Temple of Enlightenment
The temple building, with its striking architectural silhouette that references Buddhist temples in Japan, was designed by architect Hideaki Arao, and completed and dedicated in 1971. At that time, the building was given the name “Temple of Enlightenment” and then-Mayor Richard J. Daley hailed the new temple as a Chicago landmark. It is the only Japanese-style house of worship in the Chicago area.
In 2014, a beautiful Japanese temple garden was added to the front of the temple grounds. Called the MBT Legacy Garden, the new landscape honors the memories of the issei and nisei (first- and second-generation Japanese-Americans) who founded the temple.
The Midwest Buddhist Temple—the temple building, its ritual space, statues, Social Hall and temple garden—is a place where people gather in communal celebration with others and serves as the social center for a growing and diverse community.
Please come inside, where you will find the hondo (temple hall) and the following spaces:
The nokotsudo is a sacred space just outside the hondo where the ashes of loved ones who have passed on are stored. With its small shrine, it offers family members a quiet place to pay respects to the deceased and to offer incense and recite the Nembutsu.
Instead of a statue of the Amida Buddha, the nokotsudo’s shrine contains a scroll with the Myogo written on it. These are the sacred characters of Amida Buddha—Namu Amida Butsu. Reciting these words, the Nembutsu, is all that is required to realize Enlightenment.
The nokotsudo was built and assembled by temple members and funded by the generous donations of Sangha members.
The Social Hall is a place of refuge, where an infinite number of causes and conditions bring people and cultures together. It’s home to the temple’s Sangha, or community.
Sangha is one of the Three Treasures of Buddhism. (The other two treasures are the Buddha’s teachings, Dharma, and the Buddha himself.) Originally, the Sangha described the community of monks. But its meaning grew to include lay participants, and now refers to the Buddhist community as a whole.
Here in MBT’s Social Hall, the Sangha sometimes gather to celebrate Buddhist holidays over meals, often made with foods that have religious significance. At other times, the community gathers here to celebrate the life of someone who has just passed on to the other shore. The Social Hall hosts musical performances and entertainment events, minyo dancing and taiko playing. Our annual Mochitsuki, the pounding of sweet rice, takes place in the Social Hall.
Our Social Hall is a place of vitality and activity, offering a wide range of programs aimed at cultivating the Dharma and, in particular, the teaching of Jodo Shinshu.
It can also be rented for private functions—such as meetings, anniversary parties or other get-togethers.
The temple has an archival library and a lending library. Both contain collections of Japanese- and English-language books on Buddhism—from very old to recent publications. There are also records, photographs, newsletters, artifacts and other information available for research and study.
In addition to being a research resource for scholars, the library loans materials to those who want to learn more about Buddhism. If you would like to borrow from the library, please visit the temple office during office hours or after services on Sunday to apply for an MBT library card.