Originally published on the Unity and Diversity World Council Website here, June, 2019
I am both ordained as an interfaith minister with UDC and a priest within the Japanese Buddhist tradition called Shingon. Yet Shingon, a 1200-year-old branch of Buddhism and among the oldest of the main sects in Japan, also has some interfaith aspects to its roots. The founder Kukai was quite possibly a genius similar to Leonardo Da Vinci in the ways he excelled within such a variety of fields. Kukai was one of the most famous calligraphers and poets of his time, but also helped revolutionize the period’s linguistics, architecture, medicine, education, and of course, its spiritual practices.
Kukai brought in a system of Vajrayana Buddhism from China focused on a “Dual-World Mandala” representing the interplay and unity of the spiritual and physical worlds in all their diversity. He respected and often included the already existent practices of larger traditions and local nature deities within the fold of his larger paradigm, and found a place for all of them within his mandala.
The core of the program respects the training that he established, but there will be a few little adjustments to adapt the program to some of the needs of contemporary society. Like before there is a heavy emphasis on learning more about the main religions of the world. And there are also components on Interfaith ritual and settings. However, there will be additional training emphasis on the ministry of presence; listening and communication skills; handling psychological first aid; as well as recognizing and responding to the needs of community, social, and environmental justice. It will also allow for some flexible adaptation to fit the needs of each trainee. We hope that the program itself and some of the adjustments live up to Leland’s goals and the ideals of UDC itself, training interested individuals with both the knowledge and tools to go back into their individual communities and help create grounds for the diverse people of our world’s mandala to come together as one and work toward a more united and sustainable future.
If interested in the UDC Ministry training program, please keep your eyes out on our organization’s program page