji and two missionary priests, Rev., Dr. Shuye Sonoda and Rev. Kakuryo Nishijima, were sent to San Francisco. They arrived on September 1, 1899. This is the date officially recognized as the beginning of the BCA.

From about 1908, the second Issei period began. This second period saw a switch from labor in services, agriculture, railroads, mining, lumber, and fishing industries to farming and small businesses. Perhaps motivated by the ambivalent attitude shown by the Japanese government towards them, this was a conscious effort on the part of the Issei to become permanent residents of America and to set down roots. In addition, the Japanese government also facilitated this shift in labor by allowing only businessmen and farmers to bring wives from Japan. Laborers were not permitted to bring wives. Between 1910 and 1920 many women entered Issei society in America, establishing a settled family life. Although family life in America began during this period, this was also a period of intense anti-Japanese activity in the west coast states, and especially California. In the greater San Francisco area, attempts were made to segregate Japanese and Japanese-American school children. Segregated schools also existed in communities in the Sacramento delta area. In 1913, California passed its California Alien Land Act which forbade ownership of land by aliens "ineligible to citizenship." This group included all Asians. In 1922 the US Supreme Court ruled that Japanese and other Asians were ineligible for naturalization by reason of race. This ruling was followed by the Immigration Act of 1924 which prohibited immigration by aliens ineligible to citizenship.

It was within this social atmosphere that these immigrants from Japan tried to establish families in America. An important part of this was the growing Buddhist temples and Christian churches. Following the example of the Young Men's Christian Association, the Buddhists formed the Young Men's Buddhist Association. Buddhist gatherings took the form of the chanting of sutras followed by sermons, informal talks, or more formal lectures. Study classes were conducted on Saturday nights with services and more formal lectures on Sunday. With growing non-Japanese interest in Buddhism, services and lectures for "non-Asians" were conducted on Monday nights. From its very beginnings, Jodo Shinshu Buddhism was purposely adapted to Christian America. This can be seen in the format of its "services," its lectures, and in the name of its temples as "Buddhist Associations (bukkyokai)" or "Buddhist Churches (bukkyo kyokai)" rather than the more proper title of temple. This ambiguity would have greater implications in the future when later generations, whose understanding of Jodo Shinshu was not as great and whose inability to access the Japanese language resources that helped explain the doctrine, would take over. It was not, for example, until the 1970s and the growing publication of English materials explaining the doctrine of Jodo Shinshu that these Buddhist Churches began to change their names to Buddhist Temples.

Although the identity of the temple as a temple did not really begin until the 1970s, these Jodo Shinshu temples quickly grew in areas of heavy Japanese concentration throughout the west coast states of Washington, Oregon, and most especially in California. During this first half of the Issei period temples were affiliated under the organization known as the Hokubei Bukkyodan (North American Buddhist Mission) which included temples in Canada.

The early decades of the Issei were made up almost entirely of young single men or men who came alone to America to work and return to Japan with money (dekasegi). It was a segregated society of young men working long hours of mostly physical labor. Many of the Japanese women in America in the early years of the 20th century were prostitutes brought to America by Japanese procurers called pejoratively "Ameri-goro" or "American thugs." Nevertheless, a common Issei saying of the time was to enjoy the weekend of one's paycheck with the three "hei" or "sanpei" of "nombei" (drinking), "sukebei" (womanizing), and "bakappei" (a form of Chinese gambling). Chances to get together socially were few and far between and such occasions as funerals and memorial services became very important social as well as religious occasions. It was, for example, common practice during this period for Issei members of a temple to attend a funeral at the temple even if the deceased was not known to them. They would take their "koden" (the custom of giving the mourning family money to help pay for the expenses of the funeral) in the spirit of assuring that any Japanese who died in America would have a proper funeral. In this society of males, the money left over from the Koden donations went to provide food and drink after the funeral. The party which ensued was fondly looked forward to by those attending the funeral. Funerals became events of great social importance.

In the second period of the Issei, men brought their wives or arranged for "picture-bride" marriages from Japan. With the coming of Japanese women and the establishing of family life, the sometimes raucous parties after the funeral came to an end. Gifts of tea, cakes, manju (Japanese confectionery), dishes, postage stamps, etc., and donations to the temple were made from the money left over from the received Koden. The attitude that un-used Koden money should not be used for the personal use of surviving family members remains strong to this day.

Because this period was marked by an intense anti-Japanese sentiment, the Issei and their children were not generally permitted to mix with other races socially. In many cases, Asians were segregated into separate public schools. Those who were allowed to attend "mixed" public schools were typically not encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities such as dances and parties. Because of this fact, the temple became the center of all activity other than work or school. To meet the social needs of the Nisei children temples and churches began to create their own social and athletic programs which most notably included Japanese cultural and language classes. Although classes in Ikebana, Chanoyu, Shuji, Shigin, Shamisen, Biwa, Koto, Shakuhachi, Gagaku, Noh, Tanka, Haiku, Judo, Kendo, Karate, Kyudo, Naginata, Japanese cooking, Sumie were taught at both the Japanese Christian churches and Buddhist Temples, this was especially true for the Buddhist temple. At the Buddhist temple, Japanese language classes for Nisei children were typically held every day after public American school and all day Saturday. Sunday was spent at the temple observing religious services. The Nisei children of the Issei knew only school, Japanese school, home chores, farm work, evening homework, Japanese school on Saturday, and temple services and activities on Sunday. The few social activities available to these children were all found at the temple.

Although some of these early temples were built by the membership, the original temples tended to be converted Christian churches or other building that was purchased. Money to purchase and maintain these buildings were collected through membership dues, donations, and fundraising events. A resident priest was hired to serve that temple and was paid a monthly salary generally supplemented by honorariums. During the Issei period, the temple was run by an all male board of directors who annually chose a cabinet of President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer to lead them. The board met monthly to conduct the business of the temple in conjunction with the resident priest. Affiliated organizations grew and proliferated as Nisei children grew older and began to have children of their own.

By the early 1940s, the majority of Nisei were teenagers, many entering college and the American mainstream, at least educationally if not socially. The temples still remained important centers for socializing where one could meet a future marriage partner at an athletic meet, conference, seminar, fund raising event, Bon Odori, etc. The Buddhist temples were flourishing with the first Japanese-American students being sent to Japan to study for the Buddhist priesthood. The need for and emphasis on English as the language of instruction was clearly seen, and the recruiting and training of English-speaking priests became a priority.

