Some time ago, I used to go to a local Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple, part of the Buddhist Churches of America, and started training for ordination. This meant that I often got involved in cool research projects at the temple, which had been serving the local Japanese-American community (through thick and thin) for 100+ years.
Anyhow, one time, the minister and I were clearing out some old boxes and found a CD containing a recording from the 1970’s of several ministers chanting the Amitabha Sutra (阿弥陀経, amida-kyō in Japanese). The original recording had been on a cassette tape, and later someone had copied this recording onto a CD. And with permissions from the minister I copied it onto Youtube for all to enjoy:
Unfortunately, I’ve lost my notes on who was singing that day, and what day it was in 1970. I just recall it seeing that it was several ministers from the Buddhist Churches of America at that time, and I recall one them, the lead chanter, was a famous minister in the BCA at the time. If anyone recognizes his voice, I would love to hear back from you.
The photos used in the video are ones I took in Japan. The first is from Nishi Honganji, a major temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect, the second from a local temple in Tokyo featuring the 500 “arakan” (arhat) disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Although I parted ways with the BCA (and Jodo Shinshu as a whole),1 I still miss my time there especially with our minister, who retired, and of course the fascinating cultural legacy that early Japanese Americans brought to the US.2 It’s unfortunate that much of it has been lost and left to dust, but there’s still much there that can be found and researched for those willing to look.
Namu Amida Butsu
P.S. If nothing else, I am happy that I was able to take an old recording from 50 years ago and bring it to life, and to all those who helped preserve it along the way.
1 Long-winded explanation here.
2 I miss a lot of people there, actually, but I am fortunate to run into them from time to time since we all live in the same area.