We are delighted to be able to support a new pioneering group in the Japanese capital, Tokyo. FutureDharma has committed to fund £3000, over a three year period, to support Order Member Aryapala in setting up this new Triratna Sangha with Shraddharocani.
Aryapala’s Journey to Japan
At the age of eighteen Aryapala discovered Reiki, an experience he describes as ‘life-changing’. Alongwith the mystery of hands on healing Aryapala was strongly drawn to the founder, Usui Mikao, a Japanese Tendai Buddhist Priest. As one of Japan’s two main esoteric traditions this ignited a life-long magnetism towards the country and the realisation that he was, in fact, a Buddhist.
Aryapala found Triratna in 1995 during a UK based pagan pilgrimage tracing ancestry. He soon joined a Triratna residential community in Croydon working with friends in a Team Based Right Livelihood restaurant. He then spent fourteen years living and working at Padmaloka, including time as Chair.
When leaving Padmaloka Aryapala planned a period of wandering. Padmamanas suggested visiting Japan and Satyaraja gave him a book named A Japanese Pilgrimage written by Oliver Statler. Wishing to visit the country and pay respects to the founder of Reiki, who sparked his path towards Buddhism many years before, Aryapala committed to a 1200 km pilgrimage around Shikoku Island. This arduous journey was undertaken on foot, included paying respects at eighty eight temples, and took two months to complete.
Aryapala fell in love with Japan and its people, returning time and time again.
Running parallel to Aryapala’s story, Shraddharocani (who is Japanese and now lives in New Zealand) was translating Bhante into Japanese. She had a strong vision that Bhante’s dharma is desperately needed in Japan, and soon after Aryapala’s pilgrimage they were introduced to assist in the translation work and later, they teamed up to support the small group that had suddenly sprung up in Tokyo. You can read and listen to Shraddharocani’s translations here.
Establishing a Triratna presence in an already Buddhist country could highlight a number of challenges, yet the early response has been exceptionally positive.
The group started small, however, the members found Triratna to be very clear. In Japan, the Buddha seems to come across as a God or Kami to whom you offer prayer and proposition. In contrast, Triratna’s presentation of Gautama as a historical figure appears to be relatable and refreshing. Triratna offers a well-balanced approach that goes back to the basics, enabling the Sangha to benefit from the tools for everyday, natural ethics, and the origin of Shakyamuni. The Japanese attendees find the practical aspects particularly helpful.
The group began online with a Japanese woman named Susana Kumagai, her husband Antonio (who works for the Tokyo American Club), and a few of their friends. Little by little the group grew and additionally extended to other East Asian countries with attendance by Zoe in Singapore, Sraddhapa from Taiwan, Seongjin Ahn from Korea, and some of their connections.
Success & Celebration
The online group remained steady, and so Susana started additional in-person classes from her living room in Chofu City in October 2022.
On Saturday 18th February 2023 the Tokyo Sangha celebrated their first Mitra Ceremony for Susana. Susana’s connections with Aryapala, Nagasuri, Shraddharocani, and Sraddhapa have supported her practice and enabled her to run these weekly meditation classes (in English and Japanese) with confidence.
In this regard, Shraddharocani’s translations have come in particularly helpful and she has been awarded a grant from the Triratna Translation Project to continue her work.
The Sangha has also recently enjoyed their very first in-person retreat to the hot spring geothermal resort of Atami, situated down the coast from Tokyo.
The theme was: “Buddhism: Immemorial and Ultra-Modern – A dynamic tension of the ancient teachings of Buddhism in modern society – A re-emphasis of the core teachings of the Buddha that can be applied to modern lifestyles and times.”
The event had ten people in attendance. Sraddhapa traveled from Taiwan to support Aryapala and, fortuitously, Akuppa was visiting Atami that very weekend and so was able to join the group.
Support this Project
£1000 per year over three years enables the growth of the online and in-person Sangha through online software, the website, and Japanese lessons for Aryapala. This is a fantastic opportunity to support a new Sangha, in a new area for Triratna . We cannot make it happen without FutureDharma donors. If you want to support Tokyo, and other pioneering projects, please consider making a regular donation.