Not long before many of the West’s most respected Buddhist teachers were driven from Tibet by the Chinese, a similar catastrophe unfolded for Japanese American Buddhists. An article in Sunday’s Oregonian profiles a Buddhist temple in Ontario, Oregon, that was built in 1946 by a community of Japanese Americans driven from the Pacific coast to this inland town as a result of FDR’s draconian WWII anti-Japanese legislation. Ontario was not an internment camp but rather one of 18 towns across the U.S. dubbed “free zones,” where Japanese Americans were “free” to move.
The community that built Ontario’s Oregon-Idaho Buddhist Temple was made up of some of the earliest American Buddhists. It is a reminder of the histories that make it difficult to speak of a unified “American Buddhism.” For more on Buddhism in the WWII internment camps, check out this article from one of Tricycle’s earliest issues.
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