BBTEarly Beginnings

Nearly 100 years ago, 73 Berkeley residents formed the Berkeley Young Men's Buddhist Association. Under the guidance of Reverend Gyodo Haguri, an inaugural service was held on May 10, 1911 at the Odd Fellows Hotel. This marked the modest beginnings of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple which would later impart its broad and pervasive influence on the future of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in America.

On January 17, 1914, the Berkeley Fujinkai (Buddhist Women's Association) was formed, and Reverend Keisai Nagai became the first minister of the temple in August of 1918.

At first, services were held in private homes. Later, semi-permanent quarters were found at the Chitose Hotel located at Channing Way and Ellsworth Street. It was the earnest desire of the Sangha to acquire permanent quarters for a temple which they accomplished through the acquisition of the present site at 2121 Channing Way.

Formal Dedication and Early Propagation

The Berkeley Buddhist Temple had its dedication on February 13, 1921. In a few years, the Sunday School was established to accommodate the ever increasing numbers of Nisei (second generation) children of the founders.

Dr. Clark, a lay leader, was especially active in spreading Buddhism among non-Asians in the early twenties.

In November, 1924, the Honorable Sonyu Ohtani visited the temple and, as a result of his inspirational leadership, Nisei YMBA (Young Men's Buddhist Association) was organized. In 1934 the YMBA merged with YWBA (Young Women's Buddhist Association) to form the YBA (Young Buddhists' Association) which began to annually publish the well-known "Berkeley Bussei".


In 1937, the adjacent building located at 2119 Channing Way was purchased under the leadership of Reverend Daisho Tana. This building was used as a dormitory for University of California students of the Buddhist faith. The dormitory, called "Jichiryo", provided a true home away from home for many students, many of whom have since become leaders in the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA). more …