Buddhist Church and Shinran Shonin (Hiroshima New York)


I’ve walked by the rather non-descript New York Buddhist Church on Riverside Drive and W. 105th St. I don’t know how many times. I always found the statue of Shinran unremarkable. But he looked great in the snow and I liked how the photograph turned out, especially the round of his traveller’s hat and the plain modern white panels on the temple facade. So I took a little look around online. This is what I found:

The New York Buddhist Church (NYBC) is a temple of Jodoshinshu True Pure Land School Buddhism, whose head temple is Nishi-Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) is the founder of this school of Buddhism.

The NYBC has been serving the New York community since 1938, and was founded by Rev. Hozen Seki with the assistance of his wife, Satomi, and concerned lay people. They all wished to share the Buddha-Dharma in America’s most populous city, which then had no center for Jodoshinshu Buddhism. Their wishes have flourished as today we continue to share the Buddha-Dharma here in New York.

 As for the statue of Shinran, it’s actually quite remarkable:

In the last 60 years, the Shinran Statue has known two homes. Its latest home is a fenced stoop on Riverside Drive outside of the New York Buddhist Church. But before that, the Shinran Statue stood proudly outside of a temple in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

More specifically, the statue stood only 1.5 miles from the center of the atomic blast that decimated 70 percent of the buildings in the city and took the lives of 150,000 people. Amazingly, the statue emerged from the explosion unscathed, still standing guard at the burning temple.

Following the war, a Japanese man shipped the statue to New York where it has stayed since 1955. The statue has been free from radiation since it began its stay in the United States and has never posed a danger to visitors.

Today, the 15-foot bronze statue stands as a monument to world peace and the frightening power of the atomic bomb. Its weathered bronze exterior is visible in front of the Buddhist Church, and its amazing legacy is preserved in the nation responsible for its near destruction.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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