[Buddha-l] Prof. Leslie Kawamura

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 12 20:50:14 MST 2011

The following is X-posted from H-Buddhism. Sarah got her PhD under Leslie 
and also assisted him for many years as a kind of personal assistant, and 
thus knew him well.

Those who knew him might enjoy the tribute his department at the University 
of Calgary has put on their homepage, especially the pictures, each 
displaying his nearly constant smile.


From: Sarah Haynes <sfhaynes77 at yahoo.ca>
Subject: Obituary of Leslie Kawamura

Dear Colleagues,

It is with profound sadness that I post the following:

Leslie S. Kawamura, foremost Buddhist Studies scholar in Canada, died at 
Foothills Hospital in Calgary, Alberta on March 10.  Leslie had been 
experiencing serious lung problems that lead to his recent hospital stay 
where he ultimately suffered a heart attack several days before his death.

Much has been written elsewhere about Leslie's early years as a boy growing 
up in Southern Alberta and the experiences his family faced when the 
Canadian government interned Japanese-Canadians during World War II.  Leslie 
was born in Raymond, Alberta in 1935 to a father and mother who had been 
sent to Canada to minister to Japanese immigrants working in Western Canada. 
The Kawamura family eventually settled in Raymond after WWII where his 
father, Reverend Yutetsu Kawamura ministered to the growing Jodo Shinshu 
community and established the Raymond Buddhist Church.  Eventually, Leslie 
followed in his father's footsteps, becoming an ordained Jodo Shinshu 
priest, but also in the fostering of the Jodo Shinshu community in Alberta 
and across the entire country.  One of Leslie's last roles in the Jodo 
Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada was as the Director of the Living Dharma 
Centre, whose aim is to revitalize Jodo Shinshu communities across Canada.

Leslie devoted himself to the academic study of Buddhism for over forty 
years. He began his studies in California in the 1950s, but eventually made 
his way to Japan where he earned two M.A.s, one from Ryukoku University 
(1961) and the second from Kyoto University (1964).  Upon his return to 
Canada, Leslie studied under leading Buddhologist Herbert V. Guenther at the 
University of Saskatchewan.

Upon completion of his Ph.D. Leslie moved back to Alberta where in 1976 he 
became Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies Department at the 
University of Calgary.  Leslie remained in at the University of Calgary for 
the entirety of his career.  At the time of his death he held the position 
of Yehan Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies, along with many other university 
affiliated titles and distinctions.

Leslie's academic work speaks for itself, both in its breadth and quality. 
His passion was the study of Yogacara, but his child-like curiosity and 
passion carried over into many areas of Buddhist Studies.  This passion is 
what inspired his students on a daily basis.

To his many students, Leslie was much more than an academic advisor; he was 
a father figure.  Leslie worked tirelessly to foster the academic careers of 
his students, but more importantly he was a model for how compassion can 
manifest in individuals.  Leslie went above and beyond to insure that his 
students had access to what they needed in order to remain competitive in 
the field.  He was also known to help students move, take them to the 
hospital, and to provide support in ways an academic advisor is not 

Leslie Kawamura is survived by his wife Toyo, their daughter Nao and 
son-in-law Peter Khu, grandsons Albert and Carlin, and two sisters and one 
brother.   His academic legacy lives on in the innumerable students whose 
lives he  touched.

Funeral services for Leslie will be on Monday March 14 at 2:00PM at
McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes,
Park Memorial Chapel,
5008 Elbow Drive S.W., Calgary.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to "The Leslie Kawamura Graduate 
Scholarship in Buddhist Studies" details of which can be found on the web at
You may forward condolences through www.mcinnisandholloway.com.

Sarah Haynes


H-Buddhism (Buddhist Scholars Information Network)

Web Site: <http://www.h-net.org/~buddhism/> 

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