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Dharma Talk – June 2024


As part of our ongoing learning, the committee working on the temple’s participation in Toronto Pride met with JJ Viviers and Rev. Brent Hawkes of the Toronto Metropolitan Community Church. They’re part of a denomination devoted to serving the LGBTQ+ community and were able to give us important advice. One thing they recommended was updating our mission statement to be fully inclusive.

What is the temple’s mission statement? In the 1990s TBC’s Board adopted the following mission: “To lead the change in generational and ethnic makeup of the Toronto Buddhist Church in a thoughtful and dynamic manner, while respecting the traditions of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.”

Although it’s over 25 years old, that’s still a pretty good statement, and for back then it was downright progressive. The Board recognized the need to grow beyond our historical roots and embrace a future of greater diversity and dynamism, while not losing sight of the Dharma that brings us together.

Since a whole generation has grown up in the meantime, it’s surely a good idea to revisit and update our mission statement. The New York Buddhist Church did so about five years ago in a really intentional process. They aimed to develop three statements, in fact: a temple mission statement, a vision statement, and a values statement. This allowed for a fuller, more nuanced exploration of who they were and who they aspired to be. As they put it, a “mission statement tells the Sangha, our community, and the public why we exist and what we stand for. A vision statement tells people what our goals are and what we are seeking to achieve. A values statement tells everyone why the mission and vision should be fulfilled and helps define the operational culture of an organization… They remind us and others of who we are as an organization, what our dreams are for the future and what our core beliefs are that guide decision making.”

They didn’t rush the process. The Board and ministerial group held a day-long retreat, gathering in large and small groups to consider questions of identity, history, and purpose. This produced some draft ideas, which they then took to the whole sangha in a Town Hall for consideration and feedback. Lively discussion led to some useful upgrades to the drafts, and the refined versions were finally adopted by the Board.

Here’s what they adopted:

Mission Statement:
The New York Buddhist Church provides a place that supports a vibrant Sangha and the greater community, promoting and enriching the understanding of Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu.
Vision Statement: The New York Buddhist Church seeks to be an inclusive, open, and compassionate community which transforms, awakens and liberates through the teachings of the Buddha and the perspective of Shinran Shonin.

Values Statement:
Because we believe everyone can be enlightened, we listen, speak and act with compassion, respect, and gratitude.

What do you think? What do you like about this? What might you want to change? To help us think about our own mission, vision, and values, here are some statements by other Jodo Shinshu temples:

Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii: “To share the living Teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism so all beings may enjoy lives of harmony, peace, and gratitude.”

Pearl City Hongwanji Mission: “The teaching of Jodo Shinshu promotes awareness and growth which leads to lives of gratitude, harmony and peace to enrich people’s lives. Amida Buddha’s teachings of wisdom and compassion are shared through services, classes, and activities. We create a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment to nurture spiritual development.”

West Covina Buddhist Temple: “In the spirit of universal brotherhood, West Covina Buddhist Temple provides the opportunity for all to listen to and share the Teachings of the Buddha so that we may awaken to our true selves, living our lives fully and dynamically.”

Tacoma Buddhist Temple: “To offer those in the Pacific Northwest an enduring community that values inclusiveness and acceptance in seeking enlightenment through Japanese Shin Buddhist teachings.”

Buddhist Temple of Chicago: “To present and explore the Three Treasures of Buddhism – the Buddha (teacher), the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha. To be guided and inspired by the historical Buddha, Gautama Shakyamuni, and the teachers who have followed—Shinran Shonin, Manshi Kiyozawa, and Haya Akegarasu. To present the Buddha-Dharma in a language and manner relevant and understandable in contemporary America. To welcome all who seek the Dharma without any exceptions. To be a positive presence in our local community working to enhance the vitality of our neighborhood. To honour and continue the traditions of our founding members. To always live the Nembutsu—Namu Amida Butsu.”

Placer Buddhist Church: “The Placer Buddhist Church strives to nurture compassion, mindfulness, gratitude, peace, tolerance, inclusiveness, and spiritual exploration by providing a place where everyone is welcome. Our mission is to continuously learn and live the Buddhist Teachings to reduce suffering and support our lives and the lives around us. We offer an open door to sharing these teachings, as well as friendship and community.”

Moʻiliʻili Hongwanji Mission: “Moʻiliʻili Hongwanji Mission is a growing inclusive Buddhist community seeking spiritual growth, learning, and compassionate service, living our values and preserving them for future generations.”

San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin: “We are striving to create an inclusive environment of unconditional acceptance, respect and gratitude where we honour the past, appreciate the present, build for the future, and learn to engage in a life of compassionate action.”


Dr. Jeff Wilson Sensei