http://www.UrbanDharma.org ...Buddhism for Urban America


The Urban Dharma Newsletter... August 12, 2003


In This Issue:

1. Buddhist traditions converge at Change Your Mind day ...By Angel Gonzalez
2. 2003 Monastic Retreat: A Perspective
...By Brady T. Chin, L.Ac.
4. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
Enmanji Buddhist Temple
5. Book/Movie Review: Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing
...by Charles Johnson


For the next few weeks I will be on a road trip... The next issue of the UD Newsletter will be e-Mailed in September. Peace... Kusala

1. Buddhist traditions converge at Change Your Mind day ...By Angel Gonzalez ...Seattle Times staff reporter ... Sunday, August 10, 2003


The sound of a gong pierced the morning mist at exactly 10 a.m., beckoning people toward the amphitheater behind the Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park.

Four monks with shaved heads gathered in front of an altar with representations of the bodhisattva — and began chanting in Pali, one of the scriptural languages of Buddhism.

"Honor to him, the blessed one, worthy one, fully enlightened one," went the salutation to Buddha.

Dozens of Seattle Buddhists converged yesterday for Change Your Mind day, an annual celebration intended to bring different traditions together and teach Buddhism to the curious.

Meditation's serenity was challenged by airplanes on their way to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and the occasional "Ode to Joy" cellphone ring. But that did not discourage the speakers — who hailed from different philosophies of Buddhism — nor their followers.

"All dharmas meet at one point, and this is an example of that," said Shelley Pierce, of the Seattle Shambhala Center.

Change Your Mind is a rare opportunity for different branches of Buddhism to meet, said Steve Wilhelm, a member of Northwest Dharma Association. "No one really knows anyone else," he said. "People here really communicate."

There was variety indeed.

While the monks — a Vietnamese follower of Mahayana, a Sri Lankan, a Cambodian follower of Theravada, and an American Zen — had their traditional before-noon lunch together, a Christian Buddhist tried to explain his own approach to faith.

"Christianity and Buddhism are not the same. You can only bring them together in an individual," said John Malcomson, a Baptist who began to study Buddhism after a college trip to Nepal in 1990. Malcomson has been a Christian Buddhist since 1992, and now he's forming a group that tries to develop a common practice for both religions.

The biggest split, however, is between East and West. In Asian countries, Buddhism relies on lay people supporting a monastic establishment and following the tradition in large temples. Western Buddhism, on the other hand, is more personal and philosophical — and less prone to create monks, according to Wilhelm.

"In the East, monks are on the stage. In the West, lay people are on the stage, and monks listen," said Tien-chang Shih, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington who translates Buddhist manuscripts, some dating from the first century A.D.

Shih said Western Buddhism is now absorbing Asian tradition but soon will be able to come up with its own. "The local people will soon make their own contribution," Shih said.

Many Westerners are attracted to Buddhism's welcoming simplicity. "When I went for the first time to the Buddhist temple, I felt accepted; nobody looks at your clothes, race or nationality," said Xicotencatl Ceballos, who said he became Buddhist in October after losing the right to see his children because of an arrest for domestic violence. "I was very depressed, but I started meditation, and it helped a lot."

Ceballos, a native of Mexico City, was raised a Catholic but said he stopped practicing at a young age. "Four years ago I started going to Christian churches, but I did not find what I was looking for," he said.

Ceballos started visiting a Vietnamese temple, in the Chinatown International District, where he felt welcomed. "This philosophy resembled my own way of seeing life," he said.

Not all at yesterday's gathering were followers. Some came as onlookers, such as Laura Buch, a comparative-literature graduate student at the UW, who has an academic interest in Buddhism. "It's nice to see it in person and not only in the books," she said.

2. 2003 Monastic Retreat: A Perspective
...By Brady T. Chin, L.Ac.

A few minutes after my loose fitting robes were handed to me, they shaved what little hair I had on my head off. So began my weeklong training at Hsi Lai Temple. The rules were simple: follow everything to the letter.

The days begin with the loud “TOCK” sound of the wooden mallet and board colliding outside our bedroom as the venerable makes his way down the corridor. It’s 5:40 am and the sun has yet to peek over the horizon. There are six bathrooms and 34 men. We have 20 minutes to wash up, fold our blankets, tidy our living quarters, put on our outer robes and line up in the driveway outside our guesthouse. As it is, this limited amount of time would be a challenge for most people so for us it’s an absolute marvel of efficiency and panicked haste. By 6:15 am we’ve marched up to the Main Shrine and are chanting The Praise to the Incense Offerings soon to be followed by An Inspiration to Pledge the Bodhicitta, our vow to achieve and enlightened state of existence.

