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In memoriam: Rev. Dr. Taitetsu Unno

Sunday, December 14, 2014, 1:17 pm

Update: The Memorial Service for Rev. Dr. Taitetsu Unno will be held on Saturday, 3 January, 2015, at 11 am, at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto will officiate. The temple is located at 2121 Channing Way, Berkeley CA, 94704.

We are saddened to announce the death of Rev. Dr. Taitetsu Unno, a colleague to many in the world of Buddhist studies, and to many of us a friend as well. The family has requested privacy at this time, and we ask that you respect their wishes.

A funeral service is being planned, and it will be held at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, Rev. Dr. Matsumoto presiding. The date and time have yet to be announced. A follow up to this announcement will be made. The family have suggested that, rather than sending flowers, academic colleagues and friends who wish to express their respect and appreciation make a donation in his memory to the Institute of Buddhist Studies. Please address any donations to the attention of Richard K. Payne, Dean, Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2140 Durant Avenue, Berkeley CA 94704, USA.

Any personal communications that you wish to share with the family may be sent to Rev. Ronald Kobata, Buddhist Church of San Francisco, 1881 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94109.

Taitetsu’s son Mark prepared the following short biography, which we would like to share with you:

Rev. Dr. Taitetsu Unno completed his life journey on Saturday, Dec 13, 2014. To the very end, he was fully aware and at peace, saying, “Thank you for everything, Namu Amida Butsu,” and when he could no longer speak, simply putting his palms together in gassho. His family and close friends who came to visit in his last days and hours experienced the deep joy of being with him and chanting together, immersed in the rhythms of boundless compassion. He received the remarkably good fortune, the great gift of the Dharma, of the life of Namu Amida Butsu, which he was able to share with so many.

He was born in Shojoji temple in Kokura, in the city of Kita-Kyushu, February 5, 1929, the son of Rev. Enryo Unno and Mrs. Hana Unno, the first of five siblings. He arrived in the U.S. in 1935 at the age of six, went through the turbulent years of the Pacific War when he and his family were put into internment camps, first at Rohwer, Arkansas, then at Tule Lake, California. After the war, his family settled in California, where he eventually graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Well into his eighties, he could recite Chaucer in the original Middle English. It was at the end of his career at Berkeley that he met D. T. Suzuki who encouraged him to study Buddhism in Japan, and Taitetsu Unno went on to receive his M.A. and Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at Tokyo University in 1968.

For the next forty years, he taught in the field of Buddhist studies, first at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, then for the next thirty-seven years at Smith College, where he served as Department Chair, and was Jill Ker Conway Professor of World Religions. He was also a Visiting Professor at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and a Japanese Ministry of Education Fellow in Kyoto, Japan. He was the author, translator, and editor of numerous academic volumes and articles, but he is perhaps best known for his two works introducing Shin Buddhism to English-language audiences, River of Fire, River of Water: An Introduction to the Pure Land Tradition of Shin Buddhism (1998), and Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turned into Gold (2002), as well as his translation, Tannisho: A Shin Buddhist Classic (1996).

He was the recipient of the Ernest Pon Award of the National Association for Ethnic Studies, for his efforts to increase and retain Asian American faculty among the Five Colleges (1998), the Cultural Award for the Promotion of Buddhism, of the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism (Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai)(2006), and the inaugural President’s Award of the Institute for Buddhist Studies (2014). In addition, he was also a fourth-degree black belt in Aikido, and was the translator and author of the “Foreword” for The Spirit of Aikido by Kisshomaru Ueshiba (1984).

Although prolific as a scholar, his passion was always in teaching and working with his students, many whose lives he helped to transform. Although passionate as a college professor, his calling was as a Buddhist minister, ordained in the tradition of Shin Buddhism at Nishi Honganji, as the thirteenth-generation Shin priest in his family. He devoted his career to working with Shin temples, Buddhist centers, and Buddhist groups in North America and elsewhere, as much as he did to make contributions in academia. After retiring from Smith College, he and his wife Alice founded the Northampton Shin Buddhist Sangha in Northampton, Massachusetts, which they led until 2007.

For the last seven years of his life, he, his wife, and their beloved dog Metta, a Lhasa Apso, spent their lives with their son Mark and his wife Megumi in Eugene, Oregon, where they continued the work of the BuddhaDharma as a family, leading events in Hawaii, California, and Eugene. His last public appearance was at the Pacific Seminar, held at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple and the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California, in July 2014.

With a twinkle in his eye, sharp sense of humor, gentle spirit, and compassionate presence, he left an indelible impression on those who came to know him through his work in all arenas. He is survived by his wife Alice, a retired schoolteacher and Buddhist teacher in her own right; son Mark, the fourteenth-generation Shin minister in his family and also a scholar of Buddhism; daughter-in-law Megumi, a teacher of the Japanese Way of Tea in the Urasenke School; and of course, dog Metta, who truly embodies her Buddhist name, “Loving Kindness.”

2014 IBS Memorial Service

Friday, December 12, 2014, 9:37 am

The Institute of Buddhist Studies conducted its annual Memorial Service on Thursday, December 4 at 7 p.m. at the Jodo Shinshu Center Kodo, to honor the friends, teachers, students who shared their lives with the IBS.

The service with chaired by Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto, Director of the Contemporary Studies of Shin Buddhism. The service was officiated by Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America and President of IBS.

Rev. Marvin Harada, Co-Director of the Center of Buddhist Education and IBS Trustee, gave the Dharma Message for the evening.

Dr. Richard Payne, Dean, read the names of those persons who have supported the IBS movement over the years.

Those honored were:

Dr. George Aratani, Rev. Dr. Jokai Asai, Mrs. Margaret Blair, Dr. Roger Corless, Dr. Jane Dillenberger, Dr. John Dillenberger, Rev. Phillip Karl Eidmann, Rev. Dr. Ryuichi Fujii, Mr. Yoshito Fujii, Rev. Hogen Fujimoto, Prof. Ryugo Fujimoto, Rev. Kakumin Fujinaga, Mr. Dick Fujiika, Mrs. Lily Fujioka, Rev. Dr. Ryosetsu Fujiwara, Rev. Russell Hamada, Bishop Shinsho Hanayamas, Mr, Noboru Hanyu, Mrs. Yaeko Hanyu, Mr. Takeo Hirahara, Rev. Satoshi Hirata, Mrs. Kismi Hisatsune, Rev, Ejitsu Hojo, Rev. Ryumei Iguchi, Rev. Kanmo Imamura, Rev. Jane Imamura, Rev. Jitsuen Kakehashi, Mr. Hideo Kaneko, Mrs. Misao Kaneko, Mr. James Kanemoto, Mrs. Yasuko Kariya, Rev. Dr. Leslie Kawasmuras, Mr. Aslbert Kosakura. Rev. Kenryo Kumata, Rev. Haruyoshi Kusada, Mrs. Shinobu Matsuura, Mr.Masami Mayeda, Dr. Jay R. McCullough, Rev. Kyogyo Miura, Rev. Kakuye Miyajii, Rev. Keisho Motoyama, Rev. Toshio Murakami, Rev. Dr. Masatoshi Nagatomi, Mr. Ed Nakagawa, Rev. Dr. Yehan Numata, Mr. Hayaji Oda, Mr. Sam Oda, Rev. Shobo Ohata, His Eminence Kosho Ohtani, Rev. Shoji Oi, Rev. Dr. Ryoji Oka, Dr. Leo Prudens, Mrs. Haruko Janet Sakamoto, Mr. Ben Sato, Rev. Dr. Takamaro Shigaraki, Bishop Enryo Shigefuji, Rev. Remy Snow, Dr. Kikuo Taira, Rev. Yoshitaka Tamai, Rev. Shusnsho Terakawa, Mr. Hitoshi Tsufura, Rev. Kyoshiro Tokunaga, Bishop Kenryu Tsuji, Dr. Yoshifumi Ueda, Mr. Glen Umeda, Mr. William Waki, Mr. Noby Yamakoshi, Mr. Motomi Yokomizo, and Mr. Eiichi Yoshida.

First IBS President’s Award

Thursday, August 14, 2014, 3:15 pm

T. UnnoDr. Taitetsu Unno, distinguished minister, scholar, translator and author, was presented with the first Institute of Buddhist Studies President’s Award, during opening ceremonies at the Pacific Seminar, held July 5, 2014 at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. The presentation of the award was made by Rev. Kodo Umezu, Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America and President of IBS.

Dr. Unno is widely recognized for playing a major role in cultivating a broader appreciation of Shin Buddhism in America and inspiring and guiding new generation of scholars and ministerial leaders. He was responsible for laying the foundation for much of the educational programs conducted by BCA and IBS.

He is a graduate of the University of California (BA) and Tokyo University (MA, PHD). He served as a minister at the Senshin Buddhist Temple upon receiving his Tokudo and Kyoshi ordination. He served on the faculty of Smith College, Department of Religion, from 1971 to 1990s as the Jill Ker Conway Professor of World Religions.

His extensive publications on the subject of Shin Buddhism are: Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turn into Gold; River of Fire, River of Water, and Tannisho: A Shin Buddhist Classic.

2014 Commencement

Friday, May 30, 2014, 3:20 pm

IBS 2014 Commencement:

Four Institute of Buddhist Studies’ Buddhist Chaplaincy students received their joint Graduate Theological Union/IBS Masters Degrees at commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 23, 2014.

The event was chaired by Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto. The opening service was conducted by Bishop Kodo Umezu, President of IBS. Opening remarks were made by Dr. Richard Payne, Dean, and Richard Endo, Chair, of the IBS Board of Trustees.

The address for the event was presented by Rev. Peter Yuichi Clark, Ph.D. manager of Spiritual Care Services at the UCSF Medical Center. Dr. Clark in his address pointed out one key point and four corollaries that all chaplains must consider based on his reading of the “Tannisho,” Chapter 12. The key point is “Knowledge is the servant of wisdom and compassion, not their master.” The first corollary is, “knowledge can promote wisdom, but it can also mislead us if we use it inappropriately,” The second corollary is, “upaya, an expedient means that requires discernment.” The third corollary is, “knowledge is relational; we learn in connection with others.” The fourth corollary is, “our training is a trust, to be wielded humbly and compassionately, not with a sense of entitlement or arrogance.”

Conferral of Graduate Degrees were presented by Dr. Payne and Rev, Marvin Harada, Vice Chair, IBS Board of Trustees.

Graduates were:

  • Diana L. Clark, Ph.D., “The Ambattha Sutra of the Buddha Pali Canon: Its Socio-Historical Literary Context,” with committee members Dr. Payne, Gil Fronsdal, Ph.D., Scott Mitchell, Ph.D.
  • Carole Gallucchi, Ph.D, “Lojong for Buddhist Chaplains,” with committee members, Rev. Dr. Daijaku Kinst, Ph.D., Dr. Mitchell
  • Chenxing Han, “Engaging the Invisible Majority: Conversations with Young Adult Asian American Buddhists,” with Dr.Mitchel, Dr. Clark
  • Trent T. Thornley, “A Literary Analysis of the Ariyapariyesnna Sutta, with committee members Dr. Kinst, Dr. Matsumoto, Dr. Fonsdal, and Eleanor Rosch, Ph.D.

Certificate of Buddhist Chaplaincy were presented to Judith S. Long, Gullucchi, Han, and Thornley. Dr. Kinst was their advisor.

A reception followed with family and friends.

Spring 2014 Ryukoku Lecture Series

Monday, March 10, 2014, 10:01 am

The Institute of Buddhist Studies will present the 2014 Ryukoku Lectures with Professor Nobuhiro Fukagawa, from Ryukoku University Department  of Shin Buddhist Studies.  The title of the presentation  is “The Propagation of Shin Buddhism: Challenges and Possibilities, “ in a two part lecture on Wednesday, March 19 and Thursday, March 20 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Jodo Shinshu Center, 2140 Durant Ave., Berkeley.

Professor Fukagawa was recently appointed to the rank of Kagaku, which is the highest academic ranking within the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha.  He is a noted scholar in Shin Buddhist Studies, but also a professor for the newly established graduate study program in Practical Shin Buddhist Studies.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

ryukoku lecture

Call for Papers: Buddhist Perspectives on the Work of Care

Tuesday, March 04, 2014, 9:59 am

Posted on March 3, 2014 by UBC Buddhism
“Buddhist Perspectives on the Work of Care”

UBC’s Buddhism and Contemporary Society Program, funded by The Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Foundation, will hold a workshop on Buddhist perspectives on the work of care May 9-10, 2014 at the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus.

Abstract and short biography submission deadline: March 13, 2014
Workshop weekend: May 9-10, 2014
Papers due: May 23, 2014
The program committee welcomes proposals for papers from academics, professionals, and graduate students interested by the influence of Buddhism on the work of care. The workshop will serve as the foundation for an edited volume or a special issue on that topic in a peer-reviewed journal.

Click here for more information.

Ministerial Scholarship Fund Announcement

Monday, February 03, 2014, 9:00 am


News from the Development Corner at the IBS

I have some wonderful news to share with all of you. After you read this entire article, I believe you will think this is a good thing as well. On November 8, 2013, the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Buddhist Studies unanimously approved the start of the Friends of IBS Annual Giving Program. The purpose of the program is to, with the help of our Sanghas, support IBS students who are ministerial aspirants. The “Friends of IBS” Program will annually raise money to create the IBS Ministerial Scholarship Fund.

The retiring of Kaikyoshi Ministers, currently serving BCA temples is ongoing, and, indeed, the number of retiring ministers will be greater than the number of ministerial students currently in the study programs. I believe this to be a problem for the future, and here’s why.

The current tuition cost of a Masters Degree for ministerial students at IBS totals $46,800.00 for three years of intensive graduate studies. This does not include cost of living adjustments. Additionally, there is a one-year exchange program at Ryukoku University, which, while not a requirement for the Masters Degree, is an invaluable enhancement to our ministerial students’ experience. Although recommended, the cost is in addition to the $46,800.00!

When these figures were brought up at a gathering of BCA ministers, we were astounded by what it costs today to attain the Kaikyoshi degree. We all grew quiet as we contemplated how that number would grow in the coming years. Understanding this reality, it is imperative that we establish a long term funding resource for IBS ministerial aspirants. This is how and why we came up with Friends of IBS.

The support and generosity of the BCA membership has been the source for the development of BCA ministers to this point in our history. To be able to educate the BCA minister of the future, we need your generous participation and continuous support, now and into the future. Please consider what you can afford to contribute on an annual basis. Your contribution(s) can be made in one lump sum each year, or mailed to IBS monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. Simply indicate your preference so that we can maintain proper records, and we will send you a summary for your tax records. (Yes, of course, lending your support to our future ministers is tax deductible!) If your circumstances change, and you find you can no longer contribute to this fund, no worries. We appreciate anything you can do to help. There is never a contribution too small. I also urge Dharma Schools, Jr. YBA, Basketball teams, etc., to think about creating an annual fundraiser for “Friends of IBS.” Never underestimate the great power of bake sales and car washes!

Thank you! I can be reached at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2140 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704-1589 or email me at ~ I look forward to hearing from you.


Rev. Seigen Yamaoka

To learn more about making charitable contributions to the Institute of Buddhist Studies, please visit our donations page.

And to contribute to the Friends of the IBS program, please download this form and return it to our office in Berkeley.


International Center for Humanities, Science, and Religion Symposium

Wednesday, November 06, 2013, 1:42 pm

Dr. Richard Payne, Dean of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, and the Rev. Dr. Daijaku Kinst, IBS Chaplaincy Program Director, participated in a Ryukoku University International Symposium on September 26-27, 2013, at the Omiya Campus, Kyoto, Japan. The program was sponsored by the International Center for Humanities, Science, and Religion (CHRS).

The theme of the symposium was: “Practical Ministry and Chaplaincy: Buddhist Compassion in Response to Human Distress.” Professor Tomoyasu Naito, Head of the Department of Shin Buddhist Studies and Practical Shin Buddhist Studies, spoke on the importance of peace of mind in his address, “Meeting Together at One Place and the Meaning of Peace of Mind in the Jodo Shinshu Tradition.”

Dr. Payne’s paper was titled, “To Whom Does Kisagotami Speak? Audience Reception, Interpretation, and Therapeutic Action.” He spoke on the importance of tailoring one’s response to the specific person and circumstances one encounters. Dr. Kisnst discussed the IBS chaplaincy program models for pastoral care based directly on Buddhist teachings in her papers “What Makes Buddhist Chaplaincy Buddhist? Developing an Educational Foundation for Buddhist Chaplains in a Multi-Tradition and Multi-Faith Setting.”

Responses were made by Professor Nobuhiro Fukagawa and Professor Akio Tatsutani for Dr. Kinst and Dr. Payne’s papers respectively. Professor Naoki Nabeshima, Director of CHSR, joined in on the discussion following the presentations.

“The conference provided the exploration of different aspects of Buddhist practical ministry and chaplaincy and the important ways we can learn from one another,” stated Dr. Kinst.

Panel left to right: Prof Fukagawa, Prof. Tatsudani, Dr. Kinst, Dr. Payne, Dr. Eisho Nasu, and Prof. Nabeshima.