The Nisei Period:

All this came to a sudden end with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Because of their association with traditional Japan, many Buddhist priests living in the Pacific Coast states were arrested and imprisoned by the FBI. Their families did not know of their whereabouts for many months, and in some cases years. In this atmosphere of fear and rumor, anything which might connect you with Japan was hidden or destroyed for fear of arrest by the FBI. For Buddhists especially, the very "Japaneseyness" of the temples made them suspect. Japanese books, sutras, butsudan (family altars), gagaku and other musical instruments, Girl's Day and Boy's Day dolls, martial arts gear, etc. were either buried or destroyed. Those that survived were in warehouses that survived pilfering or put in the safekeeping of American friends until after the war.

The leadership of the Buddhist temples was removed almost overnight, leaving inexperienced but English-speaking Nisei youth to deal with the government authorities. The leadership of the Japanese-American community was suddenly taken out of the hands of the largely non-English speaking Issei and fell into the hands of the young Nisei who could communicate in English with the government authorities. The transition of leadership and authority was abrupt and one-sided and caused splits between generations and between Buddhists and Christians which remain to this day.

By late Spring of 1942, all Japanese and Japanese-Americans living in the states of Washington, Oregon, and California were imprisoned in ten camps scattered in isolated areas throughout the United States. Only the barest of necessities could be taken to the camps. Japanese-Americans virtually lost everything. For Buddhists, valued Butsudan, sutra books, and other religious articles were lost. All of the camps were in isolated areas of the country. Some 110,000 men, women, and children were imprisoned, housed in barracks which held 3 to 4 families in single rooms. Unlike the Japanese Christians, the Buddhists had no help from outside the camps. Indeed, the Buddhists were considered more "suspect" than their Christian counterparts as anti-American and pro-Japanese, even by their fellow Japanese-Christians. Emotionally, the ancient and beloved Buddhist symbol of the swastika did not help matters much when it was adopted as the symbol of the Nazi party. The Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma) has replaced it as the symbol of American Buddhism.

Faithful Buddhists however, continued to practice their religion, starting from scratch: re-transcribing the sutras, making Butsudan, juzu (meditation/counting beads), oko (incense powder) from scraps of wood and other materials found in the camps, printing service books and bulletins, etc. Most Nisei affirmed their American loyalty by joining segregated units in the American army, becoming the most decorated unit in American history. A small number affirmed their Americanness by refusing to join the army of a country which denied them their civil rights as American Citizens.

By 1945, the Japanese and Japanese-Americans were permitted to return to the Pacific Coast states to start their lives again, with the vast majority opting to do so. During this period, many of the temples that had not been lost during the evacuation were quickly converted into hostels for families returning from the camps. As soon as these families found work and housing, they left the hostel for the next incoming family. Issei and Nisei couples found it necessary for both to work. Nisei men, many of whom had college graduate and higher educational degrees from American Universities had great difficulty finding employment in a still hostile society. Many resorted to struggling with their own small businesses or working as gardeners, plumbers, and other service jobs. Their wives tended to find employment more easily, many finding work in banking, secretarial, and management positions in American companies. Their jobs often brought in more money than did their husbands and provided them with more contact with the society at large. This greater accessibility allowed Nisei women to be more flexible and broader in their social views than their husbands.

Throughout this time, the temple remained the social, cultural, as well as the religious center for the Japanese-American Buddhist. Dances were now permitted and became an important part of all Nisei and Sansei gatherings. Nisei and later their Sansei children met, dated, and later married each other as a result of having attended conferences, dances, athletic events, seminars, and retreats. Nisei women, however, still tended to defer to their men, who in turn deferred to the Issei men. The Issei were thus able to reestablish their hold on governing the workings of the temple and generally not passing it down to their children until after their death. The Nisei accepted this state of affairs as natural, respecting and observing the Confucian ethic of filial piety ("Oyakoko" Jpz.) to a degree unequaled by their parents and to a degree not approachable by their children. Coming of age during the war years, many Nisei women and men sacrificed their personal lives, giving up marriage and family of their own, to care for their now aging Issei parents.

The priest or minister, as they were more commonly called by this time, tended to have three services every Sunday in addition to whatever private family memorial services, weddings, funerals, etc., that had to be performed. All these "other" services tended to cluster around the weekends. In addition to the religious services that the priest was expected to conduct, the minister was also expected to attend all the different meetings held by each of the auxiliary organizations of the temple as well as participate in the district and national organizations. Because of all the different expectations of the minister's time the membership had, some programs had to be abbreviated, curtailed, postponed, or canceled. Unfortunately, the programs that tended to be abbreviated were the English programs including the Sunday School and the English adult class: the Japanese language services and activities took precedence over the English language services and activities. An unfortunate consequence of this emphasis was the creation of a large group of Nisei followers who only have a sketchy notion of what Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is about because their understanding of the Japanese language did not allow them to fully understand what was being explained to them.

The language of temple life remained Japanese, even though the Nisei and Sansei were increasingly unable to speak, write, or understand it. This was to become the seed of a subtle exclusion of younger Nisei and Sansei participation at board meetings, and by extension from positions of responsibility and leadership in temple life. At age 40, for example, one is still thought to be "too young" to carry on the responsibilities of temple president, even though the Issei became temple presidents at much younger ages. The main services conducted at the temple were the weekly services in Japanese which took place in the early afternoon on Sunday. Sunday School and English service took place on Sunday morning. This emphasis on the Japanese language service could be seen even in the adornments of the altar area, and the formal nature of the Japanese service. It was acceptable, for example, for the English language service to be an abbreviation of the Japanese service in both display and formality. The secondary status of the English language was further reinforced by statements such as "English cannot convey Buddhist principles and understanding." Unfortunately, if this statement were true, then the universality of Jodo Shinshu would be clearly negated.

