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What is Jr. YBA

What is Jr. YBA (Young Buddhist Association)?


            The Jr. YBA today is a Shin Buddhist teen club sponsored by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii.  Not much historical research has been done on its beginnings but there appears to be evidence of teen organizations within some Hawaii temples since the early 1900’s, perhaps as the earliest Issei immigrants’ children reached their teen years.  Various temple organizations had Japanese names in those years and some seem to indicate youth organizations.  Research should be done to confirm the following preliminary findings:

            In those early 1900’s, new Christian youth organizations were becoming popular in Honolulu.  They were called the Y.M.C.A. (Young Men’s Christian Association) and the Y.W.C.A. (Young Women’s Christian Association).  Honpa Hongwanji leaders became concerned about providing a Buddhist alternative for their young adults.  Soon there was started the Y.M.B.A. (Young Men’s Buddhist Association) and the Y.W.B.A. (Young Women’s Buddhist Association).  These two associations were later merged and became the Y.B.A. (Young Buddhist Association).  [It’s named “Y.B.A.” and not “Sr. Y.B.A.”]

            Similar Y.B.A. clubs were started at several temples on various Hawaiian islands.  They soon linked up with each other and formed district organizations called United Y.B.A.’s and the territorial Federation (pre-statehood).   The temple Y.B.A. clubs probably were for young adults, so some temples had Jr. Y.B.A. clubs for younger people.

            A unique situation occurred at the Y.B.A. club that probably was the original temple club.  This club was called the “Y.B.A. of Honolulu” and was at the Hawaii Betsuin temple in Honolulu on Pali Highway.  The Y.B.A. of Honolulu developed similarly to the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A.  It became an independent charity organization but retained its Shin Buddhist heritage; for example, it had an obutsudan altar in its building.  It became a participant organization in the Aloha United Way.  Meanwhile, the clubs at the other temples remained as sponsored organizations under their respective temples.

            The period after World War II (1950’s -1970’s) was a very active period for the Y.B.A. and the Jr. Y.B.A.  Temple clubs (units) were numerous and members were very involved.  The Territorial Jr. YBA Council began in 1957 during the 24th Territorial YBA Convention in Honolulu.  A constitution was proposed and adopted by the various United Jr. YBA districts.  In August of 1958, the First Territorial Jr. YBA Convention was held in Hilo, and the Revised Constitution and By-Laws for the Territorial Jr. YBA Council was adopted.  Changes were made when Hawaii became a State in 1959;  Territorial Conventions were changed to State Conventions, and the Jr. YBA Council was changed to the Hawaii Federation of Jr. YBA’s.

            Y.B.A. members served very actively as the advisors to the Jr. Y.B.A. during the 1960’s and 1970’s.  However, it became very obvious during the 1980’s that the Y.B.A. was rapidly losing its adult membership.  Similarly, Jr. Y.B.A. membership was dropping from several hundred in the 1970’s to just a little over 100 in the 1980’s.  This was further troubled by the steady loss of Y.B.A. members as advisors to the Jr. Y.B.A.

            Other adults who were not Y.B.A. members became involved to assist Jr. Y.B.A. as advisors.  It soon became obvious that the majority of advisors were rapidly becoming non-Y.B.A. related.  Therefore, during the 1980’s, the Jr. Y.B.A. Federation became independent of Y.B.A. control and supervision;  but shared certain joint activities such as the annual state conventions for a few more years. Today, the Jr. Y.B.A. has the challenge of learning and practicing Shin Buddhism in a way that is relevant, meaningful, and fun for Hawaii’s teenagers in the new century.