Your Worship: The Buddhist Church of Santa Barbara

By Hannah Tennant-Moore, Santa Barbara Independent, July 29, 2007

Santa Barbara, CA (USA) --The Buddhist Church of Santa Barbara has been one of Santa Barbara's best kept spiritual and cultural secrets for nearly 80 years. Meeting monthly in a large traditional Buddhist church on the Eastside, the congregation gathers to practice Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in much the same manner in which it has been practiced in Japan for the last millennium.

In sharp contrast to the images of simplicity and meditation that Buddhism conjures in most people's minds, the setup of the Buddhist Church is similar to that of a Christian church, with pews facing a minister’s pulpit that hold Buddhist Service Books within them.

The basic principle of Jodo Shinshu is that striving for enlightenment is too difficult for the vast majority of human beings, particularly in this modern world. To put it lightly: Let's face it; we ain't gettin' enlightened anytime soon. Instead, Jodo Shinshu's founder, Shinran Shonin, advocated relying on Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, which states that all beings who sincerely desire release from the sufferings of this world are promised rebirth in the Pure Land, which is not so much a physical place as it is the state of freedom from all worldly suffering. (Amida Buddha is distinct from the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni, in that this name represents the embodiment of the dharma, or Buddhist teachings.)

In other words, Jodo Shinshu teaches that one needn't abandon one's family and career and adopt an austere monastic lifestyle in order to be reborn in the Pure Land in another lifetime. Trusting in this knowledge, practitioners of Jodo Shinshu are able to enjoy their present lives to the fullest. As one congregant explained it to me, Jodo Shinshu “is the layman’s Buddhism.”

In keeping with this philosophy, the Buddhist Church service hinged not on meditation, but on expressions of gratitude and faith. Congregants sat in pews facing an elaborate gilded altar, the centerpiece of which is a statue of Kuan Yin, the earthly manifestation of Amida Buddha. The minister, with the aid of an awesomely reverberating gong, led us through chants in which we praised the immeasurable wisdom and compassion of the Buddha and took refuge in The Three Treasures — the Buddha (or the potential for enlightenment in each person), the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community of Buddhists).

During the chants, congregants lined up in front of the altar and, one by one, bowed before the Buddha and pinched a bit of granulated incense into a large ornamental brazier as a symbolic offering and expression of gratitude to the presence of Buddha-Dharma in their lives.

The service was conducted in both Japanese and English, and contained an open light-heartedness. Japanese-speaking congregants loudly translated page numbers for the English speakers, and the minister's sermon was dotted with jokes. Furthermore, it was almost entirely focused on this life right here, and praised things many people consider mundane. The minister spoke of the joys of summertime and asked congregants to “appreciate our life as it is right now.”

Perhaps the most important part of the service was the frequent recitation of the phrase “Namo Amida Butsu,” which means literally, “I entrust myself to the Awakened Being of Immeasurable Wisdom and Compassion.” Speaking this name is an expression of gratitude and of one’s intent to become a fully awakened or enlightened being one’s self. Therefore, Jodo Shinshu teaches that if one speaks this name in sincerity, one is guaranteed an eventual rebirth in the Pure Land.

If you go:
Church: Buddhist Church of Santa Barbara, 1015 E. Montecito Street
Service Attended: Saturday, 2 pm
Denomination: Buddhist (Jodo Shinshu)
Offerings: Monthly services with lunch. Call 962-3633 for times

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: