Pratt, Sunya (1898-1986)

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Exposed to Buddhism at a young age, Reverend Sunya Gladys Pratt became an important spiritual leader for Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in the Pacific Northwest. She first joined the Tacoma Buddhist Church (later Temple) in 1934 and quickly became involved in the children's education program, teaching Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) in Sunday school classes. A few years later, on April 23, 1936, she was ordained as a minister in a colorful ceremony that blended several Buddhist traditions but was rooted in the Shin Buddhism practiced at the church. Media coverage at the time described her as the "the first white Buddhist priestess," a designation that scholars now question. More significantly, she met a great need for English-language religious instruction within the Japanese American Buddhist community. Pratt remained active in the temple for more than 50 years. Among early European American converts to Buddhism, Pratt is notable for her lifelong commitment and service to Shin Buddhism and the Japanese American community in the Puget Sound region.

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