These problems notwithstanding, the temples were able to re-establish themselves, building new temples by the 1950s and 1960s. The teaching of Jodo Shinshu in the English language was concentrated in the weekly Sunday School, primarily in the education of Sansei children. This was done by a large voluntary staff of Nisei members, many of whom were public school teachers. Teaching methods, curriculum, even the value systems of the public schools were imitated in the Sunday Schools. The vague understanding of Jodo Shinshu by many Nisei teachers resulted in the emphasizing of "general Buddhism" in Sunday Schools. Adult education in the English language was largely non-existent except for periodic national and district conferences and periodic publications by individual priests. The confusion between general Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu gave rise to many questions about such topics as "jiriki versus tariki," "God and Amida," "karma and soul," etc., questions which teachers and ministers were unprepared to answer in English, or indeed in Japanese.

By the 1970s and 1980s, however, the attendance of junior high and senior high school aged students at these Sunday Schools continued to drop to alarming figures. What and how to teach the upper grades became a chronic problem. What had been taught to children in these Sunday Schools was no longer enough to keep young adults interested in the temple.

The Sansei and the Present:

With dropping attendance by the young adult population, many Nisei and Sansei adults gathered to emphasize adult education with an increased interest in the meaning of traditional Jodo Shinshu ritual practices and teachings. This coincided with the renewed interest among the Sansei, in general, in things with a Japanese and Japanese-American identity.

The coming of age of the Sansei generation is characterized by the American social phenomenon of third-generation Americans returning to the culture of their immigrant grandparents. Among Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, this expressed itself in a renewed interest in and a return to more traditional ways as well as providing the foundation for the creation of uniquely Japanese-American expressions of these traditions. For example, this renewed emphasis on traditional ritual allowed many Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temples to remove many of the Congregational Christian elements of service worship that found their way into the Sunday service while maintaining the "Sunday go to meeting" custom of American religion to remain. Furthermore, this "return to tradition" also provided the groundwork for the creation of uniquely Japanese-American Buddhist forms of culture such as Taiko, a unique form of the Bon Odori, the communalizing of such activities as Mochi-tsuki (pounding rice cakes), food sales, and the creation of fusion musical groups as examples.

This return to tradition, however, has constantly been counter-balanced by the increasing number of intermarriages outside the Japanese-American community; in Los Angeles, this rate is estimated at 50% The increasing "outside" cultural influences on the children of temple families is a growing challenge to the Jodo Shinshu temple. For example, even within the Buddhist community, until the 1960s Japanese Buddhism was the only form of Buddhism in sizable numbers in America. The overwhelming majority of these Japanese-American Buddhists was Jodo Shinshu Honganji-ha. Since the 1960s, however, other Asian groups have immigrated to the United States bringing with them their own tradition of Buddhism. In Los Angeles, for example, the Sangha Council is made up of Buddhist traditions from Burma, Cambodia, China, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, and Vietnam. With the increasing number of options available even within the Buddhist community, Sansei Japanese-Americans have found no difficulty in becoming Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Tibetan monks and nuns, Hindus and Bahai, but have found it extremely difficult to understand the religion into which they were born, or Jodo Shinshu.

With the coming of age of the Sansei generation, the general consensus is that there is an urgent need for adult education in the English language. Although the transition to English is slowly being accomplished, the transition is being hampered by the history of the temple. The temple began as the Hokubei Kyodan (North American Sangha) and was an organization of the Issei modeled after Japanese religious institutions. From this grew the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) which was born rather abruptly in the concentration camps during World War II. The birth of the Nisei organization was accomplished, ironically, partly because of the incarceration of the Buddhist community in the camps where the Japanese-speaking Issei leadership was replaced by their English speaking children. However, because this new institution was created under these circumstances, the BCA made it a point to emphasize its "Americanness" by copying Christian models for religious services and organizations. The imitation of the Christian churches was especially evident in the use of the term "church" versus "temple" in referring to the parent organization. This imitation of the Christian churches was on a broad scale with little understanding of or regard for the Buddhist position in such matters, much less the Jodo Shinshu position. Because of this history, there is a need to re-evaluate and explain the function of a temple and the temple ritual in English if the temple is to have any real religious meaning in the lives of Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in America.

This need for explanation in English, however, comes at a time when an extreme shortage of priests from Japan and America has also been identified. The Jodo Shinshu Honganji-ha temples in the Continental United States with a resident minister number 49 temples. Full time priests number 56. There are a handful of part-time ministers who serve temples on weekends. In addition there are 14 temples who have no resident minister and are being serviced by ministers from nearby temples. BCA temples are incorporated as non-profit, charitable, religious organization, and are owned and operated by the members of that organization. Ministers are employed by the temple and are assigned by the Bishop of the BCA who has traditionally negotiated between the temple board of directors and the minister. The majority of Nisei and Sansei priests are from non-priest families and the creation of a hereditary line is generally not a concern.

Problems and Projections:

Although still in its infancy, adult level propagation of Jodo Shinshu in our temples have produced a small but deeply concerned and informed laity. The priests in general have not kept up, nor encouraged this small but growing group. We as priests have not presented Jodo Shinshu, as an important religious tradition in American life, in a clear and systematic manner. We have not, for example, dealt with the place and function of ritual in our temples, the participation rather than observation of the laity in these rituals, and what the function of the priest should be during these rituals or other temple activities more generally. Instead, we have simply maintained what has been without, perhaps, even knowing why any of these things are done in the first place.

In order to address some of these issues, and especially the need for adult education in English, the clergy will need to be better trained than in the past. This will include a better grasp of the Japanese written language on the part of American born priests, and more fluency of the spoken English language by Japanese born priests who come to America. American born priests will have to expand their study time in Japan in terms of learning how to read and understand the Japanese of Jodo Shinshu literature and to experience living examples of that tradition. Understanding and appreciating Japan is not as important as understanding Jodo Shinshu, Japan's most important religious contribution to the world. Both American born and Japanese born priests, however, will have to present a Jodo Shinshu point of view to the many social ails that afflict our society today. These discussions will include but are not limited to the social problems of law and order, ethics and morality, marriage and family, and the constant problems of race relations that seem to have reached crisis proportions in America. The Jodo Shinshu clergy needs to discuss and discover what the Jodo Shinshu point of view to these and other problems are, and critique American society from that point of view. We should not be so much interested in the Americanization of Jodo Shinshu as in the Jodo Shinshuization of America. In order to do that, we must sit down and seriously discuss what the essential point of Jodo Shinshu is, and what is peripheral to that expression. In this regard, hands on experience at a temple in Japan for our students and at a temple in America for Japanese students would be extremely helpful if the student gets the opportunity to talk to priests and lay members about Jodo Shinshu and problems in its propagation and understanding, instead of merely observing how things are done in each context.

