IHOPE Report

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By Rev. Henry Adams Oxnard Buddhist Temple


From April 10 to April 13, the first International Hongwanji Overseas Propagation Exchange (IHOPE) seminar was held at the Jodo Shinshu Center (JSC) in Berkeley, California. This historic gathering was the first time that ministers and minister’s assistants with Tokudo ordination serving at temples in the four Hongwanji Overseas Districts of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada, the Hompa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i, the South American Hongwanji Mission, and the Buddhist Churches of America came together to share experiences in the ministry, deepen their appreciation of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist teachings, and discover new friendships in the Dharma. There were thirtytwo attendees.

IHOPE was sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Education (CBE) and received generous financial support from the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai (BDK) America. The generosity of the Bay District members, BDK America and the JSC enabled the CBE to provide a program with no registration fee, which made it easier for ministers to join from throughout the four participating districts.

The seminar commenced on Tuesday evening with an opening service and self- introductions, followed by a delicious welcome dinner prepared by members of Bay and Coast District temples. Wednesday began with a plenary session in which all the participating ministers briefly shared information about their temple activities, successes, and challenges in the ministry. Small group discussions followed in which each minister had an opportunity ask questions, make comments, and reflect on the new insights they had gained from hearing about the activities in other districts. On Wednesday evening, a “Dharma-thon” was held at the JSC for the general public. The Dharma-thon was a series of twelve Dharma messages provided in Japanese and English by participating IHOPE ministers.

Thursday’s sessions focused on doctrinal topics, with particular attention paid to how we can best present the teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in an understandable and compelling way that is relevant to the lives of our temple members. Topics of discussion included the similarities and differences between Pure Land Buddhism and Christianity, what our teachings have to say about contemporary social issues, and how to understand the role of meditation in temple activities.

The IHOPE Seminar concluded on Friday with an opportunity for participants to provide feedback to the organizing committee and discuss plans for a future gathering. Participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn that ministers in the other districts are facing the same challenges, and to hear about approaches that worked in similar situations at other temples. There was a unanimous expression of hope to see the program continue with another gathering tentatively planned for 2014. A suggestion was made that perhaps during future IHOPE gatherings, the Dharma-thon could be expanded to include a series Dharma messages given at local temples in the host district.

Although it was a busy four days and many of the ministers had traveled from great distances to join the IHOPE gathering, we all left feeling energized with hope and a sense of Sangha community in the Nembutsu that truly transcends the boundaries of nationality and language.