FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW WILL BUDDHISM HELP ME IN MY LIFE?
Buddhism has many practical applications to our lives. We all want to live a happy life, but Buddhism first challenges how we are pursuing happiness, or what we think is the source of happiness. Our entire approach to happiness is questioned, which can lead to a true sense of happiness and fulfillment through a life of gratitude. There are many other ways in which Buddhism helps us to live a fulfilled life, a meaningful life, a reflective life, and an awakened life.
HOW DO BUDDHISTS LOOK AT OTHER RELIGIONS?
In Buddhism, we respect other religions and other religious traditions. There are many paths to the top of a mountain, and Buddhism is one path. Once you get to the top of the mountain you can appreciate the other paths that you could have taken to the top. Buddhism does not claim to be the only path or the only true path.
HOW IS SHIN BUDDHISM DIFFERENT OR SIMILAR TO OTHER BUDDHIST TRADITIONS?
Shin Buddhism is a non-monastic school of Buddhism. It was founded in Japan in the 1200’s by a religious teacher named Shinran, who left the monastic tradition and shared Buddhism among the common people. It spread throughout Japan and is one of the largest schools of Japan today. It came to this country in the early 1900’s with early immigrants from Japan.
Shin Buddhism is similar to other Buddhist traditions in that all Buddhism comes from the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha. From the original Buddha’s teachings and sermons, compiled into sutras or texts, Buddhism evolved and spread throughout Asia, reaching Japan in the 5th century.
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE PURE LAND?
The Pure Land is a metaphor for the world of truth or enlightenment in Buddhism. The Pure Land is not a physical place, nor is it a realm like heaven. It represents, symbolizes, the world of enlightenment, which is in contrast to the world of ignorance and delusion, or the unenlightened world. The Pure Land also represents the ideal world that we aspire to live in and to also create as a human being.
In Buddhism, we, the unawakened, do not see our life as being in delusion. That is why it is called delusion. It is like being lost somewhere in the forest and not admitting or realizing that you are lost. Once we realize that we are lost or in delusion, we can begin to find the path out of the forest, or out of the world of delusion.
ARE THERE ANY DIETARY OR BEHAVIORAL RESTRICTIONS OR RULES IN SHIN BUDDHISM?
There are no dietary or behavioral restrictions or rules in Shin Buddhism. A person can eat meat or fish, or choose to be a vegetarian. A person can choose to drink wine or liquor or not.
ARE THE SERVICES IN ENGLISH?
Yes, all of our services are in English, with the exception of traditional sutra chanting. The messages are all in English. There are some services with messages in Japanese, for the Japanese-speaking members.
DO YOU PRACTICE MEDITATION?
While meditation is not a central practice in Shin Buddhism, meditation is being offered at many of our churches and temples.
In Shin Buddhism, we do not regard meditation as a practice to attain enlightenment, but we look at it as a way to calm and settle our hearts and minds to be able to listen to and receive the dharma, or the teachings. The sutra chanting in a Shin Buddhist service also has a meditational aspect to it.
HOW DO I GET INVOLVED? DO I HAVE TO BECOME A MEMBER?
Visitors are welcome and encouraged to attend weekly dharma services and discussions to learn more about Buddhism. Many temples offer additional Buddhist education classes and sangha activities at no or low cost.
We all know that uneasy feeling of being new, but we hope you'll find our temples to be peaceful and friendly environments. Come as you are, listen to the teachings, and take time to meet the community. When you are ready, membership is a next step that you may choose to take to support your temple.
IS THERE A COST TO MEMBERSHIP?
Should you wish to become a member of your Shin Buddhist community, most temples have membership dues which financially support the local temple and our national organization.
We do not practice “tithing” (giving a set percentage of personal earnings). The Buddhist practice of giving or dana is encouraged in our life as Buddhists, but the amount given is totally up to the donor.
Our communities exist today because of the dana expressed by generations of members, many of whom came from very modest means, who wished to support the teachings.
WHAT IF I DON’T LIVE NEAR A TEMPLE?
If you do not live near one of our temples, BCA continues to invest in digital materials and online events to enrich your dharma studies and connect Shin Buddhists around the world.
If the content we offer is meaningful for you, please consider becoming a BCA Individual Member. Every individual member will receive our monthly publication, the Wheel of Dharma, and a copy of Rev. Marvin Harada’s book, Discovering Buddhism in Everyday Life. Visit our Membership page to learn more.
WHY IS IT BUDDHIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA?
When Shin Buddhist temples were established by Japanese American communities before World War II, there was harsh prejudice and discrimination against Japanese people. This escalated with World War II. Japanese American Shin Buddhists wanted their temples to reflect mainstream American life, and thus borrowed from Judeo-Christian terminology, using terms like, “church, minister, Reverend, etc.” Many of our churches have changed their name to temple in recent years, but the organization name is still Buddhist Churches of America or BCA.
Explore our site to learn more and feel free to contact us with any questions.