The American Buddhist Study Center, Inc. (ABSC), formerly known as the American Buddhist Academy, was founded in 1951 by the late Reverend Hozen Seki as a Buddhist cultural center. Rev. Seki sought to provide a Buddhist Study Center for people interested in learning more about Buddhism with particular emphasis on Shin Buddhism. The ABA also held Japanese tea ceremonies and Ikebana classes (flower arrangements). These arts and other fine Japanese cultures have their roots in Buddhism.
The ABSC still located on the upper West Side of New York Cityis within walking distance to many of New York's finest schools and universities including Columbia, Barnard, Manhattan College, and CUNY City College.
Following Rev. Seki’s mission, the ABSC continues to run a full schedule of programs and events throughout the year. From lecture series, workshops, book discussions, to afternoon Japanese movies. ABSC also continues to publish which includes the Natural Way newsletter, booklets, and Buddhist books. However, some books like “Rice Country, A Social History and a Search for Identity in Americans of Japanese Ancestry” by Bun Yoshikami is about the Japanese American experience and “A Life of Serendipity” by Alfred Bloom is an autobiography.
The crown jewel of the center is its Buddhist reference and research library. There are over ten thousand volumes of Buddhist texts, manuscripts, and sutras. Many in the ABSC collection are very rare. There are books on Tibet Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Shin and Zen Buddhism, Japanese history, Japanese classical literature, and Japanese classical poetry books. ABSC has one of the best Buddhist collections of Shin Buddhist works on the East Coast.
Through the years many famous Buddhist scholars have given lectures and workshops at the center. One of the most notable was D.T. Suzuki, who in 1958 gave a series of lectures that were published by Harper and Row entitled Shin Buddhism, in 1970. Then a second edition was later published by Shambhala with a new introduction by Rev. Dr. Taitetsu Unno, entitled “Buddha of Infinite Light.” More recently the ABSC hosted well know Buddhist scholars like Rev. Dr. Alfred Bloom, Dr. James Dobbins from Oberlin College, Dr. Mark Blum, from Berkeley, Dr. Richard Payne, from the Institute of Buddhist Studies, and Rev. Kemmyo Sato from the Three Wheel Temple in England.
Shinran Shonin Statue
Today in front of the New York Buddhist Church stands a fifteen-foot high bronze statue of Shinran Shonin, the founder of Shin Buddhism. This statue was originally a generous gift to the ABSC from Mr. Seiichi Hirose, a Japanese industrialist. This statue first stood in a park overlooking the city of Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The epicenter was only two kilometers (about 1 mile) away from the Shinran Shonin statue. It received the full blast. Right now you can see red burn marks and there is still a trace of radioactivity.
On September 11, 1955, the statue was unveiled in the courtyard of the American Buddhist Academy. There D.T. Suzuki gave his keynote address for world peace and harmony.
The ABSC vision for the future continues to focus on providing Americas the opportunity to experience the wisdom, compassion, and joy of the vast teaching in the Buddha Dharma.