UU Trivia Question of the Day #20

Unitarian-Universalists have been important influences in the process of bringing Buddhism to the West. Beyond importing knowledge and often dabbling in its practice themselves, one way in which they have significantly contributed to Buddhism’s spread is through hosting Buddhist groups in their churches. When many communities would not allow Buddhists to meet in their church buildings, and fledgling Buddhist groups do not yet have the resources to rent or buy many properties, UUs allow them to meet on site at a low charge or even free, and with no theological objections. In many cases, these groups eventually grow large enough to move out and become permanent fixtures in the area. This happens with other religious groups as well. Thus Unitarian-Universalism is often a significant engine for religious diversity in an area.

The very first Theravada Buddhist temple in America was formed after initially holding meetings in a UU church. Theravada is the largest single form of Buddhism in the world today, and there are now many hundreds of temples in the United States. But it all started at one generous UU church that was willing to let non-Christians gather and worship in their own way. What is the name of that UU church? Do you know when this took place?

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4 Comments

Filed under Buddhism, Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

4 responses to “UU Trivia Question of the Day #20

  1. I believe Second Unitarian in Chicago housed what is now the Midwest Buddhist Temple, the largest temple in the Buddhist Church of America.

    I don’t have dates, but I believe that the association began in the early 1950’s and the Temple was built in the early 50’s

  2. Transient and Permanent

    Patrick, you’re correct about that–but the Midwest Buddhist Temple is Jodo Shinshu, not Theravada, so it’s not the answer to today’s quiz. Good work, though, I didn’t think many other people were aware of this factoid.

    Something to note about this relationship is that the Japanese-American members of what became the Midwest temple had been incarcerated by our government during WWII, and were in Chicago in part because they were expelled into the eastern part of the USA as a condition of their release. Thus the Unitarian church was not only helping religious minorities, but persecuted racial minorities, and in fact refugees who desperately needed the hand of friendship that the church extended to them. This was the first Buddhist group to be officially hosted by any Christian church anywhere.

  3. I am embarsed by my confusion at to Buddhist sects.

    This tradition continues. My own church, the Congregational Unitarian Church in Woodstock, Illinois currently houses two Buddhist groups, the Ten Directions Zen (Korean-style) and the Blue Lotus Temple (Sri Lanka.) The Zen group has American leadership, and Blue Lotus is lead by monks from Sri Lanka. Both serve primarily “anglo” congregations. Membership between both groups and the church also overlap. All three cooperate and promote joint events like an anual Buddah Birthday party with a colorful parade around the historic town square. When we celebrated the 100th aniversary of our church building last year by installing new windows celebrating our world-wide sources of religious inspiration, both groups sponsored the Buddhist window.

  4. Transient and Permanent

    That’s pretty cool, thanks for that additional information. By the way, the Sri Lankan group is Theravada, in case that helps clarify the difference between various groups.

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