BERKELEY — George Takei, actor, social justice activist, social media mega-power and author, will be the keynote speaker at a half-day seminar, “Being Gay, Being Buddhist: The LGBTQ Community and Shin Buddhism,” on Saturday, June 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Jodo Shinshu Center, located at 2140 Durant Ave. in Berkeley.

George Takei (Photo by Adam Bouska)
George Takei (Photo by Adam Bouska)

Additional guest speakers are Pieper Toyama, president of Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and founding headmaster emeritus of Hawaii’s Pacific Buddhist Academy, and his wife, Lois Toyama, second vice president of the Hawaii Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations, who will be speak on “Parenting Our LGBTQ Children.”

More personal reflections will be shared by Hoshina Seki, president of the American Buddhist Study Center (New York), Fred Pelger, minister’s assistant at Tacoma Buddhist Temple (Washington), and Elaine Donlin, minister’s assistant at Buddhist Church of San Francisco.

Rev. Kiyonobu Kuwahara, co-director of the Center for Buddhist Education. will be the moderator and present Buddhist perspectives on the topic. This seminar is open to all interested in how Shin Buddhism can help to create an enduring community that values inclusiveness and acceptance.

Registration is open to the public: $40 general, $30 for BCA members. Seating is limited and early registration is recommended. For information, email, call (510) 809-1460 or visit

Takei is most widely known for his iconic television role in the original “Star Trek,” playing Mr. Sulu. His most recent projects include a new film documentary, “To Be Takei,” which premiered at Sundance in April, and an upcoming musical, “Allegiance,” based on the Japanese American internment experience. This May, he was the recipient of the GLAAD Award in New York for his role in fighting for equity in the media field.

His talk will address the seminar title, “Being Gay, Being Buddhist.” Growing up, Takei attended Senshin Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles, and as a UC Berkeley student he attended Berkeley Buddhist Temple. He and his partner, Brad, were married by Rev. William Briones, resident minister of L.A. Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

(Note: Takei’s attendance is subject to professional conflicts.)

Pieper and Lois Toyama
Pieper and Lois Toyama

Pieper Toyama was headmaster of the first Shin Buddhist high school in the Western Hemisphere. One of the primary missions of Pacific Buddhist Academy is to develop students with the courage and skills to nurture peace within themselves, in their communities and in the world. Peace education is integrated into every facet of the school’s curriculum and operations and is driven by the values of gratitude, compassion, mindfulness, and unconditional acceptance of others.

Lois Toyama has been a school teacher and education advocate for decades. They are both members of Jikoen Temple in Oahu.

In a Honolulu Star Advertiser article (10/23/10), Pieper Toyama shared that when their daughter finally came out to them after high school, they were greatly relieved that “she was free to be her true self and live openly with her partner … The people who are important to her are part of our family. Our lives are so much richer for that.”

Furthermore, he continues, “My wife and I decided we were not going to be silent anymore. There were so many years that we were so quiet… The Buddhists are quite silent on the subject, even though the teachings are clear on the equality of all people and how interdependent they are.”

Having decided to speak out, he concludes, “It’s (been) great. We are finally living the teachings. My wife and I believe the more people learn (about gay people), we are able to create more and more safe places for our kids to share who they are.”

In 2013, Buddhist Church of San Francisco officially participated in the San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Parade with a diverse, multigenerational contingent of over 60 individuals.

The Center for Buddhist Education, based at the Jodo Shinshu Center, provides training and education for BCA temple leaders and organizations as well as public programs on Buddhism in contemporary life and society. Rev. Kuwahara is the author of an article, “Is My Sangha Inclusive?,” published in Buddhadharma – The Practitioner’s Quarterly (Fall 2013), which provides insight into how this seminar was first initiated in 2013.

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