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My Journey to Jodo Shinshu and the BCA

As the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, I was always reminded of the importance of the "bigger questions," such as the meaning of life, why helping others is important, etc.

And this exploration moved beyond Christianity, even when I was a child, because my mother was a Freethinker, and my father was extremely open and ecumenical. Intellectual conversations about ethics and various religious beliefs was the norm in our family.

By the time I was in college, I found myself powerfully drawn to Judaism, as I saw it as a more rational alternative to Christianity. I met my future husband, who was raised Roman Catholic, in college, and for a while, we both studied Judaism, with a local rabbi.

After marriage, my husband introduced me to Zen Buddhism, which he had been practicing to gain some control over his anxiety issues. Already somewhat familiar with Buddhism from my Asian history classes in college (and, to be honest, my love of the 1970s TV show, "Kung Fu"), I also became extremely interested in Zen. I loved reading about Zen, but I found the actual practice of meditation to be extremely difficult.

As time went on, "real life" interfered with religious practice, and my husband and I drifted around for a while, trying Unitarianism, Quakerism, Episcopaliansim, etc.

There were simply no Buddhist temples in any of the places we lived. Finally, when my kids were still young, I just made a private commitment to Buddhism, but it was an internal spirituality, with no possible community practice. Meanwhile, my husband and I had separated, though remained on good terms. He drifted back and forth between Christianity and Buddhism, finally finding a community of Soka Gakkai near the town he was living in.

Inspired by his ability to finally find a community, I worked a little harder to find one for myself, finally coming across the Buddhist Churches of America. When I finally realized that BCA had remote, Zoom-connected communities, I decided to give it a try! And here I am!

I am now not only a "private Buddhist," I am a "real Buddhist!" Recognized by my Sangha! It is an awesome feeling, and I don't even know how to thank the people, Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada, Rev. Michael Endo, and others who made it possible. It was a journey that began almost 62 years ago when I was born, and here I am! Gassho.



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