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The History of the American Buddhist Study Center
The American Buddhist Study Center, Inc. (ABSC), formerly known as the American Buddhist Academy, was founded in 1951 by the late Reverend Hozen Seki as a Buddhist cultural center. Rev. Seki sought to provide a Buddhist study center for people interested in learning more about the Buddhist teachings with particular emphasis toward Shin Buddhism.
The Center is located on Riverside Drive near 105th Street on the upper West Side of New York City immediately adjacent to the New York Buddhist Temple. It is within walking distance to many of New York’s finest schools and universities including Columbia, Barnard, Manhattan College, City College, NYU and theological seminaries.
ABSC runs a full schedule of Buddhist programs and events throughout the year. From lecturer series, workshops, book discussion groups to afternoon movie series. Besides these activities the Center also publishes the Natural Way newsletter, booklets and other publications.
The crown jewel of the center is its Buddhist reference and research library. There are over ten thousand volumes of Buddhist texts, manuscripts, and sutras. Many in the ABSC collection are very rare and priceless. There are books on Tibet Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Shin and Zen Buddhism. ABSC has one of the best Buddhist collections of Shin Buddhist works on the East Coast.
Through the years many famous Buddhist scholars have given lectures and workshops at the center. One of the most notable was D.T. Suzuki, who in 1958 gave a series of lectures that were published by Harper and Row entitled Shin Buddhism, in 1970. Then a second edition was later published by Shambhala in a new introduction by Taitetsu Unno, entitled Buddha of Infinite Light.
Shinran Shonin Statue
Today in front of the New York Buddhist Church stands a fifteen foot high bronze statue of Shinran Shonin, the founder of Shin Buddhism. This statue was a generous gift from Mr. Hirose, a Japanese industrialist, to the American Buddhist Academy. During WWII the Shinran Shonin statue stood in front of a Buddhist temple in Hiroshima. As metals became scarce in Japan many bronze statues and ornaments were melted down to be used for the war effort. The Shinran Shonin statue survived, while other Buddhist and religious ornaments were not so lucky. Then on August 6, 1946, the Shinran Shonin statue withstood its greatest test by surviving the Atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima. After the war Mr. Hirose wanted this statue to represent world peace, and Rev. Seki convinced Mr. Hirose to ship it to New York City, the crossroads of the world. On September 11, 1955, the statue was unveiled in the courtyard of the American Buddhist Academy. There D.T. Suzuki gave his key note address for world peace and harmony. This year, 2008 marks the 53rd anniversary of the occasion.
What is Shin Buddhism, also known as Jodo Shinshu
The most important realization for Shin Buddhists is the attainment of shinjin, which occurs in our present life. Shinjin is true entrusting in the Immeasurable Life and Light of the compassionate Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow. This spiritual transformation takes place in our present life, not after death. We become aware of the oneness with all life surrounding us through our deepened understanding of the basic tenets of Buddhism, which include the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold paths, dependent origination, and impermanence. For the Shin Buddhist to realize this oneness is due to the working of Other Power, which is none other then Amida’s Primal Vow. It is within this Vow that we take notice of our intimate interconnectedness with others and with all life. As Shinran Shonin wrote in 1250 “Thus, when we simply let the karmic retribution of whatever good or evil we might have play itself out, and we turn to believe solely in the true vow, that is other power.”
The New York Buddhist Church (NYBC) is a temple of Jodoshinshu True Pure Land School Buddhism, whose head temple is Nishi-Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) is the founder of this school of Buddhism.
The NYBC has been serving the New York community since 1938, and was founded by Rev. Hozen Seki with the assistance of his wife, Satomi, and concerned lay people. They all wished to share the Buddha-Dharma in America's most populous city, which then had no center for Jodoshinshu Buddhism. Their wishes have flourished as today we continue to share the Buddha-Dharma here in New York.
May the Wisdom and Compassion of Amida Buddha touch your heart so that you may be awakened to the world of True Dharma with Nembutsu.