This year, 2016, the Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS) is celebrating its 50th year as a graduate school for Buddhist education. Historically, the initial founding date for what was to become IBS is considered to be 1949. It took many years of study and deliberation to forge the foundation for a school. One point extremely clear to the leaders at that time was that they wanted to establish a high level educational institution to train ministers in America in English.
In February of 1966, the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) National Council proceeded to establish an institution of Buddhist studies under the leadership of Bishop Shinsho Hanayama. Shintaro Ito, from Stockton, became the campaign director for the special scholarship fund drive. A total sum of $300,000 was pledged by devout Buddhists across the country. A school building was necessary, so the house at 2717 Haste Street in Berkeley was purchased for $110,000 for the education and training of potential American- born ministers. The Institute of Buddhist Studies was officially started on October 1, 1966. This marked the beginning of the first Buddhist ministerial school in the United States.
In March of 1966, the BCA Board of Directors had decided to call the new educational institution the Buddhist Institute of America. However, in June, Rev. Kanmo Imamura, Executive Director of the Institute pointed out that the normal English form of an institute’s name demanded a change to the Institute of Buddhist Studies. This was authorized accordingly.
From its outset, the IBS was looked upon as having two main objectives: a high level of instruction leading to Tokudo and Kyoshi ordinations, and a Master’s Degree program. In October 1966, a committee on the ministerial training committee curriculum under the chairmanship of C. Birch had pointed out the necessity of securing some form of accreditation for the IBS. Changes in the California Education Code and the wishes of the trustees required the IBS to be incorporated and organized as a graduate school. Thanks to the hard work of Rev. Haruyoshi Kusada, a full program of classes was already being offered.
The formal establishment of the institution was completed on May 14, 1970 when a letter was received from H.E. Summers of the State Department of Education that the IBS had been approved as a degree-granting institution under Section 29007 (A) (3) of the California Education Code.
In 1971, the IBS officially adopted for public use the title: Institute of Buddhist Studies: A Graduate School for Buddhist Ministry and Research.