Foundation and History
In 1916, at the age of 19, Yehan went to the United States of America in order to study at a university under pressure to earn his school fees by living in an American family and doing the housework of that family from morning to evening. He struggled with poverty and hard labor in an attempt to graduate from a high school and be admitted into a university. At the age of 22, however, he contracted tuberculosis, which was considered an incurable disease in those days. He sank into despair and spent many days struggling in deep loneliness. It was during this time that he encountered the words of Venerable Shinran at the time of his death (Gorinmatsu no gosho) from the depths of his heart:
He wrote: “When you are alone, then think that you are two. When you are two with someone else, then remember that you are really three. For Shinran is always with you together.”
These words made him realize that he is not alone because Venerable Shinran1 would always watch over him, protect his mind and body and stay with him. This conviction dispelled his loneliness and despair, and he felt relieved. This experience rebuilt Yehan’s body and mind. As a result, though the tuberculosis was believed to be fatal disease, his conditions began to improve markedly and his mind and body regained their strength about a year after that encounter with Venerable Shinran from the bottom of his heart. In 1921, he could thus enter the University of California Berkeley (UCB) and successfully completed his postgraduate studies in 1928, majoring in statistics and theory of economic fluctuations.
This experience of having been cured of fatal illness made Yehan realize that he is let to live (or more precisely, he is made to live owing to innumerable relations with things in this world and at the same time due to other power) and thus lives his own life thanks to the teachings of Venerable Shinran, or more generally, thanks to the teachings of Buddha. He also developed a sense of mission to share these wonderful Buddhist teachings with the people of the world.
A few years later, in 1934, he founded Mitutoyo, a company for precision measuring instruments, to finance his activities to spread the Buddhist teachings around the world. Based on the profits generated by Mitutoyo, the “Society for the Promotion of Buddhism” (Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai abbreviated as BDK) was then established in Tōkyō in 1965 with the aim of further promoting Buddhism.
The EKŌ Center of Japanese Culture as one of the foreign branches of the Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai (BDK Japan) was built to convey Buddhism to people living in Europe and especially in Germany (a task that is mainly taken on by the BDK Europe , partly together with the EKŌ Center) as well as the Japanese culture based on Buddhism and thus to contribute to peace in the world.
Yehan was supported in its project by the city of Düsseldorf, by numerous Japanese companies and institutions as well as by many religious organisations for the promotion of Buddhism (especially by faith communities of Japanese Buddhism). Thanks to this diverse help from various sides, the temple of the EKŌ Center could be consecrated in 1992. In other words, the EKŌ Center was established for the purpose of making familiar with teachings of Japanese Buddhism through introducing and deepening the understanding of Japanese culture based on Japanese Buddhism. In 1993, the grand opening of the EKŌ Center took place, marking the beginning of its operation as a cultural institution.
The year 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of the enshrining of the statue of Buddha Amida in the main hall of the EKŌ Temple, which symbolically forms the cornerstone of all activities of the EKŌ Center as a whole.
Greetings from the director
Greetings from Prof. Dr. MATSUMARU Hisao
Aims and Activities
At the same time, we believe that the EKŌ Center should be an institution open not only to a particular Buddhist school, but to many Buddhist denominations in accordance with the idea of harmonious coexistence (in the sense of worldwide Buddhism) deeply rooted in Yehan’s thought. Furthermore, the activities of the EKŌ Center are by no means limited to Buddhism alone, but are also dedicated to exchange with other religions by means of exchange of views and becoming a place of interchange among religious events. We would like to promote mutual understanding through continual dialogues among different faiths. We are convinced that we can contribute to peace in the world by recalling the basic idea of harmonious togetherness inherent in many religions and among many peoples.
Thus, in continuation of the original vow of our founder Yehan, the EKŌ Center tries to promote and spread understanding of Japanese culture based on teachings of Buddha and Japanese Buddhism, and to contribute to the realization of peace in the world through these activities and by deepening mutual understanding among many peoples and different religions.
- Publishing and disseminating Buddhist texts both in modern Japanese and in foreign language translations.
- Activities to promote the teaching of Buddhism, Japanese culture based on Buddhism and scholarly researches (including the endowed “Numata Chairs in Buddhist Studies” in Europe and the activities of library).
- Support in and assistance to projects to promote the teaching of Buddhism and Japanese culture based on Buddhism and scholarly researches (including EKŌ and Ōtani Research Scholarships).
- Activities that serve to disseminate the teaching of Buddhism and Japanese culture based on Buddhism or to promote their understanding, as well as support projects (including the operation of kindergartens)
- Renting of function rooms for the projects in accordance with the founding objectives of the EKŌ Center.
- Other projects that serve the purposes of the EKŌ Center (including cooperative projects to promote mutual understanding through exchange and dialogues with other religions and peoples and to achieve peace in the world).
The EKŌ Center of Japanese Culture does not see itself as being limited exclusively to Europe in its activities and projects, but is also globally oriented in this regard. The entire staff of the EKŌ Center will work to achieve this goal in a single body.
BDK Europa e.V. (Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai Europe) supports the activities of the Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai (BDK – Society for the Promotion of Buddhism) in Japan. The latter deals with, for example, translation and distribution of the publication “The Teaching of Buddha”, and also supports researches on Buddhism through endowed professorships (“Numata Chair for Buddhist Studies”) and Buddhism centers at European universities (e.g., Numata Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg).
BDK is a non-sectarian organization and, therefore, does not adhere to one particular denomination of Buddhism. Rather, it endeavors to promote and propagate Buddhist wisdom found in Buddhist history and cultures by developing a wide range of activities and programs. Ultimately, BDK wishes to contribute to the achievement of global peace and harmony.
The purpose of the EKŌ Kindergarten is to actively promote international cultural exchange in accordance with the objectives of the EKŌ House of Japanese Culture.
The name “EKŌ” expresses the wish for the light of the Buddha’s wisdom and mercy, combined with the hope of spreading his compassion and mercy throughout the world. As the name indicates, the idea behind the foundation of the EKŌ Kindergarten is to educate children to become sincere human beings with human warmth, compassion, respect for life and a sense of gratitude and appreciation.
We hope that by playing and learning together, the German and Japanese children may overcome national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and even religious boundaries and develop a sense of community in harmonious cooperation.