- Buddhism Today
- The Founder of Buddhism
- The Teachings
- The Path of Shin Buddhism
- Buddhism in San Diego
- The Main Temple Hall
Bloom, Alfred. Shoshinge: The Heart of Shin Buddhism. Honolulu: Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii,
1986. ISBN: 0938474065.
Burtt, Edwin A., Ed. Teachings of the Compas-sionate Buddha. New York: New American Library, 2000.
Goddard, Dwight, Ed. A Buddhist Bible. Beacon, 1994. ISBN: 0807059110.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. Our Appointment With Life: The Buddha’s Teaching on Living in the Present.
Berkeley, CA: Parallax, 1990. ISBN: 0938077368.
Kikumara, Norihiko. Shinran: His Life and Thought. Los Angeles, CA: Nembutsu Press, 1972.
—-—. Shin Buddhist Handbook. San Francisco, CA: Buddhist Churches of America, 1972.
Kubose, Gyomay. Everyday Suchness: Buddhist Essays on Everyday Living. American Buddhist
Association, 2004. ISBN: 0964299208
Smith, Huston & Philip Novak. Buddhism: A Concise Introduction. Harper, 2004. ISBN: 0060730676
**Tanaka, Kenneth K. Ocean: An Introduction to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in America. Berkeley, CA:
WisdomOcean Publications, rev. 2004. ISBN: 01965806200.
**Available from the Buddhist Temple of San Diego Bookstore. Most of the titles are also available from the
San Diego Public Library or may be purchased from the Buddhist Bookstore at the Buddhist Churches of
America (BCA) Headquarters in San Francisco.
Buddhism is one of the world’s oldest religions, and yet its tenets remain fresh and
new. Those discovering Buddhism for the first time are finding that its essential truths
hold much hope to people coping with modern life. Our own branch of Buddhism,
Jodo Shinshu, is one of the largest Buddhist denominations. It is also known as Shin
Buddhism or Pure Land Buddhism. There are Jodo Shinshu temples in Japan, North
America, South America and all throughout Europe, as well as fellowships in Africa
and Australia. To better understand Buddhism today, we will look briefly at how
Buddhism was founded.
The Founder of Buddhism
Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born over 2,500 years ago near present-day
Nepal, and yet the essential conditions of life then were no different from what
they are today. Like many of us, Siddhartha was blessed with great material
comfort. In fact, as prince of a tiny kingdom, Siddhartha could have lived a life of
untroubled luxury. Instead, he recognized that his existence was spiritually empty.
He wanted more than to be distracted from the problems of suffering and death;
he wanted to find an answer. At the age of 29, Siddhartha renounced his kingdom
to devote himself entirely to a search for the truth. It must have been a painful
decision, because he also had to leave his wife and his family.
Many of the spiritual traditions of the time demanded utter renunciation of the
world, and they often required the most severe ascetic practices. So great was
Siddhartha’s desire to find the truth, that he accepted these sacrifices. Year after
year, he sought out spiritual leaders and underwent severe hardships. Finally, six
years after he began, Siddhartha was meditating on the nature of things and
experienced a deep spiritual insight; he realized that it was possible to escape the
chain of birth and death. He became the Buddha, the Enlightened One, the
The teachings of Buddhism are called the Buddha Dharma. The truth of the Buddha
Dharma carries a welcome message that "wisdom and compassion can transcend
the suffering caused by greed and ignorance." Buddha Dharma further tells us that
through the development of inner peace and calm, and through compassionate
concern for our fellow beings, we may all attain enlightenment. There are positive
messages, and the freshness and accessibility of what Buddhism teaches help
account for its current appeal.
The Buddha’s spiritual insight is not as mystical and abstract as it may sound at first.
His great awakening was based on the realization of four concrete truths about
life—The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
The first is that life, because of its fleeting nature, is painful. The second is that this
pain is caused by our desires and our attachment to worldly phenomena. The third
truth is that it is possible to eliminate the suffering of existence. The fourth truth is that
there is a path that leads to the elimination of suffering: The Eightfold Noble Path.
The path is composed of Right Views, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Conduct,
Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation.
The Buddha Dharma thus asks us to know and regard life as it is, to accept life’s ebb
and flow, and to live our lives naturally, spontaneously, and freely.
