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.
BCA Music Committee Newsletter
October issue of the BCA Music Commitee Newsletter.
For the latest bon odori song and dance commissions "Lantern Song" and "Kangie" and many other audio recordings, please check out the Obon:Gathering of Joy webpage:
BCA Music Committee Gatha Lyric Writing Contest
- Skylar Lam, Buddhist Church of Florin
- honorable mention to Seattle Betsuin High School Dharma School class, submitted by teacher Ron Hamakawa
- Gayle M. Kono, Sacramento Betsuin
- honorable mention to Kerry Wong, Buddhist Church of Stockton
BCA Music YouTube Channel
Now posted on the BCA Music YouTube channel gatha playlist is "The Bodhi Tree" by Linda Castro as well as "With Grateful Hearts", music by Yumi Hojo with adapted lyrics from "I Love the Story" by Rev. Bob Oshita with the permission of Mrs. Hojo.
The Bodhi Tree
With Grateful Hearts
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. These three gathas were recorded and copyrighted by BCA Records by the late opera vocalist Mika Shigematsu with piano accompaniment by Rae Imamura as companion audio recordings for the BCA Shin Buddhist Service Book in 1994.
The additional featured Japanese gatha is Arigato. Featured English gatha recordings with Rae Imamura also as the accompanist are The Middle-Path recorded by Elizabeth Bishop and Namu Amida Butsu and Ganjin's Journey recorded by Hector Vasquez. Music recording copyright is held by BCA Records.
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:
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.