The Buddhist Flag

The Flag is a recent addition to Buddhism. Col. H. S. Olcott, who was born in New Jersey in 1907, first presented it in India. The flag is just a small part of his total contributions to Buddhism and his death date is still celebrated throughout India and South-East Asia. A large photo of him hangs in most of the Buddhist schools and colleges he helped to establish. Continue reading “The Buddhist Flag”

Basic Rites of Passage in Shin Buddhism


This is a presentation to the temple of a new baby. If there are lots of new babies, it is held once a year. If there are fewer babies, the babies are brought to the temple when they are 33 or 100 days old. It is a joyous occasion for the entire Sangha (congregation) but it is not a baptismal event. It is an acknowledgment that a Buddhist family has a new baby that will become part of the Temple family. Continue reading “Basic Rites of Passage in Shin Buddhism”

Ringing the Temple Bell 108 Times

Temple Bell

A Buddhist tradition of ringing the big, outside Temple bell 108 times at year’s end is both welcomed and significant. And, if it is not possible to be among those gathered at a temple to observe this tradition, the home Obutsudan (shrine) or a quiet place where you slowly count to 108 can be your gathering place.

The ringing traditionally begins at midnight of the last day of the year. The last striking of the bell takes place at 1:00 AM on New Year’s morning. More modernly, we gather earlier that evening for the ringing of the bell. Continue reading “Ringing the Temple Bell 108 Times”


We can’t be there until we get there!

1.We are born self-centered in order to survive. Helpless! How long does it take to become non-self-centered?

2.We are born greedy and impatient in order to survive: strong survival instinct! How long does it take to become non-greedy and become patient? Continue reading “Gratitude”

Why Do We Chant?

Chanting goes back to the timeless past. Probably long before there were languages there were sounds that clans could make together. Maybe they even could make these sounds with others who were of different clans. Maybe it was to feel a connection to each other, maybe it was a primitive prayer or healing mechanism, or maybe it was thought to be a “spell” someone could sustain. Whatever the initial reasons, chanting is ancient. Continue reading “Why Do We Chant?”

Why Meditate?

Very simply put, it is a quieting, a balancing, of the mind and other senses (the mind is one of the senses in Buddhism). Meditation is a means to discover what is in our mind and discover how what is in our mind affects us. It is not a means to Enlightenment for us as we cannot utilize such a focus complete enough for Enlightenment to take place. Continue reading “Why Meditate?”

The Monks' Robes

Cambodian Buddhist Monks in Cambodia

The Monks’ Robes came to be because of the wishes of those who were followers of the Buddha. As ascetics, they were nude or nearly nude. As monks, their clothing was more modest since they traveled and encountered many people. Also, they had decided that they wanted to look alike, as that would signify that they were followers of the Buddha. Since it seemed to be so important to the monks, the Buddha told them to utilize rags to make their robes. They would find rags on decayed corpses and in rag heaps. Because the cloth, itself, was neither good nor bad, it was usable and available. Continue reading “The Monks' Robes”

The Church With the Purple Trim

This article ran in the Official Publication of the Buddhist Churches of America “Wheel of Dharma” December 2007 Newsletter by President Dr. Gordon Bermant.

The Visalia Buddhist Church celebrated its centennial on Nov. 3 and 4 of this year. Rev- erend Jo-Ren MacDonald, Centennial chairperson Ellen Tanimoto, Temple President Jack Mori, and dozens of volunteers had worked tirelessly for months to ensure a graceful and meaningful event for the weekend. They succeeded beautifully.

There were many aspects of the weekend’s services and celebrations that I would enjoy sharing with you. But there is one aspect that was interesting to me at the time and became much more so just a couple of days ago. I will explain what I mean.

Just last week a dear friend of mine was told by her physician that she had but a few months left to live. She and her husband have lived in their community for many years and have many friends. Friends and family will do all that they can to provide the right kinds of support. Yet at such times, the person who is ill, and his or her spouse, living by themselves, are apt to feel quite alone.

Imagine that my friends, or yours, are without close friends or nearby family when they receive this sad prognosis. They are alone in their home now. They are not traditional churchgoers either, of any denomination, yet at this time of sadness they wish to reach out for spiritual support. Imag- ine also, please, that this couple is not Japanese- American. How might these people find what they seek?

Perhaps, just by accident, they will drive by a church building that seems welcoming: it is well- kept, open, and inviting, with features that are bright and unpretentious. Imagine, for example, that the building’s light-colored stucco walls are trimmed carefully in a wonderful shade of purple paint! The trim informs passers-by that this is a welcoming place for strangers to the community and church members. Perhaps my friends, or yours, would be encouraged to take the next step. They might stop long enough to read the infor- mation on the sign in front of the building, copying the phone number and web address to use when they return home. (Can you hear the couple speaking to each other? “Buddhist Church? We don’t know anything about Bud- dhism. But this just seems like a friendly place. What do we have to lose by calling?”)

The Visalia Buddhist Church, on Center Street in downtown Visalia, has such wonderful purple trim on its façade. Reverend MacDonald told me that she and some church members considered several colors before choosing that particular shade of purple. The paint was still drying on the weekend of the Centennial. What an auspicious way to begin the second century of Jodo Shinshu in Visalia!

If my friends, or yours, use the internet, they will be further encouraged by the bright and informative appearance of www.visaliabuddhist- (Like a number of our sanghas, the transition from “church” to “temple” is underway in Visalia.) And if they should be encouraged enough to pick up the telephone to speak with Reverend MacDonald, they will have their first experience of the intelligent compassion that shines from those who experience Amida Buddha through the teachings of Shinran Shonin.

I would like to believe that one day every BCA temple will offer a genuinely open heart and mind to all who come to the door, no matter their back- ground, needs, or aspirations. I have heard on occasion that this temple or that one is uninterest- ed in reaching beyond its traditional membership to allow newcomers to experience the wisdom and compassion of the Nembutsu teaching. If true, how sad.

It has been said that the temples of BCA are an organiza- tion in transition. Perhaps a healthy transition can benefit from the example of the church with the purple trim. I like to think, as well, of a motto from a brilliant Buddhist: “Turn toward everything.”



What Is True Giving?

According to the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, there are three types of givers and then there is the process, itself. I will begin with the process, itself, as it is the most remarkable: Giving as a Buddhist is to know that there is a giver, a gift, and a receiver of that gift.

The moment the gift leaves your hand, it is no longer yours! You cannot control it or want anything for it (not even good behavior from our children!). It is the Buddhist practice of Selfless Giving (Dana). There is no ego involved! The receiver of the gift does not “owe back” for having received the gift. Pure bribery would be more honorable! Continue reading “What Is True Giving?”