Participants from 24 diverse Buddhist groups convene for All Buddhist Gathering

Submitted by Pieper Toyama

On March 10, fifty participants representing 24 Buddhist denominations and groups from across the state gathered at the Pacific Buddhist Academy to share and discuss their challenges. Included were special participants from New Mexico and Uganda, Africa. This historic event was the inspiration of Bishop Eric Matsumoto. Two years ago, he shared with me his dream of assembling representatives of all of the Buddhist denominations in Hawaii, and by partnering with BDK Hawaii, he realized his dream on March 10.

participants in PBA's Founders Hall for All Buddhist Gathering 2018
All Buddhist Gathering participants in PBA’s Founders Hall. (Click image to enlarge.)

This historic event seemed to be a natural step in the Hongwanji’s long history of working to bring together the various Buddhist denominations in Hawaii. In 1929, inspired by His Eminence Tai Hsu, a Chinese Abbot of the Mahayana School, Bishop Imamura inaugurated the Hawaiian Branch of the International Buddhist Institute. One of the aims of the Hawaiian branch was to “cooperate with all other Buddhist societies irrespective of sect or school in any undertaking that will directly or indirectly reform the thought and therefore the attitude of mankind toward the problems of life.”

In 1948, the 15th Annual Territorial Conference of the YBA passed a resolution that sought the U.S. Army’s recognition of the Buddhist religion. The resolution led to the U. S. Army’s acceptance of the Buddhism. In 1950, at the World Buddhist Conference in Burma, Sunao Miyabara of the Hawaii YBA led the successful effort to have the Dharmachakra, the Dharma Wheel, become the official international, world-wide symbol of Buddhism. It was subsequently adopted by the Army and from then on marked the graves of all Buddhist veterans.

Through these efforts led by the Hongwanji, Buddhism came to be “recognized as an accepted part of America’s religious mosaic.”

March 10 was another step to insure the vitality of Buddhism in our island state to address “the problems of life.” Dr. George Tanabe spoke of the challenges facing Buddhism in Hawaii and suggested pathways to energize our efforts. The highlight of the day was the breakout groups in which individuals representing different Buddhist traditions discussed how each was addressing the future. For me it was remarkable to see the theme of the gathering, “Unity in Diversity,” come so alive in the discussions. We were all so different and yet so very much alike. It was refreshing and nurturing to have witnessed the spirit of the group.

To seal the theme in the minds and hearts of the participants, we ended the day with the various denominations singing and reciting the Ti Sarana, the Three Treasures, according to their tradition and practices. It was truly a day to embrace Unity in Diversity.

Pieper Toyama is the President of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and Head of School Emeritus, Pacific Buddhist Academy.