Brenda Whitlock

Brenda Whitlock was a student at Arizona State University when she began research on the Arizona Buddhist TempleBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra.... Dr. Tracey Fessenden was the faculty sponsor for this research.

At the time of this research, Whitlock wrote:

The Arizona Buddhist TempleA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref..., 1936-Present: A Historical Narrative

In 1933, Rev. Hozen Seki from Los Angeles came to Phoenix, Arizona to teach Jôdo Shinshû BuddhismBuddhism is a multi-hued tradition of life, thought, and practice that has developed from the teaching and practice of Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BCE) who came to be called the Buddha, the awakened one. The three major streams of the tradition—Ther.... His nascent ministryMinister is a general term for a member of the clergy in the Christian church. The term has also come to use in other religious traditions to designate a member of the clergy (as in the Jodo Shinshu tradition and the Nation of Islam). began in a barn with a handful of Japanese families but by 1936 the Arizona Buddhist Temple was built, thus beginning the permanent status of Jôdo Shinshû Buddhism in Arizona.[1] Although the original temple has since burned down and the community was relocated during World War II, the nascent group has grown and prospered today enjoying approximately 103 temple members of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds.[2]

My project entails compiling the oral history and documented history of the Arizona Buddhist Temple into a historical narrative. To gather the data, I am interviewing four Nisei, second generation Japanese-Americans, and am collecting information from the temple board meetings’ minutes, the temple’s constitutions, past and present, and the annual reports published yearly by the national Buddhist Churches of AmericaThe Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is the institutional name of Jodo Shinshu or “True Pure Land” Buddhism in the U.S. This Buddhism of Japanese immigrants regards the chanting of the name of Amida as the most appropriate form of practice in the cu... (BCAThe Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is the institutional name of Jodo Shinshu or “True Pure Land” Buddhism in the U.S. This Buddhism of Japanese immigrants regards the chanting of the name of Amida as the most appropriate form of practice in the cu...) of which the Arizona Temple is a part of. Ultimately this project serves the purpose of documenting the presence and history of a religious institution that has received little attention by the American public and also to document the religious history for a community that has a rich story to tell. In addition, this project serves as a useful tool in compiling primary data necessary for further research in Buddhism in America and Jôdo Shinshû Buddhism in America.


[1] Munekata, Ryo,ed. Buddhist ChurchesThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ... of America. Vol. I: 75 Year History, 1899-1974, (Chicago: Norbart, Inc. 1974): 353.↩︎
[2] Annual Report (compiled and maintained by the Buddhist Churches of America since the 1950’s, they serve as valuable resources). i.e. Buddhist Churches of America, 2002 Annual Report.↩︎