Welcome to the Buddhist Temple of San Diego!

Note: We are in the process of developing our new website at this URL. In the meanwhile we are maintaining www.btsd.net; please use the existing website for current updates and more complete information. 

The Buddhist Temple of San Diego (BTSD) represents Shin Buddhism, more specifically the Jodo Shinshu sect of the Pure Land School of the Mahayana branch of Buddhist tradition. We are a member of the Buddhist Churches of America, with headquarters in San Francisco, California, affiliated with the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto, Japan. 

BTSD is the oldest Buddhist Temple in San Diego County, where it has served as a spiritual and cultural resource since 1926.


   Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi, Resident Minister

   Linda Redenbaugh, Temple Office Secretary

B T S D  B O A R D  O F  D I R E C T O R S

   LuAnn Lee, President

   Ralph Honda, Operations Manager

   Michael Kinoshita, 1st VP (Ways & Means); Improvements

   Glenn Torio, 2nd VP (Activities); Ex-Oficio

   Bill Teague, 3rd VP (Membership); Buddhist Education Commmittee (BEC)

   Nancy Martinez, Recording Secretary

   Karen Okuhara, Corresponding Secretary

   Akie Tomiyama, Treasurer

   Glenn Negoro, Assist. Treasurer

   Joyce Teague, Scholarship Committee

   Kaytee Sumida, Interreligious Council (IRC)

   Steven Marx, Technology

   Timothy Kajita, Kimberly Kruse, Roy Okuhara, Gregg Yonekura & Carol Baker - Directors-at-Large


About Buddhism and the Buddhist Temple of San Diego


The Buddhist Temple of San Diego belongs to the Shin sect of Buddhism (or Jodo Shinshu in Japanese), part of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Jodo Shinshu translates as the True Pure Land Teachings. It focuses on the vow of Amida Buddha, 
which is to enlighten all beings, regardless of their backgrounds or past actions.

This is a vow of sweeping power, one that promises hope and life’s fulfillment to all. Although Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) is often called the founder of Jodo Shinshu, Shinran never claimed that he was founding a new religion. Rather, Shinran merely
emphasized concepts that had always existed in Buddhism. He taught that the purpose of Gautama Buddha’s advent on earth was to awaken people to the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha.

Shinran formulated the teachings after two decades of study in the Buddhist monasteries of Mt. Hiei. He came to the realization that if a person has to rely on self-generated effort, then enlightenment is impossible. He reasoned that human life is finite, human knowledge is incomplete, and human capacity for perfect goodness is limited. He renounced the monastery and left Mt. Hiei. Shortly thereafter, he metHonen, a kindly priest who taught a simple faith in Amida Buddha and the recitation of the Nembutsu as an expression of faith. Shinran embraced the teaching of Honen and built upon them.

Faith is an important element in Shin Buddhism. The Nembutsu (“Namu Amida Butsu”) means literally, “I put my faith in Amida Buddha.”   It is the core of Amida’s vow, for Amida Buddha communicates with us through His name. As we recite the Nembutsu, Amida’s voice calls to us, and at the same time, we respond to his call. When we hear Amida’s voice in our innermost being, faith is awakened. Faith  completes our oneness with Amida and is the true cause of our Enlightenment.

The path of Shinran bridged the Pacific Ocean in 1899 when two missionaries from the Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto arrived in San Francisco to serve the needs of the early Japanese pioneers. In San Diego, Buddhism began some years thereafter as Japanese immigrants would meet periodically in small groups. The meetings became more frequent and more organized. Although there was no minister, for special ceremonies a minister would travel from Los Angeles.

A tragic event marks the birth of the temple in San Diego. On January 27, 1916, after two weeks of rain, the Otay Dam broke. A torrent of water flooded the Otay Valley where a colony of Japanese farmers lived in a camp. Eleven people died. following the funeral, Buddhists discussed the possibility of organizing a church. The discussions proved fruitful as ten years later, on May 26, 1926, the first Buddhist church was formed, and services were held on the second floor of a building at Sixth Avenue and Market Street. In 1928, a growing membership decided to build a permanent temple at Market and 29th Streets—our current location.

