An international conference for women and Jodo Shinshu attracted a huge crowd of attendees from various countries.
The 16th World Buddhist Women’s Convention was held in San Francisco from August 30 to September 1. About 1,700 people participated, coming from across the United States mainland, Hawaii, Japan, and Brazil.
The event was held at the Marriot Hotel and was sponsored by World Federation of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha Buddhist Women’s Associations and the Buddhist Churches of America. Although a Nishi Honganji event, several Higashi Honganji members also attended, giving them a rare opportunity to interact with women from many other temples, while sharing the Jodo Shinshu teachings.
The theme of the conference was “Live the Nembutsu.” (nembutsu refers to reciting the Buddha’s name). Keynote speakers were Keiko Toro, an independent scholar from Aichi Prefecture in Japan, who spoke about Shandao’s parable of “Two Rivers and the White Path,” and Rev. Yukiko Motoyoshi, minister of Buddhist Church of Stockton, who spoke about her personal journey of self-discovery through Buddhism.
Prior to a morning opening service, taiko drummers performed. Later, workshops included an array of topics connecting Jodo Shinshu to poetry, World War II internment camps, music, dance, ecology, psychotherapy and LGBTW issues (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer). There were also workshops on chocolate making, crafts, line dancing and Qi gong exercises. In the lobby, various crafts and momentos were sold. Saturday evening’s grand banquet featured muscians and performances by temple members from various locales. For example, representatives from Brazil performed by mixing Japanese folk and samba dancing.
The conference concluded with a closing service on Sunday morning. Afterwards, many attendees walked a short distance to the Yerba Buena Gardens near the Moscone convention center to participate in a public display of Obon dancing, a traditional dance performed to commemorate the Buddhist “Obon” summer memorial observance.
The women’s conference is held every four years. The prior conference was held in Calgary in 2015 and the next conference will be held in Kyoto, Japan, in 2023. Although Higashi Honganji does not organize a women’s conference, an international conference for all members, called World Dobo Gathering, is being planned for Kyoto, Japan on April 20 -22, in 2020. The last conference was held in 2016. Please contact your local temple for details about next April’s conference.
–Rev. Ken Yamada, Editor, Shinshu Center of America