Report from the European Jodo Shinshu conference

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Andrew Nicholls (Temple Host) 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #2996

    I’m just back from representing Amida Shu at the biannual European Jodo Shinshu conference which was in Southampton this year – thank you to the Trust for supporting me. I made some good connections with Jodo Shinshu Buddhists from around Europe, America & Japan, including a very warm connection with the President of the US BCA (overseeing at least 18000 congregants across America) and a Japanese priest who loves English football 🙂

    It was a strange experience to be in amongst a group of people who were so similar to me (talking of nembutsu, Other Power, Amida etc) and also so different (with their suits, services with black robes and chanted Japanese, their organisational ‘conservatism’ and lots of talk of shinjin).
    A wide variety of voices were represented. Some took the traditional Shin view that we are bombu beings who cannot know what is helpful for others and so shouldn’t even try – some spoke up passionately for more social engagement. Some wanted to take steps towards becoming more accessible to younger people – changing translations of words or softening, and others wanted to strongly conserve their Dharma as it had been passed on to them. There was also lots I could identify with – how do we use social media to spread the Dharma and what are its limitations? How can we talk about our practice in the west where people think Buddhism = meditation? How do we reach out to new members?

    It looks like there is good work happening across Europe with a scattering of Jodo Shinshu priests slowly building congretations, including Rev Gary Robinson who runs http://chomonhouse.org/ in Southampton. I also came away feeling affirmed about our unique position as Pureland practioners in the West & elsewhere who have the freedom to adapt our methods of presentation (to a sensible degree!) to suit our local populations – a true reincarnation of Honen & Shinran’s teachings.

    The conferences are held every 2 years and I’d recommend them to anyone – I’d hope to continue to be in touch with some of the people I met and look forward to attending in the future.

    Namo Amida Bu or, Namu Amida Butsu!

  • #3001

    Thank you for that writing, Satya. I had wondered what went on at that conference you attended, having visited the Jodo Shinshu temple in Antwerp recently. They were very laid back there so I’m interested in what you say about flexibility and conservatism. Certainly, what you say about flexibility in Amida Shu is really important to me as I search for and find ways to practise the Nembutsu in my particular life, in relationship to a particular sangha. I think probably very many people are in situations similar to mine where we have to make adaptations in our own practice to find ways in to the larger practice of a sangha and the Amida Shu’s flexibility within a centred group practice can be very helpful. Of course, as individuals we need to be creative as well and find ways in which we can meet effectively with already-existing practices. But I think it is important, especially nowadays as various human-made difficulties move towards crisis point, that as organisations we find ways to include people who are drawn to particular religious traditions whether or not we are able, with our differing physical and mental capacities to follow traditions, exactly as they are at this moment for the people already doing them. Finding ways through while staying true to the spirit of a tradition can be very important work. Namo Amida Bu! Namu Amida Butsu!

  • #3002

    For me I find being able to adjust slightly for people very important and to be able to offer pure land Buddhism from a western perspective. Shakyamuni saw that in the future people would be too busy to sit for hours meditating, or to spend long periods of time on retreat etc. He called this the dharma ending age. In the world today we have many religions it’s up to us to put forward our unique brand so that those “with little dust in their eyes” are able to see if this is the philosophy that best suits them “some will understand”.

    So to be able to offer shorter or slightly different ways of basically saying Namo Amida Bu is important. Equally important is that they understand why they say it. To me that is the important part of what Amida Shu and Honen teach.

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