More and deeper contact between the various Jodo Shinshu international groups is something greatly to be desired. International conferences and exchanges have done the groundwork. It is now time to meet for more in-depth exchanges about what Jodo Shinshu is all about, how it affects and can affect our daily lives, what kind of changes we need to make in order to facilitate propagation, and how best to effect those changes. More than any time in our past, we are now ready to take that next step. Let us hope that we will take advantage of this great opportunity. It is more than auspicious that it coincides with the 500th memorial observance of Rennyo Shonin, the great interpreter of Jodo Shinshu to the people of his age.

©1997 Vista Buddhist Temple"

[Quelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-05-13]

Erfahrungen eines nicht-japanstämmigen Geistlichen der Buddhist Churches of America (1986) / von Hoken Kenneth O'Neill

"Rev. Hoken Kenneth O'Neill was one of the first two ministerial students to graduate from the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley in 1972. He was the first graduate to travel to Japan to receive both ordination and teaching certificate from Nishi Honganji in 1972. In 1973 he was assigned to the ministerial staff of the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin. He has not been active with the Buddhist Churches of America since 1980."


Kenneth O'Neill

Jodo Shin Buddhism, a sect of the Pure Land teaching, has branches throughout the Western world. Aside from the Buddhist Churches of America in the continental United States, the Hompa Honganji Mission of Hawaii, and the Buddhist Churches of Canada, the Nishi Honganji branch of Jodo Shin also has missions in Mexico, the Templo Honpa Honganji do Brasil and several small organizations in Europe. Higashi Honganji, a sister organization, has temples in both Hawaii and the mainland, while the Jodo sect has one temple in Hawaii.

Pure Land Buddhism is not doing very well in the West. The Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is the largest representative of the 800 year old Jodo Shin sect of Pure Land in the mainland United States. Beset with institutional problems including membership attrition, a closed, ethnocentric orientation, and poorly defined rites and rituals, BCA seems to be a religion in search of itself. While Japanese have attempted to rationalize the problem, saying that Western people like Zen better, such an approach begs the issue; more importantly, such excuse-making precludes a greatly needed and long overdue wholesale re-interpretation of Pure Land's language of translation, mythic expression and philosophical exposition. However, innovative attempts contribute to expulsion of clergy who advocate a more culturally appropriate approach than is currently institutionalized by the Buddhist Churches of America; moreover, those who pursue new interpretations which would clarify standardized "systematically misleading expressions" end up being described as "malcontents" by BCA. Ironically, non-Japanese clergy run aground most frequently on this issue.

In commemoration of its 75th anniversary in 1974, the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) published an immense 467 page compilation of its history (Buddhist Churches of America, vol.1, 75 Year History, 1899-1974). Chronicling what began as the pioneering missionary activity of two Shin priests sent from Japan at the request of the immigrant Japanese community in San Francisco, it bears testimony to the pioneering efforts of a faithful, determined lay community to have the Buddhist faith take root in a new land. Today's BCA, consisting of more than 60 temples, stands as living testimony to those pioneering efforts. BCA also has another story; moreover, what has remained untold concerns BCA as a distinctively Japanese-American religious movement that is highly ethnocentric, at times racist, and which transmits a highly Christianized characterization of the mystical Buddhist soteriology of Shinran Shonin.

It is said that history is written by its victors; nothing could be truer of the BCA's official "history." One is struck by a number of irregularities in its historical presentations. We find that the contributions of non-Japanese clergy are tacitly ignored. While photographs included in the work show non-Japanese in priest's robes from the 1920s onward, little is said of them and we are at a loss to know who they are and what they did. We end up with a history that is incomplete, and in some cases covers up accounts that would be embarrassing to the BCA. This history is, then, in line with actions which have disposed of non-Japanese in the past, and is demonstrated by omitting them from the pages of its historical statement. The principles of Buddhism teach an ideal of universal brotherhood. In that spirit, what follows is offered to present a wider picture of the American Shin Dharma pioneers as well as to offer personal observations concerning the problems of Shin's representation in English.

BCA is the pioneering movement of Buddhism in America. But I am hesitant to term it "American Buddhism." In fact, I propose that BCA be viewed for what it most essentially is: Japanese-American Buddhism. That is to say that BCA has evolved from the spiritual needs of a small immigrant group to become an expression of what is today an ethnic minority. I also propose that important distinctions can be made concerning Jodo Shin in BCA: namely, there is one group which approaches Buddhism as an intensely personal spiritual quest, while another advocates a sense of community spirit from the Buddhist institution. For the latter, who represent the dominant tradition of BCA, the sense of "spiritual" is similar to the experience of "school spirit" derived from attending a pep rally. In that regard, temple activities, including worship services, rites of passage (funerals, memorial services, marriages), serve the function of connecting one with the past as well as bestowing a feeling of satisfaction that certain community or family observances have been performed. BCA temples largely function to satisfy precisely those kinds of community and familial "spiritual" needs. And certainly, there are reasons for this!

The Japanese-Americans share in common an experience in American history which drew them together. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States government rounded up virtually every person of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, imprisoning them in internment camps. Excepting those who entered military service, that is where they spent World War II, being treated as "the enemy," even though many Nisei, already in their mid to late twenties at the time, were born and raised as loyal Americans. The encampment experience created a bond of connectedness few immigrant communities have sustained.

The war experience certainly has drawn Japanese-Americans together in full support of their ethnic identity. The Buddhist temple has become a symbol for not only the injustices suffered during their forced imprisonment, but a symbol for a sense of cultural and personal identity — a world or abode in which everything is alright, familiar and comfortably well known. I'm sure this is the reason I was once told very bluntly by a local temple member "this is our country clubyou do not belong here and we do not want you." Eliade's discussion of how nostalgic longings for childhood's lost comforts are transferred to the religious impulse clarifies this "religious need." But such a need serves only a very narrow group even in the Japanese-American community. At this time most local temples and the BCA itself are in a mode of operation aimed at sustaining what they have: in truth, their greatest worries concern growing rates of attrition of members. That attrition is not only measurable, but typical of an acculturation process.

