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MUSIC

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BCA has a rich history of chanting and music that is incorporated into temple services and special events. The spread of Mahayana Buddhism from India through Asia to Japan and then to America is reflected by hymns sung in Pali, chanting and music composed in Japanese, and English-language music developed in Hawaii and the mainland United States since the 1920s.

Mako Goes To Sunday School

To honor our BCA Music pioneer Jane Imamura and her collaborators and in conjunction with the featured article in the September issue of Wheel of Dharma on lyricist Kimi Hisatsune, we present archival audio recordings of Mako Goes to Sunday School, courtesy of the Berkeley Buddhist Temples Archives and the family of Jane Imamura.  Mako Goes to Sunday School was produced by Jane Imamura as a special performance in the 1950s in the new Berkeley Buddhist Temple social hall.

Mako Goes to Sunday School 

Berkeley Buddhist Temple Sunday School Choir, directed by Jane Imamura Hiroshi Kashiwagi, narrator 

Hiro Imamura, pianist 

Track 1 

It’s Raining by Jane Imamura, lyrics by Kimi Hisatsune 

Sing! by Jane Imamura, lyrics by Kimi Hisatsune. Hitoshi Tsufura, soloist. 

Sunbeams by Jane Imamura, lyrics by Kimi Hisatsune 

Long Ago in India by Jane Imamura, lyrics by Kimi Hisatsune 

Buddha Loves You by Jane Imamura, lyrics by Kimi Hisatsune. Mari Imamura, vocalist.

Church Bells by Yumi Hojo 

Buddha’s Child by Chizu Iwanaga 

Track 2 

Happy Buddha’s Day by Yumi Hojo 

Obon, Obon, It’s Festival Day by Yumi Hojo 

Children in Japan by Jane Imamura 

The Teaching of All Buddhas by Chizu Iwanaga, lyrics by Paul Carus 

Farewell by Jane Imamura, lyrics by Kimi Hisatsune

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Credits for Kangie

Nobuko Miyamoto: Composer, lyricist, vocals Derek Nakamoto: Composer, arranger Isaku Kageyama: Taiko

Mike Penny: Shamisen Mark Izu: Sho Kaoru Watanabe: Shinobue, ryuteki Kenny Endo: Tsuzumi, percussion

Nancy Sekizawa: Vocals Helen Ota: Vocals

Reverend Masao Kodani: Vocals Reverend Ryuta Furumoto: Vocals Recorded at The Nest, Los Angeles Chris Sorem: Engineer

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GATHAS

Temple services also include gathas (songs). Lyrics may contain poems/verses from Buddhist texts or be based on Buddhist themes. Composition styles range from traditional hymnal music to more contemporary sounds, and reflect the contributions of many Shin Buddhist musicians, ministers, and members. Gathas are sung together as a sangha, sometimes featuring an accompanist and group of singers or choir.


Perhaps the most notable gathas originating from Japan are Ondokusan I, Ondokusan II, and Shinshu Shuka. Both versions of Ondokusan are based on a poem (wasan) written by Shinran Shonin to express deep gratitude for the compassion of the Buddha and all of our dharma teachers. Shinshu Shuka (Anthem) debuted in 1923 in honor of the 700th Anniversary of the Jodo Shinshu teaching's establishment.   

When the BCA Shin Buddhist Service Book was published in 1994, the Gatha Committee also created companion audio recordings for most of its songs and music, coordinated by the late Rae Imamura. The first three gathas below were recorded by the late opera vocalist Mika Shigematsu with piano accompaniment by Rae Imamura. The featured English gatha is Higan, recorded by the Pacific Mozart Ensemble. Copyright is held by BCA records. Mako Goes to Sunday School is also featured as described above, courtesy of Berkeley Buddhist Temple Archives. 

 
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GAGAKU

Gagaku, the oldest orchestral tradition in the world, is imperial Japanese court music performed for special services in Shinto and Buddhist temples. Gagaku was introduced into Japan along with Buddhism around 600-700 ACE from China and Korea. Incorporated into Shin Buddhist liturgy in the 17th century, gagaku is used in processional music and in some formal chants.

A dharma message by Rev. Katsuya Kusunoki with more information on gagaku is available here:

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MUSIC COMMITTEE

The contribution of music has been invigorated recently by a new BCA Ad Hoc Music Committee established in 2020. The Music Committee has a broad scope of work, with many subcommittees for various areas of music at our temples. Future plans include documenting and sharing music history and recorded music on this website to support temple services.

To experience the range of music at BCA temples, watch the Seattle Betsuin 12th Annual Music Service, which includes sutra music, gathas in Japanese and English, and contemporary musical offerings.

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