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12. May 2023

Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple History

The Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple facility was formally dedicated on April 13, 1947, however, the temple got its start long before the foundation was poured or the walls were formed.

During World War II, many Treasure Valley farm families lacked workers, with many laborers gone into military service or working in war related jobs. Some Japanese-Americans came to the Treasure Valley to work on farms when laborers were few. By May, 1942, Japanese-Americans who resided on the Pacific Coast from Washington to California were sent via railcar to the detention camps. About that time, Treasure Valley farmers issued an appeal for farm laborers to come to the area. Japanese-Americans in the detention camps were given the option of going to work on farms and coming to the Ontario area. Following the end of the war, some Japanese-Americans returned to their formal coastal homes, but found conditions less than pleasant and came back to the Treasure Valley where they were building their niche in the community. It wasn't long until Ontario became a center of Japanese culture.

Many of the first generation Japanese-Americans, or "Issei," were active Buddhists and decided to form a local congregation. Japanese-Americans who resided in the area prior to the war constructed a community hall in the late 1930's for their young people to have a place to participate in athletics and social activities as well as provide the Buddhist congregation with a gathering place.

By 1946 a planning committee was established, and with help from Reverend Tesshin Shibata, a budget was prepared. Reverend Shibata had previously served as the minister at the White River Buddhist Temple in Auburn, Washington, prior to the war. A plot of land about six miles southwest of Ontario, near today's golf course, was acquired and construction began by late 1946 to build a residence for the Shibata family and a temporary place for temple services.

The facility was dedicated on April 13, 1947, and the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple was officially added to the list of the Association of Buddhist Churches of America. A membership drive was launched, with members coming in from Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, Emmett, Weiser, Payette, New Plymouth, Fruitland, Vale, Nyssa, Ontario and the Oregon Slope.

As membership increased, a need for larger quarters arose. In 1949, the Issei met with the "Nisei", second generation Japanese-Americans, and discussed plans of enlarging the Buddhist Temple. They reached the decision to build closer to town and land was purchased on the East side of Ontario where, at that time, a majority of the Japanese businesses and homes were located. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in January, 1952, with the dedication of the new temple taking place in February, 1959.

Members from Eastern Oregon and Southwestern Idaho continue to be served today by the temple. Our temple is part of the Jodo Shinshu Nishi Hongwanji tradition of Buddhism. The proper name for our sect of Buddhism is the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanjiha. Jodo Shinshu Buddhism was founded in Japan over 700 years ago. Our founder was Shinran Shonin (1173-1262). We are headquartered in Kyoto, Japan at the Nishi Hongwanji. Our mother temple in Kyoto provides leadership worldwide for the tradition. The Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple is a member of the Buddhist Churches of America and part of their Northwest District. We are located in Ontario, Oregon. Community members look forward each year to the Obon Festival, Bazaar and other annual events.

23. March 2023

Can Something Be Bad and Good at the Same Time?

This question, “Can something can be both bad and good?” was running through my head last month when temple president Mike Iseri gave Rev. Jerry Hirano, Rev. Carmela, Rev. Kathy, Sandy (our temple treasurer),  and me a tour of the progress of the restoration of the temple building.

group of people standing in basement that is being remodeled
            Photo: Temple Basement without Stage and showing new ductwork

two men stand in a basement under construction

Photo: Rev. Jerry Hirano and Mike Iseri in front of  pass-through to the kitchen in basement
I clearly remember how my heart sank the day in July when I learned that there had been a major fire in our temple.  I thought of all the happy memories I have of the temple and the fun times I had in the basement with the Sangha and larger community.  I thought of all the supplies, equipment (including the taiko drums) and historic documents and materials that were lost to fire, smoke, or water damage. I wondered what the future would hold for the temple. I felt relief and gratitude when I learned that the Onaijin (altar) was safe, but I still feel deep sadness when I think about all that was lost.

Buddhist altar

Photo:  Our altar survived the fire!!!

Buddhism teaches that everything is impermanent, that things we love will not last forever, that everything changes.  Although I know this, facing it first-hand in the aftermath of the fire hit me hard.