The outbreak of World War II saw the entire local Japanese-American community of approximately 2,000 individuals evacuated, first to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, and later to various relocation camps in isolated areas. During the war, the
temple grounds were used as dormitories for defense workers. In 1943, vandals broke into the temple and set it on fire, causing extensive damage to the altar
section and the second floor. At war’s end, San Diegans returned to reestablish themselves and to restore the temple. The life of the temple resumed.

Today the Buddhist Temple again serves as a meeting place for its members as an affiliate of the Buddhist Churches of America, which is our link to the Nishi Hongwanji, the main temple of the Hongwanji School of Jodo Shinshu in Japan. We
are proud of our roots in Japan and in America.

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The teachings of Buddhism are called the Buddha Dharma. The truth of the Buddha Dharma carries a welcome message that "wisdom and compassion can transcend the suffering caused by greed and ignorance." Buddha Dharma further tells us that
through the development of inner peace and calm, and through compassionate concern for our fellow beings, we may all attain enlightenment. There are positive messages, and the freshness and accessibility of what Buddhism teaches help
account for its current appeal.

The Buddha’s spiritual insight is not as mystical and abstract as it may sound at first. His great awakening was based on the realization of four concrete truths about life—The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

The first is that life, because of its fleeting nature, is painful. The second is that this pain is caused by our desires and our attachment to worldly phenomena. The third truth is that it is possible to eliminate the suffering of existence. The fourth truth is that
there is a path that leads to the elimination of suffering: The Eightfold Noble Path. The path is composed of Right Views, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation.

The Buddha Dharma thus asks us to know and regard life as it is, to accept life’s ebb and flow, and to live our lives naturally, spontaneously, and freely.

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San Diego’s main temple hall is called the Hondo. Here, followers of the Nembutsu gather on Sundays for the Family Service or special observances to listen to the  teachings and to share their lives with others. Weddings, funerals and memorial services are conducted here, too.

Certainly the most striking feature of the Hondo is the beautiful and ornate altar.  Much of the main shrine is made of wood and has traveled to San Diego from Japan. At the central altar is a small shrine with a gold-leafed statue of Amida
Buddha inside. Amida is depicted as an active Buddha in a standing position, hands held up in a gesture of bestowing blessings on all beings and leaning forward slightly—symbolizing the eternal activity of wisdom and compassion. Amida
Buddha—and not the statue—is our true object of worship.

Flowers are offered to symbolize the beauty and impermanence of life. The incense purifies the air and creates the proper atmosphere for meditation. Candles symbolize the infinite light of the Buddha.

Recommended Reading

  • Bloom, Alfred. Shoshinge: The Heart of Shin Buddhism. Honolulu: Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, 1986. ISBN: 0938474065.
  • Burtt, Edwin A., Ed. Teachings of the Compas-sionate Buddha. New York: New American Library, 2000. ISBN: 0451200772.
  • Goddard, Dwight, Ed. A Buddhist Bible. Beacon, 1994. ISBN: 0807059110.
  • Hanh, Thich Nhat. Our Appointment With Life: The Buddha’s Teaching on Living in the Present. Berkeley, CA: Parallax, 1990. ISBN: 0938077368.
  • Kikumara, Norihiko. Shinran: His Life and Thought. Los Angeles, CA: Nembutsu Press, 1972. —-—.
  • Shin Buddhist Handbook. San Francisco, CA: Buddhist Churches of America, 1972.
  • Kubose, Gyomay. Everyday Suchness: Buddhist Essays on Everyday Living. American Buddhist Association, 2004. ISBN: 0964299208
  • Smith, Huston & Philip Novak. Buddhism: A Concise Introduction. Harper, 2004. ISBN: 0060730676
  • **Tanaka, Kenneth K. Ocean: An Introduction to Jodo  Shinshu Buddhism in America. Berkeley, CA: WisdomOcean Publications, rev. 2004. ISBN: 01965806200.

**Available from the Buddhist Temple of San Diego Bookstore. Most of the titles are also available from the San Diego Public Library or may be purchased from the Buddhist Bookstore at the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) Headquarters in San Francisco.