With the increase in interracial marriages and Christianity as the basis of the public education system, the foundation of the Japanese community in Canada is on the verge of crumbling. In the midst of these transitions, propagation work must now be able to adapt and cater to both the needs of the Japanese and non-Japanese membership. With the BCA youth study programs as a hint, the Young Buddhist Association (YBA) of Vancouver Buddhist Temple has been conducting a program educating the temple youth on Buddhist and Shinshu teachings for the past four years. Resident minister, Rev. Tatsuya Aoki comments “There is never a better time than now to learn (about Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu).” In addition to the weekly study sessions, Aoki and neighboring Steveston Buddhist Temple resident minister, Rev. Grant Ikuta, are currently putting together an overnight mini-retreat program that is scheduled to be offered twice annually, focusing on Buddhist rituals and liturgy.
Austin Fisher, who commutes by bus for an hour and a half to the temple, shares, “My parents are Christians. But in reflecting on world peace, I found the way that Buddhism teaches the importance of respecting the lives of one another to be appealing.”
Vancouver Buddhist Temple member David Ohori comments, “To my grandfather and great-grandfather, the temple was important to them as if it were their own life.” Ohori and his mother Junko are glad to see the youth coming to the temple and learning about the teachings.
The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada is faced with a shortage of ministers as the four local districts of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Eastern district currently consisting of twelve temples are being overseen by ten ministers.
“The truth is, whether it may be the temple or people interested in learning about Buddhism, it is difficult to cater to everyone’s needs with the shortage of ministers. There is hope for our future if members from our youth program become ministers, new temples become established in this vast area of Canada, and more people can come to appreciate the Nembutsu.” Aoki said.
It was one hundred thirty-four years ago that the first Japanese travelled across to Canada. Today, third and fourth generation Japanese Canadians with an interest in Buddhism gather at the temple. The Nembutsu is also beginning to grow within the Non-Japanese who until now had no encounter with Buddhism.
Aoki closed by saying, “With the memorial observance as the opportunity, the Nembutsu torch of our forefathers is now being passed on to the next generation.”
~English Translation of an article from the Hongwanji Newspaper; January 10, 2011 edition