But on the tour of the temple the Mike gave us in February, I had a different set of feelings.  I was amazed by the progress of clean up and rebuilding that is taking place.  The fire created  opportunities to update our facilities and fix problems we have been dealing with.  The fire has given us the chance to replace and update our heating/cooling system and audio-visual system, and renew the lighting and the seating in the Hondo. We will have new carpet, new paint, and new upholstery on the pews.  

People standing in main hall of Buddhist temple under construction
Photo: Rev. Kathy, Mike and Sandy admire the upgrades to our temple's main hall
One of the things I am most excited about is that the entrance to the basement storage area on the far side of the stage that we call “the cave” is being fixed to accommodate a normal sized finished doorway—no more ducking, no more worry about hitting my head!  If you’ve ever seen “the cave” you will know what I mean!
Framed in doorway
Photo: with the stage removed, the entrance to "the cave" can accommodate a full sized door. No more ducking and head-bumps
As I reflect on all that has happened since July, I feel like the answer to my question of whether something can be bad and good at the same time is pretty easy: Yes, something can be bad and good at the same time.  And I will add to that:  Yes, I can be sad and happy at the same time.  Buddhism teaches us that human life is complicated/painful and also precious/wonderful.  It is our ability to engage with complex experiences and complicated emotions that allows us to come to understand and appreciate the teachings of Buddhism and to experience wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha.  If we try to ignore one extreme or the other, then we miss out on the preciousness and uniqueness of the unrepeatable lives we are each living right now!

In Gassho, 

Rev. Anne Spencer

Assistant Minister, IOBT

Female Buddhist Priest wearing Buddhist robes
14. February 2023

Life in North Idaho: Guest Blog from Linda Tanaka

February 14, 2023

 NOTE:  In this is a special guest article by temple member and friend, Linda Tanaka who lives in North Idaho, reflects on interconnection and all the relationships, causes, and conditions that make life in the country possible.

Greetings from North Idaho or as my brother, David, calls it ‘the wilderness’. 

Our fall season was short lived.  Snow arrived before Thanksgiving and didn’t let up until Christmas.  We were doing snow management for days in a row.  Toss in having to buy a new snow blower before Christmas and a low of -24 degrees [that’s “minus”] with frozen pipes, Winter 2022 will be one to be remembered.

House in Snow

Are you wondering how a person born and raised in the Eastern Oregon desert then 30+ years in Northern California could end up about 6 miles from the Canadian border?  That’s a long story but I will give you the condensed version. 

My husband, Vic Cherven, is a geologist with extensive knowledge of California geology from his jobs during his career.  

Man and Woman on Deck of Wooden House


We had moved to Valley Springs, which is in the foothills not far from San Andreas, in 1996.  In late 2003, we watched in horror as a developer destroyed a seasonal creek and its flood plain to build a housing development next to the golf course where we lived.  We knew this would dramatically alter the drainage through the course.  We decided it was time to make our escape plans.  As Vic put it, ‘Water will always be an issue, and it isn’t a matter of IF the BIG earthquake will happen, just WHEN.’ 

After Vic collected a ton of data and made a couple trips to North Idaho, we were able to find property that met our criteria in the fall of 2004.  We packed up the house along with our 3 Irish Setters and headed north in May 2005.  Vic’s parents lived a block from us in Valley Springs and followed a couple months later.

Trees, River, and Train

Image:  Moyie River with Train

There are three mountain ranges that surround this part of the Kootenai Valley, the Purcells, the Cabinets, and the Selkirks.  We are nestled in a North/South running valley with the Moyie River. The Union Pacific railroad runs along the east side of the river across from our property.  We have 100 ft of riverfront.  After July the river is so low you can walk across it.  Bussard Mountain is on the west side of our valley.  Being in the valley means the sun sets around 3-3:30pm in the winter.

Large House with Deck in Woods

One of the first things we noticed after we moved here was the lack of noise, most of the time.  Mainly, no sirens!  We rarely have airplanes fly over.  We occasionally get road noise from Hwy 95 and Moyie River Road, the main county road through our valley.  There’s a cement bridge that crosses over the Moyie to our road.  Our road is a dead end without any outlets so there’s little traffic.  We have gotten accustomed to the whistles and rumble of the UP trains going north/south several times a day and night.

