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Buddhadharma : Winter 2006
buddhadharma| 55 |fall 2006 Buddhadharma: It wasn’t just a matter of adapting for protective reasons as existed in the earlier his- tory of the BCA, but this was a situation of evolu- tionary and even revolutionary change for you. ron KoBata: For some of us. Ogui Sensei was in the vanguard of that movement overall, but some of us definitely saw ourselves as part of the sixties gen- eration. Americanizing Buddhism meant making it more relevant. We were also pretty arrogant. Buddhadharma: Would you say that there is some ten- sion in the BCA now about its future direction? Socho ogui: Of course, but these are good, posi- tive tensions. For the first time in our history, the president of the BCA is Caucasian. In Spokane, Washington, as the Japanese-Americans aged and began to fade away from the community, the lead- ership did not include any Japanese-Americans. Even though some object, I remind people that we are living on the soil of the United States of America and we need to be understood by the majority of people here. waKoh Shannon hicKey: We have to take care when it comes to ritual forms and try to truly understand their significance. Some converts to Soto Zen, for instance, think in terms of getting rid of what they consider the cultural baggage of Zen and sticking to the pure essence. I’ve come to think about that differently over the years. The ritual forms are not simply cultural; they are themselves the form of training, the pedagogical method. Some people also dismiss certain groups and traditions as cultural Buddhism, focused on devo- tional practices and rituals. But they tend to over- look, or treat lightly, rituals such as the morning service in convert Zen centers around the coun- try, which involves devotional practices, prostra- tions, chanting, offering incense, and other forms. American Buddhism is not separate from so-called “cultural Buddhism.” Buddhadharma: Traditionally, churches have pro- vided a much broader array of services and meth- ods of observance for people than many American Buddhist groups, which see themselves as medita- tion centers aimed at personal practice. Traditional Suzuki Roshi had to make a deep personal decision between maintaining the ethnic sangha that he was serving versus branching off with a new group of convert Buddhists. When he decided to branch out, that was a major change in American Buddhist history. — Ron Kobata eliWilliamson-Jonesdonfarber Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, Woodstock, New York.