Thursday, December 02, 2004

Good article on Shin Buddhism


Shin Buddhism was founded by Shinran Shonin as a path for the masses, compared to the monastic traditions of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. While those schools focus on lengthy meditation and other rigorous self-disciplines to attain enlightenment, Shin Buddhism preaches salvation not through self-efforts but faith in the power of immeasurable light and life, wisdom and compassion, represented by the Amida Buddha.

The Shin tradition's message of faith has drawn comparisons to Christianity — one reason, Buddhist scholars say, it has been less appealing to American converts seeking a path distinctly different from their own Christian or Jewish upbringing.

But now Shin Buddhists have begun actively working to raise their profile. A seminal development was the 1998 publication of the first introduction to Shin Buddhism by a major publisher: "River of Fire, River of Water," by Taitetsu Unno, the nation's foremost authority on the tradition. The book helped fuel new study groups and sanghas of mostly converts in such places as New Mexico and Connecticut, according to Jeff Wilson, a contributing editor to Tricycle, a leading Buddhist journal...

At Nishi Hongwanji Temple in Little Tokyo, Mexican American minister William Briones is taking the Buddhist message to blacks and Latinos in East Los Angeles through talks at high schools and other locales. His temple, part of Shin Buddhism's larger branch, will celebrate its centennial next year.

One of the region's most dynamic congregations is the Orange County Buddhist Church in Anaheim, which has grown to 1,000 members from 650 in 1986 under the leadership of the Rev. Marvin Harada. Boosted by a 5% hike in Orange County's Japanese American population in the 1990s, the temple also reaches out to the wider community with such classes as "Buddhism in Western Literature," and a new publishing arm. Harada said those of non-Japanese descent now account for up to 10% of temple membership.

Harada's temple is also one of the few to offer meditation services. Official Shin doctrine frowns on meditation as an attempt to gain enlightenment, but Harada said he offers it as a way to relax and open the mind to Buddhist teachings.

The Rev. Koshin Ogui, the newly elected reformist bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America, is likely to encourage such measures despite resistance from Japan. He said he began promoting meditation several years ago in Cleveland, where six of every 10 callers wanted to learn the practice.

"I used to answer that we don't practice meditation, until I realized that if I lose six of every 10 people … I would bankrupt my store," he said with a laugh

These folks have emulated some Christian practices, among them, leaving those books in hotel rooms...mostly in Japan, but also in Singapore, San Francisco, and elsewhere.

The article also points to this link, which is a useful reference.

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