Our road, Bussard Lake Road, is on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNT), not to be confused with the Pacific Crest Trail.  The Pacific NW Trail is 1,200 miles that goes between Glacier National Park on the east and Olympic National Park on the west.  From spring to early fall, we encounter hikers going by our house as they make their way west to USFS Trail 2202/Trail 32.  Vic enjoys talking with them, finding out where they are from and any adventures they’ve had along their way.

Fence Grass and Trees Image: West Side of Bussard Lake Road--view at the end of  our driveway, looking at the mountains on the west side of our valley

Because we live on a deadend road, we are able to walk our dogs off leash.  They love running on the pipeline and through the tree farm.  I’m able to enjoy the sounds and sights of nature on our walks.  The squirrel chattering at us as we walk down the driveway.  Then there’s the birds---bald eagles and crows arguing over a deer killed by a train, turkeys gobbling in the woods then showing up in our yard.  We also hear the owls mainly at night and pileated woodpeckers.  Morgan, a Gordon Setter, our intrepid hunter, is always sniffing.  She loves flushing out a grouse from under a tree or the front deck.

As I reflect back while writing this article, I realize living here couldn’t have happened without the help and generosity of many different people over the years.  First was Michael, my manager on the Sutter Health IT Interface Team.  He agreed to letting me work remote without any questions asked, along with the support of our Director.  Keep in mind that in 2005, telecommuting was not a common practice as it is now.  I was able to get a satellite internet service, later switching to a local company when they installed an internet WIFI service tower at our end of the county.  This technology advancement greatly made working from home so much better.  We have worked together to install upgrades to their system that has greatly improved the speed.  I can join Zoom calls with few interruptions!!

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Charlie and Brad, the contractors, who we engaged to build out our walkout basement.  They worked through the winter and we were able make the move in May.  We later found out they were the best contractors in the county.  Their attention to detail was outstanding!

Living in the woods doesn’t mean we are alone.  When we arrived in 2005 there were only two other full-time neighbors.  These neighbors eventually moved away to be closer to family.  Their properties were bought by part time residents.  This means Vic and I have lived on our road the longest.  There are now 7 other full-time neighbors on the road.   There are a couple part time neighbors who come up about once a month, even in the winter, and will stay for a week or so.  We enjoy visits when they are here.  We have shared many holiday dinners with our friends.  The part time neighbors make their appearances in the spring and summer.  

Over the years I have made friends with others who live in our area.  You’d be amazed at how many people live in the woods.  We get together to share crafting ideas, card making parties, luncheons and shopping trips to Coeur d’Alene.  I’ve been attending a Strong Women strength training class sponsored by UI Extension since 2007.  These classes have led to friendships with gals who live in town and a source for local resources and news.

One person who we couldn’t live without is Frank of Boundary Heating who keeps our hydronic heating system functioning.  Frank has worked on our system pretty much since we moved here.  The original furnace wasn’t very reliable and we called Frank practically every winter.  He has made improvements plus replaced the original furnace.  It’s been a couple of years before we had to call Frank last week.  He put in a temporary fix, and we now have heat upstairs so we can cut back on the wood fires! 

We have our ups and downs, but we wouldn’t live anywhere else for now.  I hope you enjoyed this brief glance into life in North Idaho.

Namo Amida Butsu

Linda Tanaka

02. January 2023

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit

January 02, 2023

New Years Day Dharma Message 2023

"I hope that everyone will, deeply entrusting themselves to the  nembutsu and firmly embracing prayers [for peace in the world] in their hearts, together say the nembutsu.

(From the Collected Works of Shinran p. 560)


Happy New year! Happy 2023! 

