Great American Pastimes? Baseball and Scouting Meet the Pure Land

Great American Pastimes? Baseball and Scouting Meet the Pure Land

  • Sunday, June 2, 2013 | 2:45 – 3:45pm | Gage Residence, Fort Camp Lounge

Jessica L. Main (University of British Columbia) “True to Buddha and Country: Understanding Shin Buddhist Boy Scouts”

David Yoo, and many others, identifies the establishment of Boy Scout troops at Shin temples in America in the 1930s as part of a “strategy of survival,” a “recoding” of their words and practices in a way that would be recognized by the dominant Protestant culture (Yoo 1996, 289). Although this is accurate, the model does not explain the simultaneous, prewar formation of Shin Buddhist Boy Scouts troops at Ōtani-ha and Honganji-ha temples in Japan. I suggest that adaptation and new organizational forms were not solely the strategic response of Japanese Buddhists in diaspora contexts, but part of an enthusiastic, transnational movement addressing a relatively new category of being: young boys.

Bill Staples, Jr. (Nisei Baseball Research Project) “Bodhisattva at Bat: Baseball as Buddhist Practice for Kenichi Zenimura”

Kenichi Zenimura (1900-1968) is recognized as “The Father of Japanese American Baseball” for his legacy as a player, manager and international ambassador. He was also a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist. During WWII he was among the 120,000 people of Japanese Ancestry sent to internment camps by the U.S. government. Behind barbed wire at Gila River, AZ, he constructed a ballfield and organized leagues that gave his fellow internees a sense of hope and normalcy. In describing Coach Zeni one of his players said, “He indeed possessed a tremendous knowledge of baseball savvy, but above all, he wanted every player to become a better human being by realizing his responsibility and compassion for his fellow man.” For Zenimura, baseball was more than just a game – it was how he knew best to bring happiness into the lives of others, break down barriers to foster peace and understanding, and to minimize suffering in the world. This paper will reflect upon Zenimura’s career and demonstrate how he used the game of baseball as a vehicle for Buddhist practice.