Directed by Kentaro Sugao
We’ve all heard of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. It’s a branch of Buddhism, right? Right. Originated from Japan? Correct. But after that, things start to get a little hazy. The truth is many Western converts overlook the tradition, favoring Zen and Tibetan practices. Yet Jodo Shinshu became transnational long before other Buddhist practices set foot on American soil. Much of Buddhism’s early American history was written by Jodo Shinshu practitioners.
In 1898, a group of young Japanese American immigrants founded the religious association “Soko Bukkyo Seinen-kai,” or “San Francisco Buddhist Youth Association.” Soon after, the Nishi Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto began to dispatch Japanese priests to the USA. This community would form the Buddhist Mission of North America (BMNA), which would become one of the largest Buddhist organizations in the United States.
This documentary film explores the history of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in America through archival materials jointly maintained by the Buddhist Churches of America and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), as well as interviews with priests who are actively serving temples in the United States.