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Flowers on the Rock

Flowers on the Rock: Global and Local Buddhisms in Canada

Copyright Date: 2014
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    Flowers on the Rock
    Book Description:

    When Sasaki Sōkei-an founded his First Zen Institute of North America in 1930 he suggested that bringing Zen Buddhism to America was like "holding a lotus against a rock and waiting for it to set down roots." Today, Buddhism is part of the cultural and religious mainstream. Flowers on the Rock examines the dramatic growth of Buddhism in Canada and questions some of the underlying assumptions about how this tradition has changed in the West. Using historical, ethnographic, and biographical approaches, contributors illuminate local expressions of Buddhism found throughout Canada and relate the growth of Buddhism in Canada to global networks. A global perspective allows the volume to overcome the stereotype that Asia and the West are in opposition to each other and recognizes the continuities between Buddhist movements in Asia and the West that are shaped by the same influences of modernity and globalization. Flowers on the Rock studies the fascinating and ingenious changes, inflections, and adaptations that Buddhists make when they set down roots in a local culture. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Buddhism, religious life in Canada, and the broader issues of multiculturalism and immigration. Contributors include Michihiro Ama (University of Alaska), D. Mitra Barua (University of Saskatchewan), Paul Crowe (Simon Fraser University), Melissa Anne-Marie Curley (University of Iowa), Mavis Fenn (University of Waterloo), Kory Goldberg (Champlain College), Sarah F. Haynes (Western Illinois University), Jackie Larm (University of Edinburgh), Paul McIvor (independent), James Placzek (University of British Columbia), and Angela Sumegi (Carleton University).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9048-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Conventions
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    John S. Harding, Victor Sōgen Hori and Alexander Soucy
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    The title of this book,Flowers on the Rock,is inspired by a story about the Japanese Zen monk Sasaki Sōkei-an, one of the first teachers of Zen to come to the West. Sasaki founded the First Zen Institute of America in New York City in 1930. When asked how long it would take before Zen Buddhism became established in the West, he replied that bringing Zen to America was like holding a lotus against a rock and waiting for it to set down roots (Fields 1992, 272).¹ Sasaki uttered those words in the first half of the twentieth century,...

  7. 1 Buddhist Globalism and the Search for Canadian Buddhism
    (pp. 25-52)

    During the 2012 federal New Democratic Party leadership race, one of the candidates, Nathan Cullen, stated: “I think as many New Democrats are making up their minds, they are making it up based on how we grow – or don’t. And so, I feel somewhat Zen about this. I feel absolutely right with the campaign we have run” (Globe and Mail2012). His appropriation of the Buddhist sect’s name is not unique, or even unusual. It follows a widespread trend of evoking Buddhism, Buddhist symbols, and Buddhist ideas for purposes that range from calculated marketing, to frivolous posturing, to more sincere...


    • 2 Flying Sparks: Dissension among the Early Shin Buddhists in Canada
      (pp. 55-78)

      The Japanese workers who migrated to North America more than a century ago dreamt of earning a great deal of money and returning to Japan “dressed in brocade.” They came to realize that the fulfillment of those dreams would require a longer timeline. Because of the difficulties in learning English and the anti-Japanese attitude of North American society, they longed for “home,” the rural Japanese areas where they had grown up, and so they founded a Buddhist temple. Thus, during the early twentieth century, Jōdo Shinshū, the Pure Land school known as Shin Buddhism, became the major form of ethnic...

    • 3 For the Benefit of Many: S.N. Goenka’s Vipassana Meditation Movement in Canada
      (pp. 79-100)

      In 1955, Satya Narayan Goenka, an Indian Hindu businessman born and raised in Burma (Myanmar),¹ learned the technique of Vipassana² meditation from Sayagyi U Ba Khin, a high-ranking Burmese government official and pioneering lay Theravada meditation master. With his teacher’s encouragement, Goenka travelled to India in 1969 to disseminate Vipassana meditation in the country where the Buddha first discovered it. Since then, Goenka has established approximately 120 meditation centres worldwide, as well as one hundred other sites where ten-day silent, residential meditation courses are held. In 1979, Goenka travelled to Canada and France where he conducted the first of several...

