As Buddhism Flourishes in America, Buddhism in Hawaii May Face Decline

October 19, 2003

Source: The Advertiser

On October 19, 2003 The Advertiser discussed the current challenges for Buddhists living in Hawaii. Buddhists, second in numbers only to Roman Catholics in Hawaii, face encroachment by evangelical groups from other religions and aging congregations. According to The Advertiser, "a PBS interview on Oct. 10 quoted experts as saying there are 3 million to 4 million Buddhists in the United States, and about 75 percent of them are of Asian ancestry... The Rev. Thomas Okano, the director of the Buddhist Study Center, a part of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission near UH, takes issue with that. He says it's as many as 6 million Buddhists, and the racial breakdown is closer to 50 percent, if you add in the 'American Buddhism' movement. " Yet unlike most Buddhism in America, Buddhism in Hawaii is still reeling from the anti-Asian racism of WWII, a period in which all Japanese Buddhist temples were shut down, and in which many Buddhist felt pressured to convert to Christianity. Today, as evangelical groups continue to recruit Buddhists in Hawaii, the Buddhist community must find ways to reach out. "'All these years, Buddhist ministers have been very dedicated, but the aim was at serving the congregation,' said Okano. 'Now, we need to address the community. We need the blessings of members that Buddhist ministers need to serve not only the congregation, but to get involved in the entire community.'"