Gene Reeves, Unitarian Universalist Minister, Buddhist Scholar & Teacher

Gene Reeves, Unitarian Universalist Minister, Buddhist Scholar & Teacher May 9, 2019






I’m sad to learn of the death of the Reverend Doctor Gene Reeves yesterday, May 8th, 2019.

Gene was a Unitarian Universalist minister as well as a Buddhist scholar & teacher.

He once wrote, “I was raised Christian. At twenty I became a Unitarian. At thirty I became a Unitarian Universalist. And at fifty I became a Buddhist. But not once did I think of those becomings as a conversion from one faith to another. And so I remain, in my own self-understanding, Christian, Unitarian, Universalist, and Buddhist.”

And so, perhaps of course, a mentor and an exemplar on my own way in between.

Gene Reeves earned his undergraduate degree at the University of New Hampshire in 1956, an STB from Boston University in 1959, immediately after he was ordained a Unitarian minister, and finally his doctorate from Emory University in 1963.

He taught at the university level in China and Japan, and held professorial appointments at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, Wilberforce, Tufts, and Antioch College. Gene was professor-emeritus at our UU seminary in Chicago, Meadville Lombard, which he also served for a time as dean.

In those years he was a prominent process theologian. In 1965 he was among the clergy who answered Martin Luther King’s call to come to Selma.

Gene was also a significant figure as a Buddhist teacher affiliated with the Rissho Kosei-kai movement. He spent the bulk of the last quarter of a century in Japan, where he helped to found the International Buddhist Congregation in Tokyo. His translation of the Lotus Sutra is considered one of the best available. He also edited A Buddhist Kaleidoscope: Essays on the Lotus Sutra, as well as the author of Stories of the Lotus Sutra.

Among his notable activities was as one of the planners for the Council for a Parliament of World Religions on the centenary of the original in 1993. He was a signal figure in the International Association for Religious Freedom, served for many years on the Society for Buddhist Christian Studies.

While it would be forward to say we were friends, Gene & I corresponded over the years. I found him a wise and generous counselor. And in important ways a mentor.

I find myself grief stricken.

A light has passed from this world.

In this video clip Professor Reeves talks about who is a real Buddhist.

The next five clips are a full lecture on flower imagery in the Lotus Sutra. And more…

The professor was principally aligned with the Rissho Kosei Kai and his practice as one might infer was deeply rooted in the Lotus Sutra. One practice shared by all within that broad family focused on the sutra was the practice of recitation of the mantra Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. While it is not emphasized within the RKK as much as with others within that Dharma family, the mantra, at least its deeper significances are resonant for all. And, it feels appropriate to conclude. my brief appreciation for Gene’s life with it…

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