We bow and prostrate ourselves repeatedly before three giant gilded statues, Shakyamuni Buddha in the center, flanked by Amitabha Buddha and the Medicine Buddha. Surrounded on all sides are thousands of small Buddha’s forming the walls of the cavernous shrine. They are a testament to the philanthropic dedication of the laity. Each memorial to a deceased family member represents a princely sum that helped finance the construction of the massive, Ming Dynasty-styled compound.

After we finish the Taking Refuge and Transfer of Merits chants, we chant a train down to the dining hall for our first meal. It is 7:00 am. We chant before eating. Meals are taken in silence. We are taught how to bring our bowls and plates in from the edge of the table, where to place them before us, how to hold our bowls, how to place our bowls and plates out to request a refill of rice, vegetables, tofu (or tofu derived food), or soup. We are taught how to place our empty vessels before us when we are finished. We chant before we file out of the dining hall.

This is our first break of the day. There are, perhaps, one hundred and thirty novitiates most of whom urgently need to relieve themselves before the first class of the day begins at 8:30.

And this is what our mornings are like for the next six days. I, and my classmates, take ordination as novice monks and undergo rigorous training. Everything we do is scrutinized from the way our socks and shoes are placed, to the way that our toothbrush and toothpaste are laid in our washbasins. Later I will understand that the routine, the rituals, rules and orderliness are designed to discipline us. This is self-mastery by paying attention to every detail of daily life. Absolute awareness. A monarchy of mindfulness.

Also, absolute conformity. We are all taught to do everything together in exactly the same way. “Follow the group!” the venerables bark out. There is no more “I”. “I” gets in the way of mindfulness. “I” is an attachment that creates cravings that, ultimately, lead to dissatisfaction and unskillful actions that result in a rebirth doomed to repeat this cycle until the pattern is broken with the careful application of Morality, Meditation and Wisdom.

It’s day two and I want a doughnut. We don’t eat a solid dinner. What we have instead is a light noodle or vegetable soup to prevent the “disease” of hunger called the “Medicine Meal”. It’s not enough to prevent the hunger that forms after two more hours of lecture, chanting and prostrations before bedtime at 10:30 pm. I now appreciate the dinner from the night before in ways I couldn’t imagine. I remember seeing a tray of bananas at lunch and thinking how much I would like to have one of those. I start to notice how my desires flare up when I can’t have anything I want anytime anymore. I also become more grateful for the things I do have as a result. How many people in the world don’t even have soup to fill their bellies at the end of the day? How many people don’t have clothes on their back? As monastics go, we had things very easy. There was a daily laundry service for our robes and we had hot water, pillows and sheets. This is practically a five-star retreat.

By the fifth day I experience a feeling of timelessness, or, rather, a suspension of awareness of time. The echoes of our chanting resound in my brain like a broken record. I stand by the railing and rest for a moment. I look past the ceramic animals that march off the corners of the rooftop and see in the distance something unusual: traffic. I realize that I haven’t seen a (moving) automobile in three days. I am immersed in the lifestyle of saints and heroes. It dawns on me that anything is possible if one is dedicated and is willing to renounce some personal freedoms. To reach a destination, or even to walk a path, is to experience everything that it doesn’t offer as well as the things that it does. Pangs of desire for worldly comforts, diversionary tactics that prevent the experience of each living moment, continuously form in my mind. It is hard to stay present. My mind wanders and tells stories that I like to hear. I have planned an imaginary feast for the night after I finish the retreat: stuffed bitter melon, eggplant with fried tofu and stir fried string beans. I catch myself daydreaming and realize how much work there is to be done.

There is such a thing as too much freedom and the path of self-mastery has less of it than other occupations. Creativity, artistry, spontaneity are suppressed here. All of those characteristics lead to self-expression and, therefore, attachment to an identifiable and, ultimately, fallacious Self. The path to Liberation or Nirvana (literally, snuffing out (of cravings)) can only be achieved by, as Joseph Campbell put it, becoming an anonymity. We are all fundamentally the same. We are all interconnected through common human experiences. There is no race, no gender, no age, no Self, no ignorance, no wisdom, no birth, no old age, no disease, no death and, above all, no beginning and no ending of any of them.

