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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
61 fall 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly The Wat Dhammagunaram sangha in North Layton, practicing walking meditation. When I began exploring Buddhist communities in Utah, one of the very first respondents to my initial inquiry was Reverend Jerry Hirano, resident minister of the Salt Lake City Buddhist Churches of America temple. With a long his- tory that dates back to 1912, the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple has outlined three major emphases for it efforts: education, community, and finance. This temple provides a vibrant reli- gious life for the Japanese American community of Salt Lake City, hosting a staggering array of activities ranging from a dharma school for young members of the temple to a series of Young Buddhist Association programs. The temple pro- duces a monthly newsletter, offers scholarships for attending religious retreats, holds seminars and classes, and conducts a wide variety of Buddhist rites and celebrations marking key events in members’ lives and the BCA calendar. Although newer to Utah than Pure Land, Zen is by far the best-known and most represented Buddhist tradition in this state. The most prominent of the Zen communities is Genpo Roshi’s Kanzeon Sangha International, which is based in Salt Lake City, a dozen or so blocks down the street from the Mormon temple. Genpo Roshi is one of the late Taizan Maezumi Roshi’s dharma-heirs, and dharma-brother to John Daido Loori Roshi, abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in New York. The Kanzeon Sangha is a member of the White Plum Sangha, a consortium of Zen centers established by Maezumi Roshi’s dharma-heirs. Like many Zen teachers in the White Plum Sangha, Genpo Roshi has addressed the issue of how much traditional Zen practice to maintain and how much innovation to introduce. It is quite clear that meditation re- mains the core practice of the Kan- zeon Sangha, with the Zen forms of private instruction, dokusan and dai- san, available during scheduled medi- tation periods. Sunday is a special day for the community, combining morn- ing meditation practice with a dharma talk by one of the teachers. Follow- ing the dharma talk, there’s a social hour in the adjoining sangha house, and there’s a children’s class on Sundays as well. As with all of Maezumi Roshi’s successors, Genpo Roshi’s community is profoundly committed to engaged Buddhism, working ar- dently with the Salt Lake County Juvenile Court, various soup kitchens, and other projects. The Soka Gakkai tradition is also represented in Utah, primarily through centers in Salt Lake City and in Southern Utah (in La Verkin, Utah). But lest one think that the Bud- dhist landscape in Utah is dominated by sanghas of Japa- nese ancestry, Tibetan communities are thriving here as well, including those serving Tibetan refugees. Some of the first Tibetan refugees to reach Utah in the late 1980s established the Utah Tibetan Resettlement Project, which now has more than two hundred members. One source even noted that young Tibetan children have learned to speak English with a “Utah accent.” My first contact with Ti- betan Buddhism in Utah was through Geoffrey Kaessner, who houses the dharma cen- ter of Dozgchen Samye Ling in his Salt Lake City home. He describes this sangha, which numbers over two hundred people, as “a very simple cen- ter of Vajrayana Buddhism,” which is under the guidance of Khenpo Choga Rinpoche from the Dzogchen Monastery and Dzogchen Shri Shdra in Kham, Tibet. It is associated with the Nyingma lineage, though they welcome teachers from all the Vajrayana lineages. Probably the largest Tibetan Buddhist sangha in Utah is that of Urgyen Samten Ling in Salt Lake City. It was established in 1994 by Lama Thupten Dorje Gyaltsen, with support from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. The community has a center with a lovely, impressive shrine room, where it holds weekly Sun- day puja ceremonies for its members. Evening classes are held as well, along with classes in meditation and an in- troduction to Tibetan Buddhism. I quickly discovered that Utah re- flects precisely the same sort of micro- cosm of Buddhist communities that I have witnessed throughout North The Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, affiliated with the Buddhist Churches of America, is led by Rev. Jerry Hirano. Young members of the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple participate in a meditation retreat in Honeyville, Utah. deSertdharMa.orGphoto:JiMakerSGeorGeJiShoroBertSoncoUrteSyofthefonGSdr.kyleMatSUMUra