Acculturation generally takes 2-3 generations to mark the transition from an ethnocentric immigrant group to its assimilation into the mainstream of the new culture. By all accounts, and despite the World War II experience, Japanese-American are pretty much on course. Reports appearing in print since 1977 say the rate of intermarriage up to 1954 was less than 3%, while for nearly 10 years it has ranged from 60-70% annually. Intermarriage indicates both absorption into the mainstream culture and a loss of need for a distinctively Japanese-American identification. Such intermarried couples have no real place in temples, and their offspring are still termed happa (racially "mixed," a pejorative expression). Coupled with this is the attitude toward those newly arrived from Japan; they do not fit in the temple world either. And for a simple reason — the Japanese-American is not culturally Japanese. In addition to those customs which have evolved in the Japanese-American community, much of what is termed Japanese culture in the BCA world is a preservation of Meiji era (1867-1912) customs.

On the other hand, there has been a significant evolutionary thrust within the BCA demonstrating the inner spiritual quest. The Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS), Berkeley, California, is BCA's graduate school for training of clergy. Tracing its roots to the efforts of a pioneering Japanese Buddhist family, IBS began with study classes held in the home of Mrs. Matsuura; they were conducted by her son-in-law, Rev. Kanmo Imamura. By the early 1950s the Berkeley Buddhist Study Center was offering several successful programs, attracting growing numbers of Japanese-American and others. Alan Watts taught there, and some of the more well known students of those days included Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Phillip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg and the distinguished Buddhologist Alex Wayman. In time Rev. Imamura was called to Hawaii to become Bishop (a position his father had held before him). Rev. M. Fujitani continued the Study Center until in the late 1960s a property was purchased to become the site of the first major Nishi Honganji training center out of Japan.

With the advent of IBS, a number of Japanese-American and non-Japanese-American students have been trained in Shin Buddhist Studies, ordained and certified as Dharma-teachers (kyoshi) in Japan, subsequently to be assigned to temples. Nonetheless, by my count, an overall 4056 of IBS graduates have dropped out of the ministry, while roughly 85-905% of the non-Japanese-Americans have left. Why?

In Japan, attrition among the clergy is virtually unknown since Jodo Shin clergymen rarely chose a ministerial career; rather, temple priests inherit the traditional family business. Each generation hands its tradition down to the one following. New temples are rarely established in Japan. In many cases BCA ministers from Japan are second sons of temple families, who thus have no opportunity to be ministers in Japan. However, Sansei kyoshi, unlike those from Japan, become clerics by their own choice; like non-Japanese-American, personal choice alone motivates decisions to enter the ministry as well as leaving the BCA. Many of the Sansei enter the ministry as a spiritual quest - and leave for the very same reason.

The BCA can thus be seen to have two very different traditions, one pursuing a sense of community, the other a spiritual quest. It is the priest engaged in a spiritual quest who finds difficulties with the BCA. Priests such as the Imamura lineage, the Unno lineage, Art Takemoto, Ron Kobata, Koshin Ogui, and Hozen Seki come from that tradition of the inner quest, the inner work. By their nature, they engender healthy controversy. Yet they can be fairly well tolerated by virtue of community membership. The non-Japanese-American does not have that luxury; the non Japanese-American is expendable.

As far as I have been able to determine, the Reverend Julius Goldwater of Los Angeles, California, was the very first non-Japanese to receive ordination (tokudo) and Dharma-teaching certification (kyoshi) from Nishi Honganji (both tokudo and kyoshi are required of ministers in the United States). Rev. Goldwater was first ordained in Honolulu in the early 1930s, while he received kyoshi at Nishi Honganji by 1933. Nishi Honganji granted him ordination in spite of his extraordinary request prior to receiving kyoshi: he stipulated that he would receive it if he would not be bound to advocating only the Jodo Shin teaching. He was granted that unprecedented freedom. He was also ordained in Hang Chou in a generalized Mahayana teaching.

Upon his return to the United States, the Honganji Mission of North America, forerunner to today's BCA, would not permit him to register as an official minister under the same conditions that headquarters had granted him Dharma-teaching freedom.

Sticking to his non-sectarian condition, he was instead granted conditional license to teach Buddhism in BCA; he accepted based on the idea that this would be a short term relationship that would end when another English speaking priest could replace him. At this writing he has served as a teacher with BCA churches in Los Angeles for over 50 years. In recent years a 50th anniversary testimonial dinner was organized for him by Rev. Arthur Takemoto and Rev. Kanmo Imamura; it is a sad commentary that BCA was not officially represented at that banquet, nor did the organization in any manner acknowledge his lifelong service. Rev. Goldwater continues to offer a Wednesday evening Dharma educational "get together" at the West Los Angeles Buddhist Church, an undertaking he's done continuously for more than 50 years.

There is a more significant story attached to Rev. Goldwater's career, one reflecting BCA attitudes toward non-Japanese Americans. To quote from the BCA's official history:

"World War II with its evacuation of all Japanese, Issei and Nisei alike, temporarily closed down the Betsuin. All but two of the Betsuin ministers and many of the board members were interned soon after the outbreak of the war. They were interned not because they were Buddhist ministers, but because they were on the staffs of the Japanese Schools operated by the Betsuin. The two ministers not interned were Rev. Reichi Mori and Rev. Julius Goldwater. Rev. Mori was later evacuated to Heart Mountain, but Rev. Goldwater stayed in Los Angeles for the duration of the war taking care of the Betsuin property." (P.202).

Rev. Goldwater did not only take care of the property. As best as I can determine, upon request of individuals, he forwarded personal property to them as they became settled in the various internment camps; he also had sutras reproduced and forwarded to those requesting them. The cost of mailing and reproduction services was paid from church funds. After the War he was sued by the organization for assisting congregation members. It is said that the presiding judge for the trial all but asked the official body suing to withdraw the case; cold-heartedness won out, and Rev. Goldwater was found guilty of spending a reported $1000.00 to assist interned Buddhists of his temple. From my Japanese sources, racism was the motive in the suitracism from powerful places. However, knowing the BCA clergy as I do, most any of them would have responded as Rev. Goldwater did. Humane action is at the heart of Buddhist ethics of compassion.

