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Thread: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

  1. #1

    In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    An interesting article from the New York Times.

    Full Article

    By NORIMITSU ONISHI
    Published: July 14, 2008

    OGA, Japan — The Japanese have long taken an easygoing, buffetlike approach to religion, ringing out the old year at Buddhist temples and welcoming the new year, several hours later, at Shinto shrines. Weddings hew to Shinto rituals or, just as easily, to Christian ones.
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    The New York Times

    When it comes to funerals, though, the Japanese have traditionally been inflexibly Buddhist — so much so that Buddhism in Japan is often called “funeral Buddhism,” a reference to the religion’s former near-monopoly on the elaborate, and lucrative, ceremonies surrounding deaths and memorial services.

    But that expression also describes a religion that, by appearing to cater more to the needs of the dead than to those of the living, is losing its standing in Japanese society.

  2. #2

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    I find this article, or more so the concept, very interesting. I hear frequently about Catholic churches closing and I've heard discussion of the U.S. as being "lost" spiritually because we don't have strong roots, so we're left wandering from one religion or spiritual practice to another.

    Having been raised Methodist and marrying into a Catholic family (though my fiancee is not religious), I have strongly considered my choice of practice. For years I have asked others why they practice their religion and frequently it doesn't seem to be a conscious choice but rather something into which they were born.

    I guess I find it interesting to consider how other religions and nations are affected by changing times. I would be interested to know if the people of Japan are moving toward another faith or simply away from spiritual practice.

    Gassho.
    cd

  3. #3

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    Hi everybody.

    I find after some research into the matter that budhism isnt "dying out" as much as transforming.
    we are seeing a new kind of approach to buddhism, and a new buddhistconcept.
    I also think this is not confined only to japan, but it is also happening in other parts of the world.
    But as they say "That which don't bend break".

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  4. #4
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    Notice that the article doesn't mention people sitting. As Jundo has pointed out in talks, very few people in Japan do sitting meditation. What we see as Buddhism is quite different from what it is to most Japanese.

    Kirk

  5. #5

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    Hi everybody.

    Quite so.

    May the force be with you.
    Tb

  6. #6

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    Hi Guys,

    About everything in the article is generally true, in my experience. The rule in Japan for most folks is that their only contact with Buddhism is for funerals and ancestral memorial services (Shinto or Faux-Christian ceremonies are typical for weddings ... I have some Western friends in Japan who make a good living as Faux-Christian priests doing Faux Christian weddings in Faux-chapels) ...

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6067002.stm

    As was stated, most Japanese do not think of Buddhism as something to guide them in life, and certainly only a small percentage sit Zazen! The one exception to this statement is the rapid growth in Japan of so-called "New Religions", often cultish, that are pretty evangelical in style, aggressive in soliciting members, and promise a kind of "prosperity gospel" of health and financial benefits.

    http://countrystudies.us/japan/65.htm

    Anyway, Treeleaf was actually established by me with two goals in mind (yes, Zen folks can have goals ... even though we are goalless). One was, of course, as a place for folks in isolated geographical areas, with health concerns, or job/family issues that make attendance at a "Bricks and Mortar" Sangha difficult. That is this part of Treeleaf, and I am trying to do everything "online" the same (or even better) than in a Sangha that meets in a building. And I think it is working out well! 8)

    The other, however, was to bring a more relaxed, open (and certainly non-cultish) Western style "Zen Center" back to Japan. That is what I hope the farm we have in Tsukuba will become. It will not be a temple where the main purpose is funerals (my teacher, Nishijima, by the way, refuses to do funerals except in special cases ... that is one reason he gets by on a small pension and lives in public housing), but will be a place for people to come socially, mingle, hear a Zen Talk or two, do retreats and sit Zazen, just like we do at other "Zen Centers" in America and Europe.

    As Hans and Will might tell you, Japanese Zen temples and monasteries can be pretty heavy, serious places, where mostly old folks make up the parishioners. I want to bring to Japan the same lightness and sense of seriousness mixed with laughter (and tears, of course, sometimes) that we have here at Treeleaf. I want to make Zazen more open and beneficial for Japanese folks ... even FUN!

    Anyway, that is what I am trying to do here at Treeleaf Tsukuba.

    Gassho, Jundo

  7. #7

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The other, however, was to bring a more relaxed, open (and certainly non-cultish) Western style "Zen Center" back to
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I want to make Zazen more open and beneficial for Japanese folks ... even FUN!
    Jundo, I think you are correct in doing this even though I've never experienced Japanese Buddhism directly. . . shaking up a thousand plus years of Japanese Buddhist establishment is probably a good idea. Water that doesn't move becomes stagnant--too much motion and it clouds up. The trick is finding the balance between too much change and not enough.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The other, however, was to bring a more relaxed, open (and certainly non-cultish) Western style "Zen Center" back to Japan.
    I recall reading in Crooked Cucumber by David Chadwick that Suzuki Roshi sent several of his students to Japan for partly the same reason.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  8. #8

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    My mate (friend in ozzi) forwarded me the article.

    Here's my reply:

    I think that there is only one way buddhism will survive in Japan and that is by sticking to it roots and intentions. By actually helping people spiritually and by monks actually practicing themselves like everywhere else i.e. walking the path themselves helping others in whichever way possible.

    Perhaps they might require a few people that have the drive and inclination to practice and to help others. U've read hard core zen so u should have soto zen and dogen zenji's teachings down pat. If u r up for it then so am I. U'll just need to convince ur girlfriend (shiz i forgot her name)..........or dump her (for the dhamma).

    what do you think.

    ps. i was just kidding about dumping Tereasa (or was it jaipei, janice, xxxxxx!!!), haha yeh xxxxx i remembered
    yeh don't dump xxxxx

  9. #9

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    Hi everybody.

    how is the situation in other countries?
    What is the main emphasis there?
    How's the situation in china, thailand, taiwan?

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  10. #10

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    I saw lots of pilgrims when in Kyoto, Fukui and Koyasan last year, but, yes, they were nearly all elderly. Not everyone, though. Sensoji in Tokyo has been packed when I've been there, mostly with tourists, though, again, many people were there to worship the Bodhisattva. News of Buddhism's death in Japan is premature, I think.
    Interesting that an American Buddhist (that's you, Jundo) is trying to preserve traditional Buddhism in Japan. America might turn out to be the next home to worldwide Buddhism, as it keeps moving west. Let's hope that American Buddhism matures from the melange of pop psychology, left-wing politics and trendy commercialism that it tends to be now.

  11. #11

    Re: In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out - NYT Article

    Social institutions change to the shift of society's socio-economics. Buddhist institutions are not immune to them. Protestantism and Evangelicals churchs are going through the same things here in the US. The rural churches or traditional churches have changed to reflect the urban life and we see the growth of the non-denominational Mega Churches.

    Where Megachurches Are Concentrated

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megachurch

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