Sensei Fredrich Ulrich, a retired teacher from Manitoba Buddhist Temple in Winnipeg, Canada, is to be honored with the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba’s Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding. The award ceremony will take place at Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor, in Winnipeg on 8 January 2020.
Rev. Ulrich served the Manitoba Buddhist Temple from 1999–2013 as the first non-Japanese sensei and became a popular speaker on Buddhism and interfaith dialogue.
“In interfaith [work], we get a chance to talk to each other and work together and discover each other’s humanity. . . . The challenge of religion is to find a story that’s common to all of us,” said Ulrich. “[The] Buddha embraces all living things with love and compassion and no one is left out.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
Born into a polyethnic Métis family of German, Iroquois, and Winnebago heritage in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1939, Ulrich participated in a rich variety of cultural and religious activities, taking part in First Nation practices as well as those of the German Brethren, Quaker, and Methodist communities. He eventually gained a Methodist preacher’s license and later studied in Nebraska and Colorado, where he studied Buddhism at the Denver Buddhist Temple under the late Rev. Shodo Tsunoda (1913–2005), a Japanese Jodo Shinshu priest who relocated to Colorado from California in 1944 after his release from a military internment camp.
Ulrich went on to earn an MA in language studies at the University of Colorado, followed by a teaching position in Frankfurt. Returning to North America, Ulrich took up studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and became a Canadian citizen. He then studied for 10 summers at the Institute of Buddhist Studies and became an ordained Buddhist priest in 1987.
In 1999, Ulrich moved to Winnipeg to take up his role at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. “In essence, we’ve grown as a Buddhist community into a much broader community in terms of our knowledge and involvement,” said Manitoba Buddhist Temple president Harvey Kaita. “Buddhism is about interdependence and what we’ve become aware of is our connections to the broader community.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
Ulrich’s community work included participating in Winnipeg’s Interfaith Roundtable, the Manitoba Multifaith Council, as well as hosting school groups and other visitors at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. He also led healing ceremonies, bringing together Buddhists and Ahmadiyya Muslims, and taught meditation to survivors of Canada’s residential schools (government boarding schools for Indigenous peoples). He retired from the temple in 2013.
Speaking of the interreligious understanding award, Belle Jarniewski, president of the Manitoba Multifaith Council, said: “I think it sheds a light on the importance of interreligious dialogue and understanding, especially at a time when the world seems to be filled with hate and violence.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
During the award ceremony, Ulrich shared that he plans to offer a teaching on Buddhism to the city’s religious leaders: “Avoid killing, avoid stealing, avoid lying, avoid sexual abuse, avoid drugs and chemicals that pollute the body and mind. These are the basic guidelines which [the] Buddha related to the general population. It should be the basic guidelines from which Buddhism relates to religions.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
Common ground: Retired Buddhist sensei to get Manitoba interfaith award (Winnipeg Free Press)
Building Bridges to Buddhism: Retiring sensei helped expand religion’s profile in Manitoba (Winnipeg Free Press)
Sensei Ulrich, retired (Manitoba Buddhist Temple)