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brief introduction to the Buddhist Church

I was recently contacted by someone whose family is interested in Buddhism. They wanted to come to the Oakland Church, so I have been in email contact with them. I recently wrote an email to them, and thought I would include excerpts of it here:

Buddhism operates on so many different levels: there is doctrine and history, some of which we touch on here at the temple. But you don't have to come to temple to learn about that - there are plenty of books and other references available. It can seem overwhelming, but the intellectual/informational side is really only one part. And you will probably find that if you talk to other members, they feel like they don't know very much!

There is also the practice dimension. Meditation is one aspect of this, but our school of Buddhism is not a meditation school so it isn't really available here. Sutra chanting, incense offering, and listening to the Dharma are traditionally important parts of the Buddhist experience, and I think that this is more what we have to offer. Our school of Buddhism (Jodo Shinshu) is more like "every-day Buddhism" and coming to temple allows us to recharge and dig in a little deeper so that we can incorporate Buddhism into our own lives.

Then of course there is the community aspect. This also operates on various levels, from chanting together to eating together to working together, whether it is to put on some of our fundraiser events or setting up/taking down tables for lunch. And of course there are a lot of families here that have roots back into the early 20th century. Plus new families as well, whether of Japanese descent from other areas or non-Japanese or mixed...

Remember, this is an email that I whipped out, and it is in the context of previous conversations and the family makeup of the person I was writing to. Here are some additional thoughts:

Again, I don't think the the Church is the best place to learn about doctrine or history. We do occasionally offer a study class, but it only lasts for 30-45 minutes, and with no way to know who will attend, it isn't really possible for those attending to do any preparation. When I was at the Buddhist Church of Lodi I offered a regular study class in the spring and fall, but here in the Bay Area with the Center for Buddhist Education and Institute of Buddhist Studies right around the corner in Berkeley, it doesn't seem as urgent. But I might have to rethink that.

One idea I have is to start a Dharma Gathering on a Saturday afternoon. Our Sunday morning services are so family oriented that I wonder if this is just not helpful for some people? The Saturday afternoon Dharma gathering would be somewhere between a service and a class. Stay tuned, maybe it is time to get this started!

Now it's commercial time: if anyone is interested in books on Buddhism, swing on by the BCA Bookstore at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley. And also feel free to email me questions or comments: revharry3 at gmail dot com


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2010 08:46 am (UTC)
Buddhist Church
Adult religious education is something of the utmost importance; why doesn't Shinshu put together various programs for this? The Episcopal Church's EDF "Education For Ministry" is an excellent program and would be a great model for emulation.
A Sunday evening liturgy, a glittering, gorgeous service praising Amitabha as the ruddy sunset gives way to candlelight suspended in clouds of incense; the Pure Land manifested if for but an hour to end the weekend, teaches more about the Dharmakaya than all the sermons and classes you or I or a BCA committee can devise. I sing mine in English, in a rite more akin to Byzantium than Kyoto; not just because I'm a former Christian, but because far-flung Greeks were Buddhists in Bactria, etc. centuries before the Dharma came to Japan, and along with Eastern Iranians, had a profound effect on the development of the Mahayana and early Pure Land teachings.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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