There are twice as many women here as men and I wonder how their experience differs from ours. The two sexes only meet for chanting, meals and classroom instruction. They wear different robes than we do and they take a slightly different set of precepts than we do (six instead of ten). When a few of their representatives spoke at the last evenings “Religious Testimony” they were more emotional than the men as they described the fulfillment they felt during the retreat. Tears streamed down one woman’s cheeks as she spoke of how she saw her own anger and cruelty to those less privileged than she. How she would berate her husband before friends and her stinginess when approached by charities.

The men, in sharp contrast, were much more like frat boys than novice monks. Besides joking around at any given moment, there was a definite air of competition all week. Who could shower fastest? Who could line up first? Who could memorize more sutras? Who could recite the Buddha’s name the most? And so on. It was summer camp all over again. In all fairness, though, we bonded very tightly. Like a cross-country team we pursued each other relentlessly and that competitive edge spurred us on to a level of excellence that most of us did not know we were capable of. All the while we stood together just as we raced forward. As they say in the U.S. Special Forces “No one gets left behind”.

By the end of the penultimate day, I am full of anticipation of the end of the retreat, I fantasize about my lay life and the things I will indulge in. My X-Box, a Fatburger and Krispy Kreme doughnuts top the list.

It feels odd to know that I leave the Temple the next afternoon. I wonder how much of what I desire is based on knowing that I am leaving? That, within twenty-four hours, I could indulge in whatever luxuries I desired. What if I really had l left the “household” life behind, never to return? Would I make the extra effort to practice if I invested myself fully? Was I holding back my fullest commitment because I knew that, on a superficial level, that it didn’t really matter? The only thing I could have been accused of was mediocrity and that wouldn’t be a cause for my expulsion. In that moment, I saw the limits of my practice. Work, play, friends, family, repeat; it doesn’t leave time for the work a monk does every day.

I wanted to memorize the Heart Sutra but only got halfway through it. What if my life depended on memorizing it? What if someone else’s life depended on my memorizing it? How long would it take then? Where is the urgency? Where is the urgency to live, fully aware, at every moment of our lives? Too many people have spoken to me in the past of “spirituality” and “consciousness” and “enlightenment” and done virtually nothing to build a practice that reveals them. Words, now, more than ever, are empty to me.

I think that lay people see monastics as people who undertake this life and practice to attain enlightenment and then to realize Nirvana. With what I’ve experienced during the week, I’ll be content to attain a practice. Omitofo.

4. Enmanji Buddhist Temple


Enmanji Buddhist Temple- enmanji@sonic.net

Minister: Rev. Carol Himaka- cjhrbts@sonic.net

Dharma School (Sunday School)
Loren Miyasaki- miyasaki@sonic.net

Kyosho - The Essentials of Jodo Shinshu

Name: Jodo Shinshu Honpa Hongwanji
Founder: Shinran Shonin (1173-1263)
Buddha: Amida Buddha (Buddha of Infinite Light and Life)


The Principal Sutras of Jodo Shinshu are:

1. Larger Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Bussetsu Muryoju Kyo)

2. Sutra of Meditation on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Bussetsu Kanmuryoju Kyo)

3. Smaller Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Bussetsu Amida Kyo)


Having awakened to the compassion of Amida Buddha and rejoicing in the assurance of Buddhahood, we shall endeavor to live the life of gratitude and service.


The Honpa Hongwanji is a community of people joined together by the gladness of a common faith in Amida Buddha. As Jodo Shin Buddhists, we shall seek to be humbled and sincere in words and deeds to be responsible citizens of our society and to share with others the teachings of Jodo Shinshu. Understanding fully the principle of causality, we shall not practice petitionary prayer and magic, and do not depend on astrology and superstitions.

The term Jodo Shinshu was used by Shinran to describe the true essence (shinshu) of the Jodo teaching of his master, Honen Shonin (1133-1212). Shinran's successors, however, came to use it for the name of their school, with Shinran as the founder, thus distinguishing it from other Jodo schools which also claimed to succeed in Honen's teaching.

Enmanji History

The Enmanji Buddhist Temple has an unusual beginning in that the Buddhist Sunday School and the affiliated Japanese Language School had their beginning in 1926, before the establishment of the temple itself.

