By Tracy Simmons
Religion News Spokane
In February more than 350 Shin Buddhists from across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Canada will be visiting Spokane for the 65th annual Northwest Buddhist Convention.
Amida is the universal Buddha of light.
Sensei Paul Vielle, of the Spokane Buddhist Temple, explained that most of the conference happenings, which include services, workshops, lectures, classes and a banquet, are not open to the public. However the opening service and keynote lecture on Feb. 18 are open to anyone interested in learning more about Buddhism.
The public event, “Experiencing the Dharma” will be from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. for $20 at the door.
Ven. Bhante Seelawimala will be the opening speaker. He is a Theravada Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka and teaches at the Institute of Buddhist Studies at Berkley.
The opening ceremony will also include chanting, a gatha (like a hymn, sung with taiko drums), and a procession. The keynote speaker will be Socho Koshin Ogui, bishop of Buddhist Churches of America. Rev. Marvin Kenju Harada, of the Orange County Buddhist Church, will also speak.
All speakers will touch on the subject of compassion.
“What is amazing about the service is the sound of 350 people chanting in unison,” said Mari Haworth, a member of the Spokane Buddhist Temple. “It gives me chills to remember it.”
Following the keynote presentation will be a workshop led by Kenji Akahoshi, a Shin Buddhist from San Jose.
“It (the opening service) will give you a flavor on the overall Buddhist teachings,” Vielle said. “It’s for someone who may be interested in Buddhism as an alternative to other religions, it will be very focused on Shin Buddhism.”
Shin Buddhism is based on the teachings and writings of Shinran Shonin, who lived more than 750 years ago.
The Spokane Buddhist Temple, located in the South Perry District, is the only all-volunteer temple in the Northwest District of the Buddhist Churches of America. It also has one of the smallest memberships, with about 60 weekly attendees. There are seven temples in the district. Many of them have around 500 members, and unlike the Spokane temple, are made mostly of Japanese Americans.
The last time the Spokane Buddhist Temple hosted the convention was in 2006. Vielle said the gathering is important because it’s a time for Shin Buddhists to come together and be in the presence of others who share the same values and beliefs.
“This is an opportunity to hear some excellent teachers and to practice deep listening with like-minded people,” Vielle said.
For information visit the temple website.