Reverend Goldwater founded the Buddhist Brotherhood of America in the 1930s. A Chinese Buddhist teacher, T'ai-hsu, had journeyed around the world promoting Buddhist brotherhood, and Goldwater took this fundamentally important ideal to heart; his organization continues to this day. With the influx of Buddhists of every possible ethnic background to the Los Angeles area in recent decades, Rev. Goldwater has furthered the cause of harmonious brotherhood in yet another way: founding The Southern California Buddhist Sangha Council in recent years, those from every Buddhist organization meet regularly in mutual assistance, holding "harmonic get togethers." Each major Buddhist holiday is celebrated at one of the member temples in an atmosphere of non-competitiveness. This is an especially important example for today. Sectarian competitiveness has unfortunately grown in recent years, much to the detriment of Dharma. Rev. Goldwater's leadership in this matter should serve as a model for us all. It is inspiring to learn that activities of the Southern California Buddhist Sangha Council includes counselling for its members in matters of acculturation, legal problems with city governments, personal problems immigrants often face in a new and different culture, and aid in civil suits involving constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religious practice.

My first Dharma teacher was the Reverend Phillip Karl Eidmann. Rev. Eidmann is the first non-Japanese to have earned the distinguished title of Hokkyo (Consular in Studies) from the Nishi Honganji Gakkai—Hokkyo is roughly equivalent to the rank of roshi in Japanese Zen. Becoming a Buddhist in 1947, Eidmann set sail to Japan in 1951 where he remained until 1962. He had the rare opportunity to be provided housing on the Honganji grounds adjacent to the Gomonshu (patriarch). With degrees in philosophy and anthropology, Eidmann next earned a Master's Degree in Shin Buddhist Studies from Nishi Honganji's Ryukoku University; he also became a master of flower arranging and tea ceremony. A linguist, he has translated Buddhist materials into 10 languages (including Sanskrit), and reads Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese. Upon returning home in 1962, instead of establishing a temple, he formed an organization based on the old Shin concept of a Monto or fellowship. By 1964 the BCA recognized his Buddhist Fellowship of Sunnyvale as the first such fellowship of the BCA. Instrumental in the policy and curriculum formulation of the IBS, he served on its faculty for nearly 15 years.

Much of Eidmann's time in Japan and since has been occupied with translation of Shin and other Buddhist works. His approach to Shin translation marks an important point of departure from standardly used 19th century terminology. Other than an array of small booklets, pamphlets, two small periodicals, numerous articles and one book, Eidmann's translations of major works have remained unpublished. While he has perceived the task extraordinarily well, to date he has yet to publish his mature work. Eidmann made it his business in Japan to become very thoroughly trained in the Shin tradition; the BCA has lost a valuable opportunity by not having encouraged Eidmann to make valuable contributions to Buddhist literature and education (he also holds a M.A. in education). Given the closed and elitist nature of the Ministerial Association (Kaikyoshikai), which tolerates younger clergy of Japanese ancestry while patronizing non-Japanese-American, it is hardly surprising that Eidmann did not gain its valuable support and encouragement. Overall the Kaikyoshikai seems content to reward endurance as it stifles creativity and innovation; like the Honganji itself, it rests on the laurels of a glorious past, being reluctant to accept the conditions of Dharma teaching in the late 20th century. While it is said that it is the duty of each generation to stand on the shoulders of the one preceding it, bringing the Dharma forward to meet the world to where it has evolved, professional organizations have a way of resisting change, thus denying problems which would otherwise require addressing.

Rev. Hozen Seki founded the New York Buddhist Church in 1938 envisioning a center for all Buddhist traditions, yet still providing a place for Jodo Shin practice. On December 5, 1971, Rev. Seki ordained Rev. Arthur Kyojo Vergara, thereby bypassing the authority of the parent organization (Nishi Honganji) and its chartered American branch, the BCA. To this very day, BCA agrees to send its ministerial candidates to Kyoto for ordination at the Honganji. Despite more than ten years of service, Rev. Vergara's ordination has never been accepted by BCA, nor will it be. I have heard that with the retirement of Seki-sensei, the Vergaras are no longer officially connected with Buddhism. Vergara was invited to do a series of talks at the San Jose Betsuin in 1978 and was immensely successful with his fresh, contemporary approach of presenting Jodo Shin Buddhism. It would seem that the BCA has denied itself the opportunity of a very fine teacher.

With the establishment of IBS, BCA had formed agreements with Nishi Honganji under which the mother temple would recognize the IBS degree as satisfying all requirements for tokudo and kyoshi. Upon graduating from IBS with a M.A. in Shin Buddhist Studies, I was immediately sent to Japan for ordinations. As the first IBS graduate, I arrived ready for tokudo, kyoshi and some other training programs that were on my schedule. The Foreign Department (kaigaibu) of Honganji assured me that no ordinations were being conducted during my scheduled 6-month stay and that the other training did not exist. Calls to IBS resulted in Mrs. Eidmann arriving in Kyoto within a week, and she immediately took me unannounced to the Patriarch's residence; upon hearing my story, he quickly checked schedules, assuring me that there had been some error. Learning of my situation, he quickly issued orders rectifying the ordination portion of my problems.

I returned to the U.S.A. later that year, and gained appointment to the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin in May, 1973. To quote again from the BCA's history book:

"in recent years the Board of Directors have become concerned about meeting the increasing needs of a number of Caucasian Buddhists attending weekly Sunday services, the need to help our Sunday School teachers in preparing teaching materials, to reach more American Buddhists in the community as well as in colleges and to work with the youth on a YBA (Young Buddhist Association) level. With these objectives in mind, Rev. Kenneth O'Neill was added to the ministerial staff in May, 1973 to become the fourth minister." (P.181).

In fact, my contract stated that I was to work with racially intermarried couples, an activity which I was covertly not permitted to do by Church management!

I worked for the San Jose Buddhist Church until September, 1975. I then was promoted to run a pilot project called " The New Horizons Program," which took its name and inspiration from the 75th Anniversary theme "Discovering New Horizons." The New Horizons Program was intended to be an "outreach" program to the non-Japanese American community. By 1978 we became Dharmadana Jodo Shin Buddhist Fellowship. During this time BCA made promises for support that were never forthcoming, financial commitments from them were not kept, and I grew alienated as a result of being lied to and treated as an outsider. In spite of forming Dharmadana as an independent organization, attempts to interfere with its business continued. I ran Dharmadana until 1980. At that time I walked away from everything. I had had it with the BCA. I was burned out and needed to be away from official activities in order to rethink my position. I could no longer work with leaders primarily concerned with "saving face" and unwilling to give straight answers. New Horizons continues in BCA, but is now exclusively oriented toward establishing new centers among suburban Japanese-American. What had happened?

