Old faith, new place

There is an old religion growing in a new place, and Dr. Ian Harris wants to explore this issue in full public view.

Harris, a professor from the University of Cumbria in Northern England is now teaching Buddhism studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. He made his public debut in the school’s council chambers on Feb. 8, and discussed the issues facing modern Buddhism.

“Buddhism has been on the rise in the western world,” he said. “One can look at Scarborough for example, of the new temple being built not too far from the school, and there is one south of here.”

[geo_mashup_map height=”300″ width=”300″ zoom=”13″ add_overview_control=”false” add_map_type_control=”false”]

A new Chinese Buddhist temple is currently under construction. Located on Brimley Road, south of Lawrence Avenue. The temple trumps the size of the other religious buildings in the area. It is now the second temple in Scarborough.

Few people think of Scarborough as having a large Buddhist community, and often point to the downtown core, but there has been a rise in recent years of interest regarding the faith.

A monk who attended the lecture stated that he saw an increase in attendance at his temple, which coincided with Harris’ findings of growing interest in the West regarding Buddhism.

The event’s focus was on modernism in Asia, but was quickly shifted to a Canadian perspective early on in the question period.

Those perspectives ranged from how Canada helps Buddhist countries abroad deal with government and poverty, to what the university is teaching its students.

“We have recently received $4 million from the Tung Lin Kok Yuen and are trying to teach an approachable form of Buddhist studies,” Harris said.

The Tung Lin Kok Yuen is an organization from Hong Kong, which is focused on spreading knowledge of Buddhism to university students.

Daniel, a second year English student at the university, said he enjoyed the event for Dr. Harris’ teaching ability, both inside and out of the classroom.

“I’m in one of his courses now, and he can make Buddhism very approachable for non-university students,” Daniel said.

According to the 2001 census, the Buddhist community is only slightly smaller than the Eastern Orthodox community.

“One does not see the concentration of temples here because of the lower population density than that of Toronto,” Harris said.

Harris said that what he hoped to achieve from a lecture series such as this one, was an open dialogue regarding a 2,500-year-old faith in a new light.