    • 4 Sitavana: The Theravada Forest Tradition in British Columbia
      (pp. 101-128)

      This chapter looks at Sitavana Birken Forest Monastery,² a Buddhist temple-monastery near Knutsford, British Columbia. The chapter attempts to evaluate the subtle degrees of historical adaptation of two Theravada Buddhist traditions (those of Sri Lanka and the Thai Forest Tradition) to the Canadian culture and environment as found in the lower mainland and central region of the province. A related issue, which came to a head in 2009, is a lineage controversy over attempts to revive female ordination in Theravada. The controversy raises questions about the historical and contemporary mechanisms of rule change in Theravada, as reflected in the Thai...

    • 5 Making a Traditional Buddhist Monastery on Richmond’s Highway to Heaven
      (pp. 129-149)

      Thrangu Monastery Canada, a large and opulent Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Karma Kagyu lineage, opened its doors to the public in July 2010 (see illustration 4). Reportedly the “first Kagyu Monastery in the Pacific Northwest,” the centre was built along Richmond, British Columbia’s famous stretch of Number 5 Road known as the “Highway to Heaven.” Thrangu Monastery Canada thus became the newest neighbour to the highway’s string of religious organizations, which includes two Protestant churches, a mosque, a Vedic centre, a Sikh gurdwara, a Jewish school, and two other Buddhist centres (one Chan monastery and one Pure Land temple)....

    • 6 Dharma on the Move: Vancouver Buddhist Communities and Multiculturalism
      (pp. 150-172)

      Academic reflection on immigrant religious communities often, and justifiably, focuses on the flux of religious forms as they take shape in their new Canadian social context. A related assumption is that religion conceived of assui generis, a trans-social or trans-historical unity, is, at the very least, unhelpful. Religious life, based as it is on social and cultural solidarity and the complex dynamics of constant institutional and congregational renegotiation, is always in transformation. These foundational methodological assumptions predispose us to view immigrant religious communities through the lenses of adaptation and integration. Accordingly, inReligion and Ethnicity in Canada, editor Paul...

    • 7 Buddhist Monasticism in Canada: Sex and Celibacy
      (pp. 173-198)

      On 2 July 2011, the Zen Studies Society of New York City sent out to its email list the transcript of an unusual and special announcement (Zen Studies Society 2011). In that announcement, Eido Shimano Roshi, the Zen Master and long-time teacher of the Zen Studies Society, formally stepped down and transferred teaching authority to his student, Roko Sherry Chayat Roshi. Shimano had finally acceded to demands that he resign as Zen teacher. An extended campaign on the Internet had accused him of a long history of sexual impropriety stretching across decades and involving numerous women.¹ The events of that...


    • 8 Teaching Buddhism to Children: The Evolving Sri Lankan Buddhist Tradition in Multicultural Toronto
      (pp. 201-224)

      Migration to a new land may ignite rethinking and reinterpreting within a tradition; the emergence of a new generation in that land may become a justification for such endeavours. A religious tradition like Buddhism comprises a set of beliefs and practices that are socially embodied and historically extended, and those beliefs and practices establish the integrity or identity of the tradition. On the other hand, the impulses to rethink and reinterpret testify to the viability of tradition. This perennial effort to maintain both identity and viability animates a religious tradition. The process of religious education in a new cultural setting,...

    • 9 Reflections on a Canadian Buddhist Death Ritual
      (pp. 225-244)

      In this chapter, I explore the challenges and advantages of constructing a Buddhist death ritual peculiar to local conditions. The local conditions in this case constitute a small Ottawa Buddhist community and their non-Buddhist friends and family. To qualify the ritual as “Buddhist” is to call upon a tradition that spans some 2,500 years and encompasses numerous cultural expressions, most of which are mere curiosities for the majority of Canadians. How, then, to invoke the meanings embedded in the tradition and join them to the meanings that individuals of this place and time bring to the mystery of death? What...

