I have read some Buddhist scriptures over the years, but I had never attended an actual Buddhist service before today, when I had the privilege of joining the Manhattan congregation of the Pure Land Buddhist denomination at their morning devotions. I recommend this temple — the New York Buddhist Church – as a distinctly Western-friendly way to start exploring the Buddhist tradition. The name itself – Church – is a bit of a giveaway: One will see much here that has close analogues in the Western Christian churches. This temple is “Catholic” in that it has a lovely altar and statues, and a set liturgy with chants. And it’s “Protestant” in that the central theological point of the service is that human beings cannot earn their salvation in any way, but must depend on the free gift of grace: a doctrine quite similar to the “justification by faith” that used to be the most ferociously defended distinctive of Protestantism. (I say “used to be,” in the full awareness that I will get a couple of angry letters from diehards vehemently insisting that the recent convergence of Catholic and Protestant theology on the issue of justification is a heretical sellout of Protestant principle.)
In front of the temple is a statue of the Pure Land sect’s founder, Shinran (1173–1263). From the viewer’s low angle, it appears quite massive. And it is certainly sturdy: In 1945, it was 1.5 miles away from the atomic blast in Hiroshima. (It was brought to New York in 1955.)
God love you
+Fulton J. Sheen
Or perhaps they merely judged that whatever sentimental value a book signed by Bishop Sheen might have for someone who had grown up Catholic some four decades ago, it wouldn’t add anything to the cash value of the $6 bargain volume? In any case, I am really thrilled to have found this book.