The Path of Shin Buddhism
The Buddhist Temple of San Diego belongs to the Shin sect of Buddhism (or Jodo
Shinshu in Japanese), part of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Jodo Shinshu
translates as the True Pure Land Teachings. It focuses on the vow of Amida Buddha,
which is to enlighten all beings, regardless of their backgrounds or past actions.
This is a vow of sweeping power, one that promises hope and life’s fulfillment to all.
Although Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) is often called the founder of Jodo Shinshu,
Shinran never claimed that he was founding a new religion. Rather, Shinran merely
emphasized concepts that had always existed in Buddhism. He taught that the
purpose of Gautama Buddha’s advent on earth was to awaken people to the
wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha.
Shinran formulated the teachings after two decades of study in the Buddhist
monasteries of Mt. Hiei. He came to the realization that if a person has to rely on self-
generated effort, then enlightenment is impossible. He reasoned that human life is
finite, human knowledge is incomplete, and human capacity for perfect goodness
is limited. He renounced the monastery and left Mt. Hiei. Shortly thereafter, he met
Honen, a kindly priest who taught a simple faith in Amida Buddha and the recitation
of the Nembutsu as an expression of faith. Shinran embraced the teaching of Honen
and built upon them.
Faith is an important element in Shin Buddhism. The Nembutsu (“Namu Amida Butsu”)
means literally, “I put my faith in Amida Buddha.” It is the core of Amida’s vow, for
Amida Buddha communicates with us through His name. As we recite the
Nembutsu, Amida’s voice calls to us, and at the same time, we respond to his call.
When we hear Amida’s voice in our innermost being, faith is awakened. Faith
completes our oneness with Amida and is the true cause of our Enlightenment.
Buddhism in San Diego
The path of Shinran bridged the Pacific Ocean in 1899 when two missionaries from
the Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto arrived in San Francisco to serve the needs of the early
Japanese pioneers. In San Diego, Buddhism began some years thereafter as
Japanese immigrants would meet periodically in small groups. The meetings
became more frequent and more organized. Although there was no minister, for
special ceremonies a minister would travel from Los Angeles.
A tragic event marks the birth of the temple in San Diego. On January 27, 1916, after
two weeks of rain, the Otay Dam broke. A torrent of water flooded the Otay Valley
where a colony of Japanese farmers lived in a camp. Eleven people died.
Following the funeral, Buddhists discussed the possibility of organizing a church. The
discussions proved fruitful as ten years later, on May 26, 1926, the first Buddhist
church was formed, and services were held on the second floor of a building at
Sixth Avenue and Market Street. In 1928, a growing membership decided to build a
permanent temple at Market and 29th Streets—our current location.
The outbreak of World War II saw the entire local Japanese-American community
of approximately 2,000 individuals evacuated, first to the Santa Anita Assembly
Center, and later to various relocation camps in isolated areas. During the war, the
temple grounds were used as dormitories for defense workers. In 1943, vandals
broke into the temple and set it on fire, causing extensive damage to the altar
section and the second floor. At war’s end, San Diegans returned to reestablish
themselves and to restore the temple. The life of the temple resumed.
Today the Buddhist Temple again serves as a meeting place for its members as an
affiliate of the Buddhist Churches of America, which is our link to the Nishi
Hongwanji, the main temple of the Hongwanji School of Jodo Shinshu in Japan. We
are proud of our roots in Japan and in America.
The Main Temple Hall
San Diego’s main temple hall is called the Hondo. Here, followers of the Nembutsu
gather on Sundays for the Family Service or special observances to listen to the
teachings and to share their lives with others. Weddings, funerals and memorial
services are conducted here, too.
Certainly the most striking feature of the Hondo is the beautiful and ornate altar.
Much of the main shrine is made of wood and has traveled to San Diego from
Japan. At the central altar is a small shrine with a gold-leafed statue of Amida
Buddha inside. Amida is depicted as an active Buddha in a standing position, hands
held up in a gesture of bestowing blessings on all beings and leaning forward
slightly—symbolizing the eternal activity of wisdom and compassion. Amida
Buddha—and not the statue—is our true object of worship.
Flowers are offered to symbolize the beauty and impermanence of life. The incense
purifies the air and creates the proper atmosphere for meditation. Candles
symbolize the infinite light of the Buddha.
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|Buddhist Temple of San Diego
2929 Market Street
San Diego, California 92102