Japanese immigrants settled in and around Denver in the early 1900s. Many were Jodo Shinshu Buddhists with strong ties to their religious heritage. Married couples especially wanted a strong Sangha for their families. In 1916, the Tri-State Buddhist Temples’ headquarters was formed. The organization was incorporated as the Denver Buddhist Church because of its Denver location, but it served Buddhists in the tri-state area of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
The first headquarter, at 1942 Market Street, was located in a former brothel. Revered Tessho Ono served as the first assigned minister. Many ministers followed. Reverend Yoshitaka Tamai was assigned to the Denver Buddhist Church in 1930. He had a particularly profound influence on the Tri-State sanghas due to his giving nature and his sincere endeavor in serving the widespread Buddhist population under his domain. Reverend Tamai died in 1983; he is honored and remembered with an Endowment Chair bearing his name at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in San Francisco. (A list of all ministers who have served can be found here.)
During World War II, Japanese-American citizens were forced into relocation camps. Simultaneously, many Japanese-Americans from California were evacuated to Colorado where they lived as “regular” citizens as opposed to “prisoners” of the relocation camps; most of these people settled in Denver. To serve them, the Denver Buddhist Church structure was enlarged. Reverend Shodo Tsunoda joined Reverend Tamai in 1944. Jodo Shinshu Buddhists throughout the tri-state area, especially in rural areas, generously gave money so a new facility could be built.
In 1947, the new temple was dedicated and the name Denver Buddhist Church was changed to Tri-State Buddhist Church. The new Tri-State Buddhist Church served sanghas in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and western Texas. Each temple conducted Dharma School and services every Sunday. However, the two assigned ministers could not possibly be in attendance at every service on every Sunday despite the fact that they constantly traveled from one temple to another. So lay members of each Sangha led the Sunday services when a Sensei could not be present. Denver Buddhist Church did not become a separate temple until 1965. Until then, Tri-State administered Denver’s services and activities with the exception of Denver’s Dharma School, which was conducted by the Denver Sunday School PTA. In becoming a separate Church, we became the ninth member temple of the Tri-State Buddhist Church. (In 1981, both organizations changed their names to designate "Temple" instead of "Church").
Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) temples are unique in the fact that they sponsor Sunday services and guide their respective organizations as an entity in the learning of Buddha Dharma. Because of this practice, we are able to form a cohesive Buddhist community comprised of a diverse group of people (age-wise, gender-wise, ethnicity-wise, etc.) in the heart of downtown Denver, Colorado. The Denver Buddhist Temple focuses on sharing the teachings (Dharma) of the Buddha and serving the community (Sangha) with educational and cultural opportunities. (A)
WATCH THIS YEAR'S VIRTUAL
O-BON ODORI FESTIVAL as streamed online by the
TRI-STATE/DENVER BUDDHIST TEMPLES
and read this article about the significance of the Obon Festival to the Denver community by guest writer for the Denver Post, Andy Yamashita:
Pictured Above: The 'Onaijin' or 'shrine area' of the 'Hondo' or 'main Temple hall'.
The Meaning of Offering Incense (from Oxnard Buddhist Temple)
Many first-time visitors to the temple are impressed by the Hondo, or main temple hall. Some people comment on the beautiful Japanese Buddhist adornments in the onaijin shrine area. You might notice the familiar smell of incense that (is offered) during all services at the Buddhist Temple. The offering of incense at Buddhist temples is a tradition that has been transmitted from Buddhism’s Indian cultural roots. Because the pleasant fragrance of incense lingers in the air and permeates our clothing, hair and skin, one of the original purposes of burning incense was to purify a sacred space and the bodies and minds of the participants in a religious service.
The Jodo Shinshu way of offering incense expresses our understanding that the fragrance is not something that is received for one's own self-purification, but rather is something that is offered as an expression of gratitude and reverence for the Buddha’s teachings. The words of the Buddha are reassuring that great compassion embraces us just as we as are—with all our impurities of body and mind—so incense does not serve the purpose of purification in the Jodo-Shinshu Buddhist tradition. (B)
Kōdō (Way of Incense) is the Japanese art of incense appreciation, similar to the tea ceremony. In kōdō, participants also follow established practices involving the preparation and enjoyment of incense and is counted as one of the three classical arts of refinement. Kōdō includes all the aspects of the incense process, from the kōdōgu, which are the tools used in the way of the incense, to the art of appreciating the various scents. Two major types of incense are used in Japan, through either heating or smoldering small pieces of fragrant wood or directly burning incense in the form of sticks or cones formed from paste without a bamboo stick. Many of the current incense companies have been in existence for more than 300 years. (C)
'Fujin', also named 'Futen', is the Japanese God of Wind and one of the eldest in the Japanese Shinto religion. He’s often depicted carrying a large bag of winds on his shoulders and appears disheveled from the gusts of wind he carries. He bears four fingers, one for each of the cardinal winds. He is said to be a protector of the Temple alongside his brother, Raijin, the Thunder God. (D) (E)