...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... August 12, 2003
Buddhist traditions converge at Change Your Mind day
...By Angel Gonzalez
2. 2003 Monastic Retreat: A Perspective ...By Brady T. Chin,
4. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week: Enmanji
5. Book/Movie Review: Turning the Wheel:
Essays on Buddhism and Writing ...by Charles Johnson
the next few weeks I will be on a road trip... The
next issue of the UD Newsletter will be e-Mailed in September.
Buddhist traditions converge at Change Your Mind day ...By
Angel Gonzalez ...Seattle Times staff reporter ... Sunday, August
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.
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.
to him, the blessed one, worthy one, fully enlightened one,"
went the salutation to Buddha.
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.
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
dharmas meet at one point, and this is an example of that,"
said Shelley Pierce, of the Seattle Shambhala Center.
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."
was variety indeed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
2. 2003 Monastic Retreat: A Perspective ...By Brady T. Chin,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Buddhist Temple- firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Carol Himaka- email@example.com
School (Sunday School)
- The Essentials of Jodo Shinshu
Jodo Shinshu Honpa Hongwanji
Founder: Shinran Shonin (1173-1263)
Amida Buddha (Buddha of Infinite Light and Life)
Principal Sutras of Jodo Shinshu are:
Larger Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Bussetsu Muryoju
Sutra of Meditation on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Bussetsu
Smaller Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Bussetsu Amida
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Name of Enmanji
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.
word en, in Japanese means 'garden;'
as mentioned before ji means 'temple.'
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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