The official beginning of the temple is said to have been in the spring of 1928 when a minister from the then Buddhist Mission of North America (the forerunner of the current Buddhist Churches of America) was sent to the Sonoma County Branch of the San Francisco Buddhist Church to begin missionary work. The Japanese residents of the Sonoma County area held a meeting on April 3, 1932 to discuss plans for establishing a Sonoma County Branch Temple and plans were finalized at that time. In June of that same year, Rev. Shodo Goto was welcomed as the first minister of the temple.

From 1932 the local Buddhist members discussed with then Bishop Kenju Masuyama the matter of purchasing a building for the temple and a house for the minister. After purchasing a building located on Petaluma Avenue in Sebastopol, a general meeting was held to organize a governing body for the temple. This led to the establishment of the Young Men's Buddhist Assocation (YMBA) and the Young Women's Buddhist Association (YWBA).

In July of 1933, the Temple was presented by the Hompa Hongwanji of Kyoto, with an image of Amida Buddha for the central shrine. A special service was held to commemorate the event.

Enmanji Temple Building

The unique building now used as the main worship hall was originally built by the Manchurian Railroad Company and used as part of their exhibit hall at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. After the close of the Fair the building was donated to the Buddhist Mission of North America and through the efforts of Bishop Masuyama was subsequently offered to the members of the Sonoma County Buddhist Temple. The members were able to receive the building provided they could finance the cost of transporting by rail the dismantled building to Sepastopol. A committee headed by Mr. Tomotaro Kobuke was selected to undertake the endeavor.

On January 26, 1934 groundbreaking ceremonies were held to reassemble and reconstruct the building on its present site. Constructed without the use of nails, the project required the skills of several local craftsmen. Finally, on October 15, 1934, dedication services were held for the finished building.

The style of the building is important in that it faithfully represents a 12th century Kamakura-style Japanese temple. The roof structure, in particular, is representative of Buddhist temples from that era. The interior decor and bright colorful Chinese motif paintings were remodled to adapt to the Buddhist shrine which is presently situated at one end of the building. The entire building seats approximately 250 people.

The Name of Enmanji

Unlike most BCA temples, the Enmanji Temple was granted special recogition from the Mother temple in Japan, by receiving the name and designation of ji, or temple.

This word en, in Japanese means 'garden;'

man means 'fulfillment;'

and as mentioned before ji means 'temple.'

Literally the name translates to mean 'Garden Fulfillment Temple.' At that time, Enmanji was the only temple in North America permitted to use the title of ji in its name.

5. Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing
...by Charles Johnson


Book Description... "Were it not for the Buddhadharma, says Charles Johnson in his preface to Turning the Wheel, "I'm convinced that, as a black American and an artist, I would not have been able to successfully negotiate my last half century of life in this country. Or at least not with a high level of creative productivity." In this collection of provocative and intimate essays, Johnson writes of the profound connection between Buddhism and creativity, and of the role of Eastern philosophy in the quest for a free and thoughtful life.

In 1926, W. E. B. Du Bois asked African-Americans what they would most want were the color line miraculously forgotten. In Turning the Wheel, Johnson sets out to explore this question by examining his experiences both as a writer and as a practitioner of Buddhism.

He looks at basic Buddhist principles and practices, demonstrating how Buddhism is both the most revolutionary and most civilized of possible human choices. He discusses fundamental Buddhist practices such as the Eightfold Path, Taming the Mind, and Sangha and illuminates their place in the American Civil Rights movement.

Johnson moves from spiritual guides to spiritual nourishment: writing. In essays touching on the role of the black intellectual, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Ralph Ellison, Johnson uses tools of Buddhist thinking to clarify difficult ideas. Powerful and revelatory, these essays confirm that writing and reading, along with Buddhism, are the basic components that make up a thoughtful life.

Amazon.com- Reviewer: from The Lion City... This book, a collection of essays on Buddhadharma, race, and writing in America, is vintage Johnson: the essays are wise, funny, and genuinely erudite. As a spiritual writer, as a critic of predominent intellectual trends in American culture, and as a careful and intelligent arbiter in the on-going reconstruction of American identity, Johnson offers clear and memorable essays on an astonishing variety of topics. My two favorites are "A Phenomenology of ON MORAL FICTION" and "An American Milk Bottle." This book is a reader's feast.


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