Listener question: challenges facing the BCA

Buddha Bar Vow in Tokyo

A listener wrote in to ask about the problem of attrition in the Buddhist Churches of America (or Jodo Shinshu more generally) and suggested a few possible doctrinal reasons for declining membership including Shinran’s seemingly anti-institutional and anti-ritualistic understandings of Buddhism. Harry and Scott tackle these questions starting with the assumption that membership is declining. It brings up some important sociological questions about who is and who isn’t “a Buddhist” or who is “religious”? (Not to mention how the BCA counts and tracks members.) We also discuss the important question of how Shinran’s doctrinal understandings of Buddhism translate to the motivations behind lay members coming to temple (or not). The question is a good, deep, important one, giving us an opportunity for personal and institutional self-reflection.

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One Response

  1. Joseph Keith says:

    Thank you for the talk. A great start into the challenge that will be around for a long time in the US. In my experience, some other issues need to be addressed. 1. How to bring in (and keep) non-Asians into the temple. 2. Why are so many Japanese Americans going to Christian churches when a Buddhist temple is nearby? (Generations of Japanese Americans have been “lost” to becoming a part of the temple.