Jodo Shinshu Buddhism
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is unique among Buddhist paths. It emphasizes everyday Buddhism for ordinary people, rather than monastic Buddhism for spiritually strong (singularly-minded) people. Its "practice", uttering Nembutsu, is Amida Buddha embracing us, rather than us relying on our efforts to attain enlightenment. Nembutsu followers sincerely entrust themselves to true reality, confident that Amida Buddha ensures birth in the Pure Land. Yet, even in its unique approach, Jodo Shinshu does not differ at all from other Buddhist paths. It awakens us to true reality. It brings us moments of joy and shinjin, and the equanimity to live in the world of birth and death while aware of Amida’s unfailing embrace. We do not need to change to attain shinjin; indeed, our efforts only separate us from shinjin. Yet, once we experience shinjin, we are changed. Jodo Shinshu has a rich tradition and expresses a living experience of Buddhism.
As a Jodo Shinshu Temple, we are associated with the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) based in San Francisco, California. The first BCA ministry arrived in California in 1898 under the sponsorship of Nishi Hongwanji, our mother temple in Kyoto, Japan. Buddhism consists of three main branches, or schools of thought:
Each of these three schools branch off further into more specific ways of practice. For instance, you may recognize the name Vipassana that is part of the Theravada school. Tibetan Buddhism is part of the Vajrayana school. Zen and Pure Land Buddhism are probably the most recognizable practices in the Mahayana school.
The TriState/Denver Buddhist Temples belong to the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism in the Pure Land School (Mahayana branch). The Jodo Shinshu sect was founded by Shinran Shonin in 13th century Japan and is based upon the concept of "other power" (Amida Buddha). Instead of relying upon self-effort to attain enlightment, we realize that we are ordinary people and, therefore, by ourselves will fall short in attaining enlightenment. Fortunately, through the compassion and wisdom of Amida Buddha (Infinite light and infinite life), we can achieve enlightenment through the Nembutsu. Reciting "Namo Amida Butsu" is referred to as the Nembutsu practice. To express our gratitude, we repeat "Namo Amida Butsu" which means "I take refuge in Amida Buddha."
The BCA summarizes its teachings as "Having entrusted ourselves to the teaching of Namo Amida Butsu, we experience the joy of having received the assurance of buddhahood. From the constant gratitude that arises within, we shall strive to live in service to the community and humanity."
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in the Rocky Mountains
Japanese immigrants settled in and around Denver in the early 1900s. Many were Jodo Shinshu Buddhists with strong ties to their religious heritage. Married couples especially wanted a strong Sangha for their families. In 1916, the Tri-State Buddhist Temples’ headquarters was formed. The organization was incorporated as the Denver Buddhist Church because of its Denver location, but it served Buddhists in the tri-state area of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
The first headquarter, at 1942 Market Street, was located in a former brothel. Revered Tessho Ono served as the first assigned minister. Many ministers followed. Reverend Yoshitaka Tamai was assigned to the Denver Buddhist Church in 1930. He had a particularly profound influence on the Tri-State sanghas due to his giving nature and his sincere endeavor in serving the widespread Buddhist population under his domain. Reverend Tamai died in 1983; he is honored and remembered with an Endowment Chair bearing his name at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in San Francisco. (A list of all ministers who have served can be found here.)
During World War II, Japanese-American citizens were forced into relocation camps. Simultaneously, many Japanese-Americans from California were evacuated to Colorado where they lived as “regular” citizens as opposed to “prisoners” of the relocation camps; most of these people settled in Denver. To serve them, the Denver Buddhist Church structure was enlarged. Reverend Shodo Tsunoda joined Reverend Tamai in 1944. Jodo Shinshu Buddhists throughout the tri-state area, especially in rural areas, generously gave money so a new facility could be built.
In 1947, the new temple was dedicated and the name Denver Buddhist Church was changed to Tri-State Buddhist Church. The new Tri-State Buddhist Church served sanghas in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and western Texas. Each temple conducted Dharma School and services every Sunday. However, the two assigned ministers could not possibly be in attendance at every service on every Sunday despite the fact that they constantly traveled from one temple to another. So lay members of each Sangha led the Sunday services when a Sensei could not be present. Denver Buddhist Church did not become a separate temple until 1965. Until then, Tri-State administered Denver’s services and activities with the exception of Denver’s Dharma School, which was conducted by the Denver Sunday School PTA. In becoming a separate Church, we became the ninth member temple of the Tri-State Buddhist Church. (In 1981, both organizations changed their names to designate "Temple" instead of "Church").
Denver Buddhist Temple
Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) temples are unique in the fact that they sponsor Sunday services and guide their respective organizations as an entity in the learning of Buddha Dharma. Because of this practice, we are able to form a cohesive Buddhist community comprised of a diverse group of people (age-wise, gender-wise, ethnicity-wise, etc.) in the heart of downtown Denver, Colorado. The Denver Buddhist Temple focuses on sharing the teachings (Dharma) of the Buddha and serving the community (Sangha) with educational and cultural opportunities. While we are not an evangelical religion, we do encourage you to ask questions and learn about Buddhism. The following resources are available through our Temple: