Manitoba Buddhist Temple bids farewell to first non-Japanese sensei

Brenda Suderman of the Winnipeg (Manitoba) Free Press penned a lovely farewell this week to “the city’s most public Buddhist,” 74-year-old Sensei Fredrich Ulrich, upon his retirement as head of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple.

The temple itself has a poignant history. It was founded more than 60 years ago by Japanese-Canadians after their release from internment in British Columbia during the World War II years (click here to read more of the temple’s history and to see some remarkable archival video footage) and is affiliated with the Jodu Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada. Sensei Ulrich is the MBT’s first non-Japanese priest, and how he got there is a story in itself.

Ulrich, the Free Press reports, was born into a family whose ancestry was a blend of German immigrants and aboriginal Métis people. He was first ordained as a Methodist minister. Not finding that fully satisfying, Ulrich broadened his spiritual search to include the Métis traditions and Buddhism. He told Suderman, “‘I struggled within Christianity but I couldn’t find a Christian stream that would embrace Buddhism. I found a Buddhist stream that would embrace Christianity.’”

That interfaith spirit persisted during Ulrich’s 14 years as the MBT sensei. He looked back on his work as “helping this church transfer from being an ethnic (Japanese) church to a Canadian church.” MBT board member Harvey Kaita told Suderman, “[Sensei Ulrich] has single-handedly made the Manitoba Buddhist Temple get known out there, so now we have more non-Japanese attending than Japanese.”

“Last summer,” the Free Press said, “the temple hired Sensei Michael Hayashi, a third generation Canadian of Japanese descent, to replace Ulrich.”

To read the full story about Sensei Ulrich and his legacy at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple, click here.

Image via the Manitoba Buddhist Temple website.