The Buddhist Council Marks 30 Years in NYC

Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki of the Buddhist Council of Nw York, speaking at the council's 30th anniversary event on Jan. 30 at The Rubin Museum (Photo by Kinue Weinstein for Voices of NY)

Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki of the Buddhist Council of New York, speaking at the council’s 30th anniversary event on Jan. 30 at the Rubin Museum (Photo by Kinue Imai Weinstein for Voices of NY)

The Buddhist Council of New York, headed by Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, celebrated its 30th anniversary on Jan. 30 at the Rubin Museum in Manhattan.  Approximately 60 invitees attended, including various religious leaders from the city’s Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian communities.

The event opened with a zen calligraphy demonstration by Rev. Nakagaki, accompanied by koto music played by Masayo Ishigure. A video presentation followed, telling about the group’s history, membership and various activities during the past 30 years, including memorials for the victims of 9/11 and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings 70 years ago.

Rev. Nakagaki, in remarks at the event, noted that when he first arrived in New York City 30 years ago, knowledge of Buddhism was limited. “At bookstores, there weren’t many publications about Buddhism and Buddhism was not very well known to the average person,” he said.

However, Rev. Nakagaki noted, there were books on zen available, thanks to the influence of “hippies” and their interest in Eastern cultures.

Then about two decades ago, interest in Buddhism began to grow, attributable, he believes, to the popularity of the Dalai Lama and movies such as Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha,” released in 1993.

Ordained in the 750-year-old Jodoshinshu tradition of Japanese Buddhism, Rev. Nakagaki is also a board vice chair of the Interfaith Center of New York.

“The organization consisted of leaders from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim organizations and gradually, we Buddhists joined. Now I feel I have citizenship in the Interfaith community,” he says.

Asked about his religious teaching in the context of world peace, he said, “Peace is a part of Buddhism teaching. Yet, people could not build a peaceful relationship among different people of different values throughout history. Sometimes religion itself caused war.” He passionately explains the purpose of interfaith as building peaceful relationships among people of the same religion and going beyond to reach those with different faiths and values.

Rev. Nakagaki spoke too about Buddhism’s beliefs, contrasting them with those of secular societies. “In Buddhism the most important thing is one’s heart.  Actions are followed by one’s heart as opposed to being ruled by power,” he explains. Ruling by power may involve strong police and military action, as well as warfare that may include nuclear weapons – all contrary to Buddhist belief.

In coming years, said the leader of the Buddhist Council of New York, the objectives will be the same as in the Council’s first 30 years: to facilitate communication among Buddhist groups, as well as with other religious councils and organizations; to educate the public about the teachings, cultures and traditions of Buddhism; and to promote the Buddha’s message of peace.

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