- Buddhist Churches of America
The Buddhist Churches of America is the
United Statesbranch of the Honpa Hongan-ji(also known as Nishi-Honganji) sub-sect of Jōdo Shinshū ("True Pure Land School") Buddhism. Jodo Shinshu is also popularly known as Shin Buddhism. The B.C.A. is one of several overseas "kyodan" ("districts") belonging to the Nishi ("Western") Hongwan-ji. The other "kyodan" are South America, Hawaiokinai, Canada, and Europe. Their headquarters is at 1710 Octavia Street, San Francisco, California, near San Francisco's Japantown. It is the oldest Buddhist organization in the United States.
Origins and development
The origins of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) began with the arrival of Japanese immigrants to the American mainland during the late 1800s. Devout Shin Buddhists who had expressed concern over the lack of religious services, and the activities of Christian missionaries among the newly-arrived immigrant population, petitioned the "monshu" (head abbot) of the Nishi
Hongwan-jito send priests to the United States. The first Jodo Shinshu priests arrived in San Franciscoin 1893, and the first American temple constructed in 1899. The priests' arrival in San Francisco was a source of concern to the Japanese consul to the U.S. who believed it would strain U.S.-Japan relations: for example, a hostile article by the San Francisco Chroniclenewspaper on the arrival of the priests alleged that the priests' intent was to convert white Americans and proclaim that Buddhism was superior to Christianity. In the decades prior to World War II, the mainland American branch of the Nishi Hongwan-jitradition was named the "Buddhist Missions of North America" (BMNA), and many temples were established throughout the West Coast of the United States, the first being in San Francisco, followed by temples in the Bay Area, the Central Valley, and Northern and Southern California. There were also temples established in the Northwest states, in Seattle, Washington and Oregon. Since the majority of early Japanese immigrants or issei("First Generation") were farmers or laborers, many of these temples were built in then-rural, and segregated, areas such as Dinuba, Guadalupe, and Sacramento, California.
An earlier separate branch of the Nishi Hongwanji-ha was established on the Hawaiian Islands in the 1880s, known today as the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. Many Japanese had also immigrated to Hawaii to work on the plantations there.
The activities of the BMNA focused solely on the Japanese immigrant community and their families. Priests were expected to conduct funeral and memorial services, teach
Buddhismtogether with traditional Japanese culture, and also to serve as role models for young Japanese men, as at the time they were often considered the most educated Japanese immigrants. Many of these priests only stayed temporarily in the United States, then returned to Japan after serving for a period of a few years; others stayed on in the U.S. temples (a trend that continues today among many priests who are Japanese nationals). Worship services were in the Japanese language, and Japanese-language and English-language schools were common at many temples. Auxiliary temple organizations such as the Young Buddhist Association(YBA) and Buddhist Women's Association(BWA), common in Japan, were also established in America to enhance the feeling of "sangha" and ethnic solidarity. Many temples also emphasized American civic principles: Boy Scoutchapters were active in temples before and after World War II. The desire to assimilate into mainstream American society created changes in traditional Japanese Buddhist religious architectureand ritualand culture in order to conform to the predeominant Protestant Christian religion: temples resembled Christian churchesin their interior style and design (replacing "tatami" mats with pews and introducing lecterns), and supplemented traditional Shinshu liturgywith introduction of Western musical instruments (organs and pianos) in services, singing of "gathas" modeled after Christian hymns, and male and female choirs. These changes remain today and are considered the norm for American Jodo Shinshu temples.
Although the focus of temple life emphasized
Japanese Buddhismand Japanese culture, there was a very limited outreach to non-Japanese Americans who were interested in Buddhism. A few Caucasian ("hakujin") members were admitted into BMNA temples, and a notable few, such as the Rev. Sunya Pratt of Tacoma, Washington, and Rev. Julius Goldwater (a relative of Senator Barry Goldwater) from Los Angeles, even became ordained in the Shin tradition in the U.S. prior to World War II. In 2006, Dr. Gordon Bermant, from Ekoji Buddhist Temple, became the President of the Buddhist Churches of America, the first non-Japanese-American to hold this position.
World War II and Japanese-American internment
The Japanese attack on
Pearl Harborand the subsequent entry of America into World War IIhad a devastating impact on the Jodo Shinshu temples in America, which lingers to the present day. War hysteria, economic jealousies, and racismled to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's signing of Executive Order 9066which called for the removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast and placement into internment camps. Temples were closed and many Japanese-American Buddhist families hid or destroyed their "butsudans" (home altars), and other religious items. Jodo Shinshu priests were arrested by the FBI, since they were viewed as community leaders, and imprisoned separate from their "sanghas". However, Buddhist services were conducted within the internment camps.
