04 October 2010

Tendai Buddhism in North America: Bridging Past and Present

Please consider these words from Monshin Paul Naamon on upcoming events of great significance at the Tendai Buddhist Institute:

The 10:30 AM event at the Tendai Buddhist Institute is an observance of the consecration of our hondo, Jiunzan Tendai-ji (the main temple building, translated as Compassionate Mountain Cloud Tendai Temple) five years ago, as well as the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of Karuna Tendai Dharma Center, the official name of Tendai Buddhist Institute, the Tendai-shu New York Betsuin (the authorized New York Branch of Enryaku-ji Temple).

This ceremony will be performed by Kanda-sensei of Kanei-ji, the head temple in Tokyo, Japan.

At noon lunch will be provided for all. We will continue to celebrate in the afternoon starting at 1 PM with the formal Tokudo (ordination) of six Betsuin Soryo and Doshu, namely Seishin Fitterer, Ryushin Karapasas, Shoshin Jacon, Mushin Press, Shomon Trans and Koyo Spang.

All of these people have completed at least six years of formal training and have received Tokudo as Betsuin priests in the past.

A formal Tokudo requires a number of priests of a certain status to witness the Tokudo in order to be registered in Japan. Because we will have a number of highly ranked priests here for the other activities it is a good time for these six people to be recognized for their many contributions to the Dharma. The Precept Master for the Tokudo ceremony will again be Kanda-sensei.

In Boston, the events are a commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the ordination of William Sturgis Bigelow and Ernest Fenollosa, the founder and first curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, respectively. These two individuals are the first North Americans to receive Tendai Buddhist ordination. Both of these persons were remarkable people who had accomplished a great deal in addition to their ordinations. There will be a story on the Tendai International web page in the next week or so providing some insight to these colorful personalities.

The Boston event begins at 11:30 AM with a short lecture and shomyo (a type of chanting similar to Gregorian chant) presentation in the museum and then we will go outside for a Goma ritual conducted by a dignitary of Enryaku-ji temple, Mt. Hiei, Japan. The goma ceremony should be concluded by about 2:30 PM.

As I look at these proceedings, there are several thoughts that come to mind.

First, that this is a wonderful opportunity for the people that constitute the Tendai Buddhist Institute to join with our Japanese friends in dedication to the dharma.

But, this is not merely an opportunity for cross-cultural interaction. The monks coming from Japan are doing so at their own expense as a way of showing their ongoing support of the Dharma and our efforts outside of Japan. Most of them grew up in temple families. The Dharma and its manifestations are as much a part of their lives as breath itself.

For most of us living in the West, we adopted this tradition and there are aspects that seem very Asian and therefore strange or incongruous. Yet there is something that draws us to it. There is a veracity that is universal to the human condition. These events are wonderful occasions to integrate our body, speech, and mind in the pursuit of the Dharma and its practices. It is a time for joy and rededication. Enjoy yourself.

For those who might like to attend, here is the schedule and other logistical details:

October 23rd 2010, at the Betsuin (near Canaan, NY)
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM -- A ceremony celebrating the fifth anniversary of our hondo (main temple building) renovation and the 15th anniversary of the Tendai Buddhist Institute.

12:00 to 1:00 -- Lunch is provided between the two ceremonies.

1:00 - 2:30 PM -- A formal ordination of Soryo (priests).

October 24th 2010, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA)
11:30 AM - 2:30 PM -- This event centers on a Goma ceremony and commemorates the 125th anniversary of William Sturgis Bigelow and Ernesto Fenallosa's (the founder and first curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, respectively) ordination as Tendai priests in Japan.

For more information, contact info@tendai.org.

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