My relation with BCA had become rather strained while at the San Jose Betsuin. It had become painfully obvious that the habitual manner of teaching Buddhism was not working very well. My classes grew in participants from the normal half-dozen other priests had, to about 30-40 attendants per week; they did so by my teaching more than Shin, and by means of an approach amounting to nothing short of a full re-interpretation of Jodo Shin teachings in light of Mahayana. My departing from orthodox BCA theology created waves, therefore my successes were viewed as problems.

That experience has not ended my work with Buddhism. It was a sobering, maturing experience. Soon thereafter I went to work in business, in time working with the interface of people with computerized business management systems; that experience has broadened me, as well as introduced me to technologies which can be employed to the benefit of Buddhist activities.

I am currently establishing a non-sectarian Buddhist organization, one favoring an eclectic approach to Buddhist education. I am convinced that we in the West are in great need of some transmission of the cultural attitudes and heritages of Mahayana Buddhism: not ethnic attitudes, but the attitudes of our Dharma ancestors. When studying in Japan, I noted how inescapable Buddhism is in that culture. By all accounts, the same is true elsewhere in the East. In those places you simply cannot escape Buddhism. Yet here in the West we are exposed to either highly sectarian or highly academic approaches to the Dharma. Accordingly some middle ground is needed, one which is dedicated to transmitting the vital life force of Asian Buddhist culture, its soteriologies, guiding mythic images, literature, and artistic traditions.

I envision a kind of "Nalanda West" after the guiding image of the great Buddhist center in ancient India; that early "university" was made up of Buddhist practitioners from many traditions. They did some things in common, some things along the line of the teaching they were individually following. Such an idea has far reaching implications, especially in many areas where the number of Dharma followers is rather small, and the interests rather broad. A loose community of fellow Buddhists dedicated to the Dharma in a manner including mutual support for a variety of activities is much in order. We will pursue this end in several ways.

The International Association of Buddhist Studies, Madison, Wisconsin, now has a computer bulletin board called INDRANET; anyone with a computer and a modem can call up, join conferences, leave messages and transfer computerized Buddhist texts across the telephone system to their own computer. We are working to develop this concept into a national (if not international) network of local nodes for Buddhists to make use of technology. We will have a node up and running this year as a local electronic based Buddhist cultural center open to all seeking Dharma. In addition to that, my biggest project is to make use of optical character reading technology (akin to a photocopier) to reproduce all public domain Buddhist literature in computer (ASCII) format; anyone will then have access to rare and out of print Buddhist material. Considerable technical details will have to be worked out, but in time anyone will have access to good literature in English, French and German. We will also publish a quarterly periodical dedicated to the transmission and appropriate interpretation of Buddhism. Favorable communications with formerly active Shin clergy in the West indicates that many are not only interested in continuing their interpretative work, but welcome an independent context in which to publish it. I hope others will establish independent Buddhist publications,too.

Longer range, I hope to establish a local living Buddhist cultural center, again founded on the Nalanda principle. Many areas have numerous small Buddhist organizations who cannot afford a temple of their own. An open forum type of local Buddhist cultural center can solve the problem. Just imagine a center without sectarian dominance, open to all, consisting of a multipurpose temple and a research library. A multifunctional temple is my idea of a temple Theravadins, Shingon, Tendai, Jodo, Jodo Shin, Zen, Obaku Zen, Tibetan Buddhists, etc. can use, yet may have to set up for specific ritual requirements; in addition, it is hoped that the major holidays would be celebrated in common. Obviously, such a center is aimed at fostering an emergent American Buddhist paradigm.

June King graduated from the IBS with me in 1972; June was married, with a daughter. The King family travelled to Japan some 9 months after I did, delayed due to Japanese attitudes regarding women being heads of household; Reverend Kusada of IBS traveled to Japan to straighten out June's visa problems. Once in Japan, both June and her husband Hugh both received tokudo, while only June was qualified to receive kyoshi. Upon returning home, the Kings planned on Hugh finishing undergraduate work and an IBS M.A. in order for him to qualify for kyoshi. That was never to happen. June was assigned to the Fresno Betsuin, but as a part-time minister. I have been told that her part-time assignment was due to a sexist attitude: husbands should be employed full time and support their wives! While June was contracted on a part-time basis, she was tacitly expected to work at close to a full-time schedule; moreover, since her husband had received tokudo ordination, he was expected to regularly conduct services at branch temples but not as a ministerial staff member nor for any renumeration. Unlike Japanese clergy, the Kings were expected to provide their own housing and utilities.

In time the Kings moved to Calgary, Canada, to work with the Hompa Buddhist Church, a body of several temples which had broken away from both the Buddhist Churches of Canada and Nishi Honganji under the former leadership of Rev. Dr. Leslie Kawamura. Due to failing health and family responsibilities she was terminated by Hompa Buddhist Church at the end of a three year contract period; it is noteworthy that the Kings were terminated without prior notice, and left stranded in Canada without the benefit of any sort of termination pay. Again the unhappy union of non-Japanese American clergy with a Japanese-American temple resulted in less than ethical business practices, less than humane treatment. They returned to the Bay Area 3-4 years ago.

I have written about the experiences of five clergy who I know of; with the exception of Rev. Goldwater, I have known them all rather well. Other known non-Japanese American clergy with the BCA are Rev. Alex White (c.1940s), Rev. Frank Udale (c.1940s), Rev. Sunya Pratt (1930s-1970s), Rev. Charles Paulson (?-1969), Rev. James Burkey (1960s), Rev. Galen Amstutz (early 1980s) and Robert Stewart Clifton (1950s-?). I do know from old photographs that there were definitely many others, including one Black gentleman in San Francisco, but obtaining information as to their identities is not easy. Don Castro has served as a BCA minister for roughly ten years, and is now on the staff of Seattle Betsuin.

In fairness, it must be said that those of us who pursue Buddhism are in many cases marginal to the mainstream of American culture. After all, the average person is content to lead an unexamined life. Some of .the problem. ..of . non-Japanese Americans with BCA has to do with the meeting of individuals for whom Buddhism is a spiritual matter with those of whom it is a community matter: neither side understands the other very well.
There are two other issues concerning the BCA which affect us. First is the English language as a mode of expression for Buddhism. I have been told numerous times that it is mandatory to learn Japanese in order to understand Buddhism. Pity the Buddha who never spoke Japanese!!! The Englishing of Buddhism remains a twofold problem.

