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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
SPRING 2014 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 79 The weathered bronze statue of Shinran Sho- nin, the thirteenth-century Japanese religious reformer, gazes watchfully across Riverside Drive toward the Hudson River, greeting visitors arriving for Sunday-morning services at Manhat- tan’s New York Buddhist Church. Taking their seats in rows of chairs, they will spend the next hour chanting together in Japanese, singing Western-style hymns in English accompanied by piano or organ, listening to a dharma talk, and lining up to offer a pinch of powdered incense at the altar. This easy blend of Eastern and Western influ- ences has long typified Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in America, says assistant minister Matthew Wise. He explains that when Japanese immigrants arrived in North America in the late nineteenth century, “they wanted to assimilate—they didn’t want to stand out.” by Michael Haederle Many Western adherents of meditation-based Zen may be surprised to learn that Jodo Shinshu, a branch of the Pure Land school, is the most widespread Buddhist sect in Japan. It’s a com- munity-based, lay-oriented tradition that centers around the simple recitation of the Nembutsu: Namu Amida Butsu. Many of the Japanese who emigrated to Hawaii and the West Coast were Jodo Shinshu followers. The scattered congregations they established eventually coalesced into the Bud- dhist Churches of America. Today, the organi- zation has more than sixty independent temples and some 16,000 members in the mainland U.S. A separate organization, Honpa Hongwanji Mis- sion of Hawaii, has thirty-seven member temples in that state, while the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada serves members north of the border. All three organizations are affiliated PROFILE THE NEW YORK BUDDHIST CHURCH Members of the New York Buddhist Church gathered last fall to celebrate the community’s 75th anniversary DAVIDOKADA