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History of the Institute of Buddhist Studies

Celebrating 60 years of Buddhist education in Berkeley

History of the Institute of Buddhist Studies

The beginnings of the Institute of Buddhist Studies can be found in the early history of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) which is affiliated with the Honpa-Hongwanji branch of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, a Japanese Pure Land School. In 1930, under Bishop Kenju Masuyama, the initial training program and a resident center for English-speaking ministers were established in Kyoto, Japan. An educational program of lectures and correspondence courses began in the mid-1930s and operated out of BCA headquarters in San Francisco. As the need for English-speaking ministers increased after World War II, Bishop Enryo Shigefuji established a monthly study class at the home of Mrs. Shinobu Matsuura in 1948. The program was open to any person interested in Buddhism; however, its main purpose was to prepare ministerial aspirants for the rigors of study in Japan.

In 1949, the program was moved to the Berkeley Buddhist Temple at 2121 Channing Way, where it became known as the Buddhist Study Center. It was placed under the guidance of Reverend Kanmo Imamura, then resident minister. In 1958, the Buddhist Churches of America resolved to establish a ministerial training center in the United States where all instruction would be conducted in English (until then all ministerial candidates were trained in Japan). Reverend Imamura was appointed to establish such a program at the Buddhist Study Center. Reverend Masami Fujitani took over the directorship soon afterward and developed the educational program (1958-1963); Reverend Imamura then returned to serve a second term (1963-1967).

In October 1966, the BCA acquired a building at 2717 Haste Street, Berkeley, which was the home of the Institute of Buddhist Studies for twenty-two years prior to moving to its second location at 1900 Addison Street in Berkeley. Bishop Shinsho Hanayama (Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University) and Bishop Kenryu Tsuji played vital roles in the early stages at the Haste Street campus. Reverend Haruyoshi Kusada served as IBS Executive Director from 1968 to 1983, laying the educational foundation for graduate studies. In 1986, Dr. Alfred Bloom, a noted Shin Buddhist scholar, was appointed Dean and Head Professor after serving twenty-six years on the faculty at the University of Hawaii and the University of Oregon. Dr. Bloom retired in 1994, and Dr. Richard K. Payne was appointed to the position of Dean. The Institute of Buddhist Studies is licensed by the State of California to operate as a degree-granting institution.

In February, 1985, under the guidance of Bishop Seigen Yamaoka, the Institute of Buddhist Studies became an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union, a unique consortium of religious institutions following Jewish and Christian traditions. Headquartered in Berkeley, California, the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) includes three Roman Catholic and six Protestant seminaries, along with several other affiliates and programs. The GTU is an umbrella organization which coordinates one of the largest concentrations of theological education resources in the world, as well as operating a doctoral program. The GTU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Association of Theological Schools.

Through the GTU affiliation, the Institute of Buddhist Studies jointly grants a fully-accredited Master of Arts degree in Buddhist Studies. Students in the GTU-IBS program take approximately one-third of their courses at the various seminaries and centers of the Graduate Theological Union and also enjoy cross registration privileges with the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). IBS students also have access to the libraries of the GTU and UCB, and they may take courses for credit at GTU or UCB. In return, the students from these two institutions may take courses for credit at the IBS.

In 2006, with the opening and dedication of the Jodo Shinshu Center, the IBS made its most recent move. With new offices and classroom space in the beautifully designed new building, we are better able to serve the needs of our current and future students.

Notable Events

  • 1930s -training program for English-speaking ministers is established in Kyoto; North American Buddhist Mission begins an educational program and correspondence course in San Francisco
  • 1948 - study class begins in Berkeley for English-speaking ministerial aspirants
  • 1949 - Buddhist Study Center is established at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple
  • 1958 - BSC becomes the official ministerial training center for BCA
  • 1969 - Institute of Buddhist Studies is incorporated as a graduate school
  • 1966 - IBS moves to 2717 Haste Street in Berkeley
  • 1985 - IBS becomes an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union
  • 1988 - IBS moves to 1900 Addison Street in Berkeley
  • 1997 - IBS Administrative Offices moves to Mountain View
  • 2006 - IBS Administrative Offices, Classrooms, and Book Collections move to Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley