Seventy-three people decided to form a Berkeley men’s Buddhist organization on May 10, 1911. The group met at people’s homes at first and later found accommodations at the Chitose Hotel in Berkeley. Members of the group pose in front of the Chitose Hotel in 1913. (Courtesy of Berkeley Buddhist Temple)

BERKELEY — In 1911, a group of 73 young Japanese immigrants formed a Berkeley men’s Buddhist organization, marking the beginning of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple.

From that modest beginning, the Berkeley Buddhist Temple has played a key role of furthering the teachings of the Buddha — both within the Buddhist Churches of America and in the larger American society.

Now, for the first time, the history of the temple’s first 100 years are detailed in a book of more than 110 pages titled “A Century of Gratitude and Joy, 1911-2011,” published by Imaging Hawaii and available for purchase.

“A lyrical remembrance of 100 years of life at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple,” said Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto, the temple’s current minister, in his review of the book. “Clearly the product of careful thought, love and artistry, this book is reflective of a religious community’s enduring spirit of gratitude and joy.”

More than a commemorative book, this centennial book tells the rich history of one of the influential temples in the BCA and its role with the Buddhist Study Center, the Institute for Buddhist Studies, and now, the Jodo Shinshu Center.

It details the Japanese American community’s resilience through racism in the early 20th century, which led in part to the creation of a dormitory at the temple, and through difficulties, including the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The book is filled with rarely seen archival photos. Among the highlights are photos of the first BCA seminar in August 1952 in Berkeley, the popular temple choir in 1951, as well as a 1956 photo of actor George Takei, then a student at UC Berkeley, performing at the temple as the Buddha in Hiroshi Kashiwagi’s play “Kisa Gotami.”

Iconic members known through the BCA, as well as celebrities, have passed through the temple. And the notables are mentioned: Rev. Dr. Yehan Numata, founder of Mitutoyo Corp. and Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai; Shinobu Matsuura, who is considered by many as the catalyst in the temple’s role in forming the Buddhist Study Center, which eventually led to the establishment of the Institute of Buddhist Studies; and Rev. Kanmo and Jane Imamura, whose many contributions to the BCA are noted. They were responsible for contributing several popular gathas as well as being active participants with the Buddhist Study Center and the IBS.

The Imamuras also helped spread the teachings of Buddhism to, among others, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder and Beat Generation legend Jack Kerouac. And Jane Imamura created the temple’s famed choir, which counted among its members Takei and fellow actor Sab Shimono.

A limited number of copies of the book are available for sale after April 13 at $25 each. For more information, contact the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, 2121 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 841-1356 or Checks should be made out to BBT Centennial.

The book will also be available after April 13 at the BCA Bookstore, 2140 Durant Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704. For more information, contact the bookstore at or (510) 809-1435.

Mary (Tagumi) Bushman and George Takei, as the Buddha, perform a scene in Hiroshi Kashiwagi’s play “Kisa Gotami” at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple in 1956. Takei was a UC Berkeley student at the time and later transferred to UCLA to study acting. (Photo by Isago Isao Tanaka)

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