The term 'Churches' in the name of the sect derives historically from the desire of
Japanese immigrant Buddhists to be accepted into North American society and to avoid attracting hostility and discrimination, especially after many Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. The name was changed from the BMNA to Buddhist Churches of America in 1944at the Topaz War Relocation Center. During the internment period, many Japanese-Americans enlisted in the U.S. Armyto prove their loyalty to America and in the belief that it would end the internment of their families. The BCA also petitioned the War Department to have a Buddhist military chaplainassigned to the segregated Japanese-American units, such as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, but this request was denied as Buddhism was not a recognized religion (at the time only Protestant Christian, Catholic Christian and Jewish chaplains were endorsed). Buddhist chaplains would not be accepted until 1987when the BCA re-applied for and was granted official endorser status. Following the end of internment in 1946, Japanese-Americans returned to the West Coast and what was left of their former homes, and most temples were re-opened. Relations with the Nishi Hongwan-jiin Japan were also reestablished.
After World War II, the newly reorganized Buddhist Churches of America temples resumed traditional
Jodo Shinshurituals and services, and served as a refuge from continuing racial discrimination in wider American society. For this reason, there was little or no desire by many Japanese-American "sanghas" in propagating Jodo Shinshu, with few exceptions. The internment legacy also created a stronger desire to assimilate into mainstream American society by many nisei("Second Generation"). The niseisoon replaced the isseiin BCA ministry and leadership positions, and English was used more frequently in services and meetings. During the next several decades, as Buddhism became more widely known and accepted in American society, particularly in its Zenand Tibetan Buddhistforms, Jodo Shinshu Buddhism continued to remain unknown, or misunderstood as an ethnic or "Christianized" form of Buddhism. This view is gradually changing as the organization's membership is becoming more ethnically diverse due to the growing American interest in Buddhismand intermarriage among the sansei("Third Generation") and yonsei("Fourth Generation") families, who continue to constitute the majority of "sangha" membership. English is the predominant language spoken at BCA temples, although some Japanese-language-only services and classes are still held. Sutrachanting (or "shomyo") is still in the Japanese-language; some temples have attempted to create an English-language "shomyo".
The BCA continues to struggle with the legacy of the
internmentand the effects of assimilation, as it confronts many serious issues: temples which are in isolated rural or deteriorating urban areas (which were formerly Japanese-American enclaves), a dwindling membership, lack of interest by young Japanese-Americans in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, and misconceptions of their doctrine within American Buddhism. There are also ongoing debates regarding the adaptation and change of traditional Shin doctrineto Western ideas of Buddhism, such as whether or not temples should offer more diverse forms of meditationin addition to chanting meditation, in order to attract new members, who would not be ethnic Japanese. However, it is hoped that ongoing American interest in the Dharmawill lead to a new interest in Jodo ShinshuBuddhism and a revival of Jodo Shinshu in the United States. The BCA has attempted to accomplish this goal chiefly through academia, "minister's assistant" training, and through cultural events open to the public, such as the Obon Festival, taikodrumming, and Japanese food bazaars.
The majority of BCA temples are in California, although there are other temples and "howakai" ("Jodo Shinshu Dharma Associations") in Washington, Idaho/Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. The BCA is administratively and regionally divided into six districts: Northern, Coast, Southern, Central, Eastern, and Northwest. Each district may sponsor its own yearly conferences, lectures, and social and religious events. The BCA also publishes a bilingual monthly newspaper, "Wheel of Dharma".
In the United States, BCA priests may be addressed as either "sensei" ("teacher"), "Minister," or "Reverend." BCA ministers have historically been all male and ethnically Japanese, but there is now a substantial number of female, and non-Japanese, ministers. BCA minister's dress or "koromo" includes the full-length black "fuho", which is the everyday priest's robe, and "wagesa", a type of
stolewhich is said to symbolize the original Buddhist robe worn by the historical Buddha. Additional, more formal robes include the "kokue", a heavier black robe with longer sleeves and pleated skirt, "hakama", and "gojo-gesa", a colorful five-paneled apron which is draped over the "kokue". These are worn for major services such as Obonor Hoonko. In Japan, Jodo Shinshupriests typically wear a white "hakue," or undershirt, under their robes, and "tabi", a traditional split-toe sock, but this is usually not worn in America. BCA ministers also carry an "ojuzu", a string of beads with tassels said to symbolize a person's "bonno" or "evil passions" which one must be mindful of. They are similar to the "mala" in other Buddhist traditions. Jodo ShinshuBuddhism does not have monastic vows ("vinaya")so priests may marry: priests' spouses are called "bomori," an archaic Japanese word which may mean "temple helper." "Bomori" are very active in temple activities, and may also be ordained and assist in rituals and services.
