More established Buddhist communities, such as the Buddhist Churches of America, have the advantage of established temples and administrative offices due to the past efforts of others. Even so, the imperative to develop more suitable spaces for practice leads to certain challenges. The BCA example includes the experience of building a very, very nice place called the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley. more here: http://jodoshinshucenter.org/home
You can see the risks involved in a project like this, even for a very well established institutional structure, in this a rather long quotation from a message sent out by Rev. Joshin Dennis Fujimoto of the Idaho Oregon Buddhist Temple, a BCA temple:
I looked at my reports from the 2009 National Council meetings and at that time we owed $7 million on the JSC debt. That was down from the $30 million we originally owed. We still owe about $6.8 million. That means the money collected over the past two years just went to making mortgage payments on the JSC building. Contributions are dwindling. If we get to a point where we can’t make our payments to California Bank and Trust, there is a very real possibility that we could still lose the building, the BCA Headquarters building, the Bishop’s residence, and whatever else has been put up as collateral. We have made a great effort to get $30 million down under $7 million. The Building is first class. The programs are excellent. The JSC is a success story. But we need to get rid of this debt that is draining money away from us.
One idea on the agenda was an Annual Giving program that was outlined and presented by Charlene Grinolds of White River. There were a lot of question marks and concerns about this program so it wasn’t accepted. But overall, everyone at the NC meeting was intent on making a decision and not put off finding a way to end the debt to California Bank and Trust. $3.175 million is owed to them. If we pay this off, the JSC will be secure. We will still owe about $3.5 million to the BCA Endowment Foundation, but this is money borrowed from ourselves.
So, one idea was to ask all of the BCA members for $420 or $35 per month for one year and with 100% participation both loans would be paid off. I was in favor of this motion. I thought if we were going to ask each member for their help, I would rather go for all of it rather than part of it. Another idea was to ask for $199 or $17 per month for one year. With 100% participation the more critical California Bank and Trust portion of the loan could be paid off. People thought this motion would be more easy to accept. This motion was passed. The motion reads: that the BCA National Council make an urgent plea to each and every BCA member to make contribution of $199 per member or $17 per member per month for one year, and one year only, to pay off the debt on the California Bank and Trust loan on the Jodo Shinshu Center in the approximate sum of $3,175,000. Members are encouraged to donate more than the recommended amount of $199. Any excess amounts will be used to pay off the loans to the Endowment Foundation. The plea for donations will begin with a sincere apology.
So the idea we have come up with is to send in a part of this money, almost $29,000 in the name of each of our members. We would be sending a list of every IOBT member as having contributed their $199 towards the JSC debt. If we do this, we will probably be the first temple to fulfill our obligation in full. We would be a shining example for all the other temples to follow suit. It would be a shot in the arm for this new effort to get rid of the debt. The Northwest District would look good. IOBT would look good. We will have done our part to protect the JSC and all its programs from foreclosure.
What kinds of karmic relations are created between banks and Buddhist institutions under these circumstances? That is, how can these relationships best be understood? (if it makes a difference, California Bank & Trust is a subsidiary of Zions Bancorp, which is a very large concern based in Salt Lake City.) What kinds of relations prevail when temples in relatively impoverished rural parts of the country are subsidizing a very, very nice building in an affluent city far away?
*I selected the BCA example out of convenience to get to these issues in a concrete way. I am certain this is not the only Buddhist mortgage story out there.*