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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
22 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 3 One of the most memorable events of my life was attending the Buddhist Teachers’ Council at the Garrison Institute in New York during the summer of 2011. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many inspiring teachers from different tradi- tions and to have gained such wonderful insight through group discussions and one-on-one conversations. A recurring theme of the council was safety— specifically, that a sangha should be a safe place for everyone, especially for those who have experienced exclusion or discrimination. Some of the teacher participants shared their stories of exclusion by their previous religious institutions, experiences that led them to seek the Buddhist path. Their stories helped me realize the impor- tance of including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) within our sanghas. I asked myself, “Do we, as Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, include the LGBTQ community? Are our sanghas inclusive?” Later, I talked with several sangha members and found that many of them had a strong interest in these questions as well. REVEREND KIYONOBU JOSHIN KUWAHARA is a Jodo Shinshu priest and serves as a codirector of the Buddhist Churches of America Center for Buddhist Education. The membership of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is primarily composed of Japa- nese Americans. Thus, historically, we have been influenced by Japanese culture and its emphasis on conformity. The LGBTQ community has not been openly accepted in Japan—those who stand out are forced to adapt themselves to the norm. I knew there were a number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members in the BCA. However, I was not sure if they felt accepted within their respective sanghas or if they were comfortable being open about their sexuality in that context. This doubt led to my decision to have the Center for Buddhist Education (CBE) hold a seminar to explore these questions. On June 22, 2013, just four days prior to the Supreme Court decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and one week prior to the forty- third annual San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade, we hosted our seminar, Over the Rainbow: The LGBT Community and Shin Bud- dhism, at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California. Three BCA priests spoke in the morning. The first explored the Buddhist perspective on homosexuality, discussing the monastic precept of celibacy and the lay precept of sexual respon- sibility. The second addressed the Jodo Shinshu perspective of Universal Oneness, the profound teaching of boundless wisdom and compassion open to all sentient beings just as they are. And the third lecturer detailed positions taken by the BCA with respect to LGBTQ issues, including the Is My Sangha Inclusive? When Reverend Kiyonobu Joshin Kuwahara asked himself that question, he wasn’t sure of the answer. So he decided to find out. LET’S TALK (BOTTOM)TAKATOKUWAHARA(TOP)PHILIPPWEITZ