Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada, has consistently been voted one of the “best cities in the world.” Nestled between the mountains and the ocean, it combines natural beauty with a bustling multicultural metropolis. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is also home to a significant number of Buddhists (about five percent of the city’s population).
Going at least as far back as the historic Vancouver Buddhist Church (now the Vancouver Buddhist Temple), established by Japanese immigrants in 1906, Vancouver boasts a long history of dharma. In recent decades, continuing Asian immigration and a growing number of Canadian converts have expanded the Buddhist presence in the city, so much so that there are far too many dharma centers to highlight in this brief survey.
As a tourist of the spirit, you’ll want to start with the “Highway to Heaven,” an incredible cluster of Buddhist temples in an area that also includes three Hindu temples, a Sikh gurdwara, an evangelical church, a mosque, and other places of worship, all within walking distance. After this urban reverie, don’t pass up the chance to catch a hint of wild nature at the quintessential Vancouver stop: Stanley Park, a thousand-acre urban peninsula in the city’s downtown area that includes a beautiful six-mile seawall (which you can walk, ride, or skate on), gardens, trails, and monuments to the area’s indigenous peoples.
1|Dharma Drum Vancouver Centre
This serene monastery in the lineage of the late Chan master Sheng Yen has a small library and a gorgeously simple meditation hall presided over by a striking golden-hued Shakyamuni. An extension program in the city, the Vancouver Chan Meditation Centre, hosts multiple sittings and mindful movement classes each week.
8240 No. 5 Road, Richmond, BC
2|Ling Yen Mountain Temple
Visitors to the Ling Yen Mountain Temple, a Chinese Pure Land monastery, can enjoy the beauty of its traditional architecture, courtyard, and garden, tuck into a vegetarian lunch, and take home dharma books at no charge (donations are always welcome).
10060 No. 5 Road, Richmond, BC
3| Speaking of vegetarian, Vancouver is a mecca for those who don’t eat meat. A trip would be incomplete without a stop at The
Naam—the city’s oldest natural foods restaurant, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On the other side of town, Chau Veggie Express in East Van deserves special mention for offering fresh, local, and inexpensive Vietnamese vegan fare.
2724 West 4th Avenue
Chau Veggie Express
5052 Victoria Drive
4|Banyen Books & Sound
Operating since 1970, this shop has a diverse, voluminous selection of Buddhist books and bills itself as “Canada’s most comprehensive metaphysical bookstore.” The store’s interior space, where regular readings and events are held, features aisle after aisle of wooden bookshelves stuffed with treasures to examine as you share the incense-saturated air, as well as ritual items, art, meditation equipment, and musical instruments. I’ve been losing myself among Banyen’s fascinations since I was 15.
3608 West 4th Avenue
Established in 2010, Thrangu Monastery Canada is the Pacific Northwest’s first Tibetan monastery. The temple holds regular services that are open to the public, and the grounds include an inner courtyard and residence for monastics as well as a garden with walking paths. The outside of the temple is inlaid with large “Mani wheels” (inscribed with Om mani padme hum, the mantra of compassion) that visitors can spin by hand.
8140 No. 5 Road, Richmond, BC
6|Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
This garden offers a contemplative break from the downtown east side’s gritty urban landscape. After a leisurely stroll past bonsai gardens and ponds, you’ll find yourself on the edge of Chinatown, where you can meander through the herb stores, shop for buddhas, and sample dim sum in this century-old neighborhood and national historic site.
578 Carrall Street