Two new releases in the Contemporary Issues in Buddhist Studies series

Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 9:06 am

Two new releases in the Contemporary Issues in Buddhist Studies series are:

Charles Willemen, A Collection of Important Odes of the Law: The Chinese Udānavarga

The Udānavarga is a thematically organized collection of important sayings in verse form used to teach the Buddhadharma. It is a key example of an important genre of Buddhist literature, the best known of which is the Dhammapada. While the latter is associated with the Theravāda school, and is preserved in Pāli, the Udānavarga is associated with the Sarvāstivāda school, and has been preserved in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese. It provides us with an understanding of how Buddhism was being represented in its early transmission to China. Charles Willemen’s heavily annotated translation of the Chinese version of the Udānavarga originally appeared in 1978. In addition to revising the text, he has updated the introduction to reflect the intervening three and a half decades of scholarship on the Sarvāstivāda. This edition also brings the translation together with the glossary, which had originally been published separately.

Charles Willemen: Obtained his Ph.D. in Belgium in 1971. Studied in Japan under H. Nakamura. Fullbright-Hayes Visiting Scholar at Harvard, East Asian Languages and Civilisations. Taught at many universities, including Banaras Hindu University, University of Calgary, Fudan University (Shanghai), International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies (Tokyo). Presently Rector of the International Buddhist College in Thailand, Nakhon Ratchasima. Publications: The Essence of Scholasticism. Abhidharmahṛdaya; The Chinese Hevajratantra; Defining The Image. Measurements in Image-making; Etc.


Fabio Rambelli, Zen Anarchism: The Egalitarian Dharma of Uchiyama Gudō

with an introduction by Sallie B. King

These essays from the fin de siècle Japanese Zen priest Uchiyama Gudō— collected, translated and introduced here by Fabio Rambelli—provide us entry into an aspect of Buddhist history that is otherwise little known, the relations that can be constructed between the buddhadharma and radical political critique and action. Uchiyama resisted the oppression and exploitation of his own parishioners by the political powersthat eventually led Japan into military adventurism and empire building. The importance of these works, however, reaches beyond the history of Buddhism in modern Japan to deepen our appreciation of the complexity of the tradition as a source for resisting modernity’s seemingly ever more pervasive forms of social control. For the adaptation of Buddhism to the present day, Uchiyama’s vision of Buddhism as a social critique may serve to confront the conformism, complacent self-satisfaction and narcissism of the consumerist appropriation of Buddhism as yet another commodity in the religio-therapeutic marketplace.

Fabio Rambelli obtained his Ph.D. in Italy in 1992. Studied in Japan under Yamaguchi Masao. Presently professor of Japanese religions and intellectual history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he holds the International Shinto Foundation Chair in Shinto Studies Publications include: Buddhas and Kami in Japan (with Mark Teeuwen); Vegetal Buddhas, Buddhist Materiality; Buddhism and Iconoclasm in East Asia: A History (with Eric Reinders); and A Buddhist Theory of Semiotics. Currently working on representations of India in premodern Japan and on the history of the development of Shinto as related to global intellectual networks and their impact on Japanese culture.

Cross posted from Critical Reflections on Buddhist Thought.

IASBS events at this year’s AAR

Monday, September 16, 2013, 9:48 am

The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is the largest professional organization for scholars of religion in North America. Annually, the AAR hosts a conference that draws tens of thousands of religious scholars. Because this is the largest annual religious studies event in North America, scholars of Buddhism regularly attend, and there are numerous panels, presentations, and public events that focus on Buddhist history, thought, and culture.

The International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (IASBS), the largest international organization dedicated to the scholarly study of Pure Land Buddhism, has recently become a related scholarly organization of the AAR. This means that the IASBS will be able to host meetings in conjunction with the AAR’s annual meeting, thus allowing for greater exposure of Shin and Pure Land Buddhist studies to a North American audience.

To celebrate this new arrangement, the IASBS will host a reception at this year’s AAR meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

The reception is scheduled for Saturday, November 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court, Whitehall Ballroom North, 550 Light St, Baltimore. Please join us to celebrate this new relationship, meet scholars and practitioners working in the fields of Shin and Pure Land Buddhist Studies, and learn more about both the IASBS and AAR. The reception is open to the public.

Also at this year’s AAR will be a panel dedicated to studies of Shinran. The panel, “(Re)imagining the Founder: Shinran in Modern Japanese History,” features Shin Buddhist scholars including Orion Klautau, Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, Makoto Hayashi, and others. Papers will explore new and emerging scholarship on Shinran’s life and biography.

The panel is scheduled for Sunday, November 24, from 2:00 to 5:00 PM at the Marriott Inner Harbor, Grand Ballroom West, 110 South Eutaw Street, Baltimore. The panel is also open to the public.

For more information on the American Academy of Religion, please visit

For more information on the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies, please visit

And for questions regarding this year’s events at the AAR, please contact Scott Mitchell at the Institute of Buddhist Studies.

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