The first time Tanis Moore wandered into a Buddhist temple, she was searching for new ways to meditate.
Fast forward two decades, and the newly ordained Winnipegger now serves as the volunteer spiritual leader for the Manitoba Buddhist Temple, becoming the group’s first female dharma leader.
"I had been studying meditation for many years and I thought I would come here and see what it was about," says Moore, 74, a retired practitioner of acupuncture, therapeutic touch and craniosacral therapy.
"I started attending Sunday services and I was drawn into it."
The first homegrown leader in the temple’s seven-decade history, Moore flew to Kyoto, Japan last summer for her ordination as an assistant sensei after several years of online classes and commuting for short courses in Berkeley, Calif.
Along with about 40 other people, about half from Japan and half from the United States, Canada or Great Britain, Moore underwent an 11-day ordination process at a retreat centre in Kyoto last July.
"It’s an amazing ceremony in the head temple," says Moore, who is now qualified as an assistant minister or sensei in the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddhism.
Her ordination means the Winnipeg temple of about 80 members can hold more Sunday services, which have been limited to once a month since the death of their resident sensei in 2014.
Beginning in January, the temple will hold two Sunday services each month, one led by Moore and the other by a visiting sensei.
Moore’s ordination demonstrates her commitment to Buddhism and the local temple, which was formed by Japanese Canadians in 1946, says temple president Harvey Kaita.
"It speaks volumes for the sense of community Tanis feels for our Sangha," he says of the community formed by the temple.
"It also speaks volumes for our faith tradition. For all the traditions she could have turned to, she chose our tradition of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism."
Moore says the tradition chose her, and not the other way around. She sought out Buddhism because of her interest in eastern practices, and then found the tradition took hold of her in a way she didn’t anticipate.
"I felt it in my heart," the member of the Interfaith Round Table says of her calling toward ordination.
"It’s just that feeling of being totally connected to everything."
Translated as True Pure Land Religion, Jodo Shinshu Buddhism was founded about eight centuries ago by the Japanese monk Shinran and it is the most widely practised form of the religion in Japan. In addition to the Winnipeg temple, there are eight others in Canada, located in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Constructed in 1951, the Manitoba Buddhist Temple at 39 Tecumseh St. recently underwent some improvements in their main worship space, including the installation of new windows, chairs and flooring.
Kaita says the temple membership continues to decline due to attrition; the improvements were funded by bequests left by late members. He hopes the temple can survive long enough to provide funerals for its second-generation members.
"Many of us have a sense of responsibility and moral obligation to keep it going as long as we can," he says.
Moore’s ordination as an assistant sensei provides hope to the aging congregation as she offers a stable presence through leading Sunday services and teaching introductory Buddhism classes.
Since only a resident sensei can officiate at weddings and funerals, Moore would need to undertake the next level of training and ordination to perform those duties, says Kaita.
After completing this level of ordination at a considerable expenditure of time and money, Moore has not decided if she will seek further training, but she remains committed to the continued study of her adopted tradition.
"I’ve gained a deep understand of connecting with people," explains the downtown resident who volunteers weekly with Agape Table.
"It’s helping me grow tremendously."
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.