    • 10 Buddhist Prison Outreach in Canada: Legitimating a Minority Faith
      (pp. 245-266)

      Buddhist outreach to, and practice within, correctional systems is an under-researched area of contemporary Buddhism. Much of what we know about the Buddhist prison outreach work in Canada is still tentative and subject to correction as research continues. At this point, our understanding, to borrow terminology from biology, consists of taxonomy of such outreach as well as anatomy and function. In order to gain a sense of how Buddhism operates in Canada’s prison system, we need to know the characteristics of that system because, to a great degree, they determine what forms of practice and outreach are possible.

      This chapter...

    • 11 Correspondence School: Canada, Fluxus, and Zen
      (pp. 267-286)

      The artists examined in this chapter – a small group of Canadians associated with the Canadian arts collectives Image Bank and the Western Front and with the transnational artistic movement known as Fluxus – were not faithful Buddhists. There were members of Fluxus who were diligent Buddhist practitioners, foremost among them Robert Filliou, whose remark about “these people in Canada” I have taken as the epigraph for this chapter, but Filliou was French, not Canadian. This makes the connection between this essay and the others in this volume a fragile one: if this is a book about Buddhism taking root in Canada,...

    • 12 Shaping Images of Tibet: Negotiating the Diaspora through Ritual, Art, and Film
      (pp. 287-310)

      In 1950, after decades of tension between Tibet and China, China invaded Tibet and subsequently incorporated the country into the People’s Republic of China. In response, a teenaged Dalai Lama assumed early leadership of Tibet; in 1959, he fled to India. Since then, thousands of Tibetans, following his example, have made their own journey into exile, eventually settling in India, Europe, and North America. At the request of the Dalai Lama, Canada began welcoming groups of Tibetan refugees in 1968, settling them in communities in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta. Today, the largest of these communities is found in the...


    • 13 Dhammadinna and Jayantā: Daughters of the Buddha in Canada
      (pp. 313-332)

      The history of women in Theravada Buddhism may be characterized as one of opportunity and ambiguity. This is especially true for Buddhist nuns. Ambiguity regarding the role of women, both lay and ordained, continues to the present, but in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, opportunities for women have increased, including full ordination as nuns. These changes, begun in Asia, continued with the exportation of Buddhism to Europe and North America. Western women who went to study in Asia, some of whom ordained, returned to their home countries where they were instrumental in establishing Buddhism in the West. While Theravada Buddhism...

    • 14 Thầy Phồ Tịnh: A Vietnamese Nun’s Struggles in Canada
      (pp. 333-354)

      I first met the Venerable Thích Nữ Phồ Tịnh (henceforth Thầy Phồ Tịnh) when we were undergraduates at Concordia University in the late 1980s.¹ She and Thích Thiện Nghị (her uncle and the abbot of a prominent Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Montreal, Tam Bảo Temple)² were taking courses at this secular institution in order to further their understanding of comparative religion and to increase their cultural and linguistic literacy in their new Canadian environment. Due to his lack of English fluency and pressures from his ambitious projects to establish Vietnamese Buddhism in Canada, Thích Thiện Nghị soon abandoned his attempts,...

    • 15 Leslie Kawamura: Nothing to Add, Nothing to Take Away
      (pp. 355-384)

      We had gathered in San Francisco in November 2011 for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and its usual busy schedule of meetings, interviews, panels, and presentations. On the last evening of the conference, however, the pace slowed down. A group of scholars, colleagues, family, and friends congregated to commemorate a popular and influential scholar, Dr Leslie Kawamura. Dr Kawamura, who was born in Alberta in 1935, had passed away on 10 March 2011. The program featured words he had spoken just before he died and a photo in which he is dressed in Buddhist vestments,...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 385-420)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 421-426)
  13. Index
    (pp. 427-445)