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Pacific Buddhist Academy, from aspiration to realization

Bishop Yosemori receives seed donation from Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha.

In the early 1900s, Yemyo Imamura, the second Bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i (HHMH), first wrote about developing a Buddhist private school. A pioneer who perceived a harmony between Buddhist and democratic principles, Imamura believed that the Buddha’s teachings of peace should be transmitted in the United States through education.

In 2001, with critical leadership from then-HHMH Bishop Chikai Yosemori, plans were created for an independent college preparatory Buddhist high school. Its purpose would be to nurture generations of intelligent, self-aware leaders with the courage, skills, and compassion to strengthen their communities through peace practice. A generous $1.5 million donation from Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (the Nishi Hongwanji headquarters in Kyoto, Japan) made it possible to renovate two buildings to house classroom and office facilities. In the fall of 2003, PBA opened its doors to the first class of seventeen students.

Graduation, accreditation and growth

PBA's first graduating Class of 2007.

Since then, PBA has graduated more than ten classes of graduates. With support from HHMH and the Honpa Hongwanji Hawai’i Betsuin (HHHB), the school has renovated dormitory and recreational space for six classrooms and administrative offices. And in 2016, PBA completed a $9 million capital campaign with contributions from Hawai’i, Japan and the U.S. mainland, including a $1.5 million donation from the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation and a $2.3 million donation from Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha. The school will complete work on a new classroom facility located on the HHHB temple campus in the fall of 2017. PBA intends to increase its enrollment to 120 students over the next four years.

While a member of the Hawai’i Association of Independent Schools (HAIS) since 2003, PBA was first accredited by HAIS and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in 2009. HAIS and WASC renewed PBA’s accreditation status for a seven year cycle in 2016. PBA is also a member of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH), and PBA student athletes compete in many sports.

Owing to the support of so many, the school community has accomplished a lot in its short history. But it returns continuously to the wisdom of the late Bishop Yosemori, who counseled PBA’s founding head of school, Pieper Toyama, then seeking advice on the most important objective for a Buddhist school, to “teach the students to think for themselves.” The educators of the school have endeavored to realize this charge ever since.