The Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple is the home of Seattle's Jodo Shinshu congregation. It is affiliated with the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) and its mother temple is the Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto, Japan.
Along with devotion to the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (community), Jodo Shinshu Buddhism emphasizes devotion and gratitude to Amida Buddha as a means to liberation.
History of Betsuin Buddhist Temple
Jodo Shinshu ("True Pure Land School") is a branch of Pure Land Buddhism, a type of Japanese Buddhism centered on devotion to Amida Buddha and the hope of going to the Pure Land after death.
Jodo Shinshu was founded by the Japanese monk Shinran (1173-1262) and organized by Rennyo (1414-99). It is a lay movement with no monks or monasteries and is based on simple but absolute devotion to Amida. In Shin-shu, the nembutsu (mantra of devotion to Amida) is an act of gratitude, not one of supplication or trust.
The first Jodo Shinshu Buddhist service in the Pacific Northwest was performed under Rev. Kakuryo Nishijima on November 15, 1901, and the Seattle Buddhist community has been gradually growing ever since. On January 27, 1906, articles of incorporation filed with the State of Washington established the Buddhist Mission Society.
The current temple complex was dedicated on October 4, 1941, but became the US Maritime Commission Office during the war from May 3, 1942 until August 4, 1946. On March 11, 1954, the Seattle Buddhist Temple was recognized by the Jodo Shinshu head temple and elevated to Betsuin status (meaning that it is considered a branch of the Nishi Hongwanji temple in Kyoto).
In 1986, Seattle Betsuin was included as part of the Chinatown historic district, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
What to See at Betsuin Buddhist Temple
The Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple can be easy to overlook – the long, low brick building looks more like a school than a temple. But a closer look reveals Asian features such as curling roof corners and ornate doors. The interior is dark, elegant and calm.
The temple hosts a Buddhist festival, Bon Odori, every July, often around the same time as the International District's celebration of Japanese heritage.
The peaceful park across the street has an enormous temple bell sheltered under a canopy and a larger-than-life-size statue of the founder of Jodo Shinsu Buddhism, the Japanese monk Shinran (1173-1262).
Quick Facts on Betsuin Buddhist Temple
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Map of Betsuin Buddhist Temple, Seattle
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