In Memoriam Doreen Hamilton: 1938-2011

About six months ago Doreen expressed her desire to work on behalf of For Our Grandchildren (FOG). During the fall she participated in the meetings of the steering committee. She was firm minded and fair, with a talent for thinking and speaking clearly.

As a grandparent, her commitment to the mission of FOG was evident. What may not have been as evident was the source of her commitment: Doreen became a Shin Buddhist and in 1988 was ordained as an assistant minister of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. She later served as an assistant minister at a Toronto Buddhist temple, and as a Buddhist Chaplain for the University of Toronto and for Federal Prisons.

Of all the great religions, Buddhism gives the most emphasis to the identification of humans with the natural world. Our self-deification as the controlling species is inconsistent with this teaching. Such deification regards nature as a resource, a means for increased consumption with its attendant over-population and pollution of the environment. Climate change is only one consequence of that attitude. In Buddhist thinking, ecological balance is restored through the philosophy of Sarvodaya (uplift of all), which is based on loving kindness, compassionate action, and altruistic job. (See Jose Kalapura, “Science-Religion Dialogue & Ecology, An Asian Perspective.”)

In Doreen’s words: “As Buddhists we have a deep sense of respect for nature just the way it is. We seek to understand and harmonize with nature rather than conquer or improve it.”

Doreen died on January 3, 2011 – a great loss to us as individuals, and a misfortune for FOG. She would not have considered her death in such negative terms. In the words of two poems she wrote:

    Our short life.

Our short life
can’t matter much.
What matters is what we leave
when we die.
Will I leave love?
Will I leave beauty?
Will I leave peace?
Will I leave others stronger
than before I came?
I’ll do my best!

Human Life.

We are briefly here,
like fish
leaping out of the ocean!
“The Ocean of Infinite life”.
In human life
it is our thoughts
that make our life here
heaven or hell!
At human death
we all return
to the blissful emptiness
from which we came.

For more information about Doreen’s life and ministry go to

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2 thoughts on “In Memoriam Doreen Hamilton: 1938-2011

  1. I’m very sad to hear of Rev. Hamilton’s passing. I came across an essay she had written on the benefits of chanting while I was doing research for my kyoshi thesis. Fortunately, my thesis was accepted and currently, I’m the resident minister of West Covina Buddhist Temple, a Higashi Honganji temple in the Los Angeles area, so I owe a debt of gratitude to Rev. Hamilton. Going forward, I feel as though her very down-to-earth take on chanting will greatly help both me and the Sangha that I serve. As Hamilton-sensei pointed out, the demands of chanting on our breathing not only benefits us physically, but the timeless wisdom contained in its words also aids us on our spiritual journey.
    Rev. Peter Hata, West Covina Buddhist Temple

  2. I have known Doreen for a long time. She and I were committed to the dojo concept in presenting Buddhism to the West. We also worked to increase the service to society awareness in JSS. I have not seen her for a few years since I got the appointment to the Manitoba Buddhist temple. We corresponded by letter and email and lept abreast of eath other’s work. It was a previlge to have her as a colleague and friend. I wlll miss her. Rev. Ulrich Manitoba Buddhist Temple.

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