Akemashite Omededou Gozaimasu


On December 31, members and friends joined us online from around the country for our New Year's Eve Joya No Kane service.  Traditionally for this service the temple bell is rung 108 times. Because of the temple fire earlier this year and because we were on Zoom, we had to be creative--each person used bells that they had in their homes and we took turns ringing them. This bell ringing activity purified the 108 Bonno, our many attachments to the world of suffering. Ringing the bells cleaned out our greed, anger, and ignorance,  and reminded us of the Infinite Wisdom & Compassion of Amida Buddha that accepts us just as we are. The process of hitting the bell helps us reflect on our self-centeredness in the past year, and prepares us to face the new year with a clean slate.

Home Altar with Amida Buddha statue, kagami mochi,  evergreens, and candle

Photo: Rev. Anne's home altar set for New Years Day Zoom Service

This morning, this new year, represents a fresh start.  Last night we rang away our defilements and today we begin the new year joyously and  together as a sangha.   I am so happy to be here and to have you all here with me.

According to the Japanese calendar, today is the first day of the year of the Usagi, the year of the Rabbit. I think we can use this image of the rabbit to help set the tone for the rest of the year.  By nature, the rabbit is easy going and prefers to avoid conflict and not take unnecessary risks.  2023 is a year to show patience, modesty, and kindness in all our relationships. The year of the Rabbit is said to be one of stability, and is a good time to settle into a smooth and peaceful life.  Ahhhh….  Doesn’t that sound great?


 It's been 3 years since the corona virus was identified in the US and so many causes and conditions related to the virus have created extra stress for everyone as we--as individuals, as families, and as a society--try to figure out how to deal with this new reality.  I suspect that we each have our own stories of struggle, disappointment, grief, frustration, sadness and conflict from all that changes that came with the pandemic.   In addition, as a temple community we have had to deal with the fire in the temple basement and its aftermath. 

In addition, over the past few years I suspect that most of us have had a loved one become sick or die—my own mother died last January at the age of 90.  I find that I am really feeling that grief as we come up on the anniversary of her death—and I know that I am not alone in grieving—in fact millions of others around the world are also dealing with their own grief. 

The anxiety that all this has created has been reflected in our national and local political discussions, sometimes leading to arguments among family and friends as well as at a city, state, and national level. As I reflect over the past few years,  I think everyone is tired, grieving, and at least a little bit anxious about something.

And I was thinking last night as we were ringing away the defilements of last year during our Joya no Kane service, how nice it was to clean some of that anger, fear, grief, and anxiety away.  

Large Japanese Bell

Photo: The Kansho bell at Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple which is traditionally rung on New Years Eve.

This morning I am thinking about what a wonderful opportunity this new year offers.  And how fabulous that right now we are entering the year of the Rabbit—what perfect timing!   As I said, the year of the rabbit is a year to show patience, modesty, and kindness in all our relationships. The year of the Rabbit is a year of stability, one that leads a smooth and peaceful life.  Isn’t this just what we all need right now?

Rabbit in Grass

But I don’t think we can assume this patience and kindness and peacefulness will appear out of nowhere, just because we turn the page of the calendar.  I believe that we must each make an effort to bring these qualities of the rabbit into our own lives as well as encouraging and supporting these qualities in others.  Patience and compassion are the qualities that, as Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, we have already experienced through the compassion of Amida Buddha and the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.  Having experienced the patience and compassion of others, we can now aspire to share these qualities  with the people in our daily lives.  Perhaps drawing on the image of a calm and peaceful bunny will help us cultivate patience and help heal the pain, grief, and fear that so frequently surrounds us as we go through our daily lives. Take a moment right now to imagine the kind of calm and peaceful rabbit you want to guide you through the next year.

I started this message with a quotation from one of Shinran Shonin’s letters. This letter reminds us of the importance of centering our lives around compassion, starting by appreciating the compassion we have received, drawing on that gratitude to cultivate compassion for ourselves, and then sharing compassion with others.  Maybe the year of the Bunny is a good time to cultivate this peaceful practice. 

"I hope that everyone will deeply entrusting themselves to the  nembutsu and firmly embracing prayers [for peace in the world] in their hearts, together say the nembutsu.

In Gassho (with palms together) 

Rev. Anne

Female Buddhist Minister in Black robes