Seminary and education
The BCA's American seminary, the
Institute of Buddhist Studies(IBS), is located in Berkeley, California and is affiliated with the Graduate Theological Union. This seminary and graduate school offers a Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies and offers on-line courses. BCA priests graduate from the IBS after three years and are ordained at the Nishi Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto, Japanin an evening ceremony called "tokudo". Most BCA priests receive additional ordination called "kyoshi" (which permits them to teach doctrine) and "kaikyoshi", literally "overseas teacher" which permits them to teach outside mainland Japan. A typical course of instruction for priesthood includes study of Jodo Shinshudoctrine, history, and liturgy, courses in comparative religions, general overview of Buddhism, and some Japanese-language instruction. Recently the IBS introduced Buddhist-based courses for chaplaincy training in partnership with the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies.
On October 20, 2006, the Jodo Shinshu Center, located in downtown Berkeley, was opened, to function as a training center for ministerial candidates and assistants in the U.S., sponsor continuing education programs for priests and laymembers, and as a major site for the propagation of Shin Buddhism in North America. The Center is also the US headquarters of
Ryukoku Universitybased in Kyoto, Japan.
Currently, the Buddhist Churches of America is the only Buddhist organization which can endorse chaplains of Buddhist faith for U.S Armed Forces, as recognized by the National Council on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF). The BCA may also endorse Buddhist chaplains for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the
Department of Veterans Affairs(VA).
* [http://www.buddhistchurchesofamerica.com/ Buddhist Churches of America website]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Buddhist Women's Association — The Buddhist Women s Association (BWA) is the English name of the worldwide auxiliary lay organization of the Nishi Hongwanji ha branch of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Its Japanese name is Fujinkai . Many Jodo Shinshu temples in Japan, mainland United… … Wikipedia
Buddhist monasteries, Chinese — The last quarter of the twentieth century saw both increases in Buddhist monastic construction and changes in construction materials when compared to earlier periods. The adaptive nature of Buddhism architecture is demonstrated in the modern… … Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture
Buddhism in the United States of America — Buddhism is a religion with millions of followers in the United States, including traditionally Buddhist Asian Americans as well as non Asians, many of whom are converts [ [http://www.beliefnet.com/story/7/story 732 1.html Beliefnet.com American… … Wikipedia
Chartered organizations of the Boy Scouts of America — All Boy Scouts of America units are owned and operated by chartered organizations. Of the 114,994 units units and 3,822,611 Scouts: 68.4% of all units and 62.5% of all Scouts are chartered to faith based organizations 26.5% of all units and 25.1% … Wikipedia
Ekoji Buddhist Temple — Ekoji is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temple of the Nishi Hongwanji Tradition in Fairfax Station, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. It is a member of the Buddhist Churches of America, the oldest Buddhist organization in the mainland United States. Ekoji … Wikipedia
Institute of Buddhist Studies — The Institute of Buddhist Studies is a Jodo Shinshu affiliated seminary and graduate school, located in Berkeley, California. It is an affiliate member of the Graduate Theological Union, also located in Berkeley. Its primary mission is to train… … Wikipedia
Young Buddhist Association — The Young Buddhist Association (YBA) is an auxiliary lay group of the Buddhist Churches of America, the mainland U.S. branch of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Founded in 1974 and originally known as the Young Men s Buddhist Association (YMBA, which was… … Wikipedia
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, country in N. America. This article is arranged according to the following outline: introduction Colonial Era, 1654–1776 Early National Period, 1776–1820 German Jewish Period, 1820–1880 East European Jewish Period,… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
Chinatowns in North America — This article surveys individual Chinatowns in North America. * For the purposes of this article North America is defined as Canada and the United States. * For information on Chinatowns in Mexico and Central America, please refer to Chinatowns in … Wikipedia
Moorish Science Temple of America — Attendees of the 1928 Moorish Science Temple Conclave in Chicago. Noble Drew Ali is in the front row center. The Moorish Science Temple of America is an American organization founded in the early 20th century by Timothy Drew. He claimed it was a… … Wikipedia