First, liturgy (sutra chanting) continues to be done in Japanese, which I like. However, Sansei (third generation) rarely understand the Japanese, nor do their children. This can also be a problem for the non-Japanese Americans who visit Shin Buddhist temples. Worse still are the English translations currently available.

Secondly, the dominant tradition for translation of Pure Land writings has been faithfully handed down from late 19th century Qrientologists. By their translations and commentaries, it is very evident that they thought they had found something akin to a Christian doctrine of faith. Based on that distorted standard, resulting translations have succeeded well in failing to capture the spirit of Shin for Americans. Such standards of "systematically misleading expressions" have been uncritically institutionalized by both the BCA and Nishi Honganji. Of hundreds of translations, commentaries, and published homilies available today, few adequately express Shin soteriology in an accurate manner.

Part of the problem lies in the Japanese attitude to scholarship done outside of Japan. By chauvinistically condemning what it is unfamiliar with, approaching anything of merit external to itself is impossible. As long as the Japanese set standards for a language they speak only crudely and inadequately, Honganji standards of translation shall remain unacceptable. A ray of hope has shone of late in some works from the Shin Buddhist Translation Center; one Dennis Hirota has demonstrated a remarkable ability to write philosophically concise forwards to important translations. Unfortunately the translations themselves are poorly conceived, with a type of traditional commentary that is akin to shorthand; rather than illuminating the Western reader, such works serve to baffle and obfuscate, thus failing to achieve the project's goal of providing usable Shin translations in English. Until Shin translations completely reassess their language of translation, Shin will continue to bear the stigma of misinterpretation, and hence perpetuate its misunderstanding in the West.

BCA has offered little direction in rectifying this situation. To begin with, it lacks the resources to fund a solid interdisciplinary translation and standardization effort. Secondly, very few of its English speaking clergy are adequately trained for the task. Most importantly, such an effort is a low priority item for the BCAregardless of how very vital it is to BCA's future. Lastly, with an already critical shortage of clergy, there is simply no available manpower to sustain such a demanding effort. This is not to say financial resources are unavailable within the BCA community: they are, but are not used for such efforts. The notion of strategic long range planning is rather foreign to the way BCA manages itself.

The only formal rite of passage BCA offers its members is the Tri-Sarana or Three Refuges. While adults occasionally take refuge, the rite is usually conducted for children. As any Buddhist knows, this ceremony is the crucial rite of passage by means of which one becomes a Buddhist. Rites of passage involve a preparation that builds up the emotions for a significant turning point in life. Nothing could be further from the way in which BCA temples orient themselves toward Sarana Affirmations. I have spoken with many adults who received Sarana Affirmation and a Homyo (Dharma-name) in childhood without having the slightest idea of what it was about. Next to nothing is done to build up a sense of passage, honor, pride and excitement in becoming a member of the Buddhist lineage. Nothing! Pleasant ceremonies are performed, usually either done by the Bishop or the visiting Patriarch, but the significance of the event is lost. In effect, an empty ritual is performed, devoid of literal or symbolic importance. I believe this is due to the mistaken notion that one can be born a Buddhist, where Buddhist is synonymous with Japanese-American church member family. Strictly speaking one cannot be born a Buddhist, and can only become a Buddhist through the Sarana initiation. And that can only be done by conscious choice of the individual involved. While certain leaders of the BCA may acknowledge this point as true, the truth of the matter is that the system tacitly does little to build a sense of the spiritual importance of Sarana.

The Rev. Dr. Ronald Nakasone has characterized the state of affairs of BCA as follows:

"We know too that Japanese will no longer be the medium of communication. The Dharma is being taught to our children through English. Further, we know that our sentiments to Japan and her culture will grow dimmer as we lose those isseis and kibei-nisseis who actually lived in Japan. We know that since Japanese Americans born and educated in America do not share a common experience with their Japanese born and educated immigrant forefathers, the flavor and approach to Shinran Shonin's teaching will be different. Jodoshin Buddhism in America is inexorably moving away from its Japanese origins." (The San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin Dharma, January, 1986, p.6)

"We must use Shinran's teaching to penetrate the core of Shakyamuni's Dharma and formulate a Buddhist theology for America. This theology must be comprehensive. It must serve not only those who wish to keep our temples exclusively Japanese, but it must be able to admit those who only wish to accept the teachings of Shinran, shorn of any cultural trappings." (Ibid., p.6)

BCA's many problems link together precisely due to the attitude of those whom Dr. Nakasone refers to as desiring "to keep our temples exclusively Japanese." Due to this attitude, BCA has endured more than 85 years as the pioneering Buddhist organization in this country, but is content to offer a very poor representation of Shinran's spiritual brilliance.

Buddhist learning traditions insist that gaining wisdom depends on the interaction of a teacher and student, of transmission from master to disciple. As we turn East, there we meet well established Buddhist institutions training and empowering teachers. We assume such existing institutions are legitimate repositories of Dharma transmission. Our beliefs lead us to hold that such institutions exist to transmit Buddhist illumination, and that that liberating illumination guides the institution itself. Perhaps we must win an awakening born of disillusionment concerning institutions. Alan Watts claimed that religions die of respectability. Watt's remark must be used for the guiding insight it offers. Many Western students become slaves of Asian institutions, losing freedom rather than gaining it; instead of gaining illumination, they are sold on a bill of goods, building attachments to a teaching instead of its spirit. The well known koan "if you meet the Buddha on your path, then kill him" should remain foremost in our minds. We do meet an illusion of the Buddha as this or that institution: it is necessary to learn to distinguish pretty words from accomplishment. Of greater importance, killing Buddhas amounts to nothing short of fulfilling the intent and purpose of the Buddha's awakening in one's own life. Only by taking one's liberation seriously enough to even give up attachments to institutions do we then become American Buddhist bringing the spirit of Dharma ashore in our own land. In that sense, we are all Dharma pioneers."

[Spring wind : Buddhist cultural forum. -- ISSN 0825-799X. -- Vol. 5, No. 4 (Winter 1985/86). -- S. 52 - 69]

Zu 5.1.: Buddhismus in Großbritannien bis 1959