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Old 07-15-2008, 12:38 AM   #1
Aikibu
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The Death of Buddhism in Japan

I found this very interesting piece in the NY Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/wo...851&ei=5087%0A

The author states a contributing factor may be the compromises Buddhist Priests made during the war by condoning militarism.

William Hazen
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Old 07-15-2008, 06:53 AM   #2
lifeafter2am
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
William Hazen wrote: View Post
I found this very interesting piece in the NY Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/wo...851&ei=5087%0A

The author states a contributing factor may be the compromises Buddhist Priests made during the war by condoning militarism.

William Hazen
What I find interesting about this is that most of the people are only "buddhist" during funeral times anyway. And from what I got from the article (I could be wrong, just waking up. lol) is that the funeral homes are providing buddhist priests, and that it is really the death of the small temples, not really buddhism per se.

Still a very interesting read.


"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 07-15-2008, 09:19 PM   #3
Cady Goldfield
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

The war of the 20th century isn't the only time that Buddhist priests had to compromise their spiritual integrity. There have been other times in Japanese history that this has happened as well.

And, times when Buddhism was all but dead due to persecution by a Shinto "regime" (keep in mind that the emperor and Shinto are inseparable).

I think that there will be pockets of survival and revival of Japanese Buddhism; every generation has people rediscovering the power of their ancestral spiritual roots. Those pockets are like sourdough -- all it takes is a little bit to keep the culture alive and ready to re-sprout when the conditions are right. It's happened with Christianity in other cultures, as well.

Andrew, interesting about the "funeral Buddhism." My Japanese fiance noted that Japanese families still largely maintain their family ancestral burial sites (of cremated remains) on the grounds of their hereditary Buddhist temple (meaning, the sect of Buddhism their family/clan has been attached to for centuries, and the local temple of that sect), regardless of whether or not they are actively practicing Buddhism.

This Buddhist connection is largely the obligation of maintaining the remains of the ancestors more than it is a maintained belief in Buddhist traditions. It's still the responsibility of the eldest son or male relative to see to the maintenance of the family plot. My fiance was the one responsible in his immediate family, but as he is living permanently in the U.S. he is not in a position to maintain the markers/graves. He was relieved to learn that the donation of a certain sum of money to the temple will ensure the graves' maintenance "in perpetuity," but I do wonder whether the monks, priest and the temple itself will survive to the end of the century.
On the other hand, such donations may be one of the few means of support that may keep the temples alive.
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Old 07-15-2008, 09:46 PM   #4
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

I think it's important to note that what the article describes is not really the "death of Buddhism", but rather the "death of the heretofore lucrative Buddhist temple funeral services industry". Changes in the market, essentially. Just as they always have, the temples will find a way to adapt.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 07-15-2008, 09:58 PM   #5
lifeafter2am
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
I think it's important to note that what the article describes is not really the "death of Buddhism", but rather the "death of the heretofore lucrative Buddhist temple funeral services industry". Changes in the market, essentially. Just as they always have, the temples will find a way to adapt.
Yeah, that is what I got from it as well.

Cady: I didn't know that the Shinto religion was tied to the emperors. Thanks for a little bit of history!

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 07-16-2008, 02:55 AM   #6
Upyu
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
On the other hand, such donations may be one of the few means of support that may keep the temples alive.
Err... the image I have of buddhist monks in Japan is largely of guys in big fat robes driving a brand spanking new BMW or Mercedes
Seriously though, they make bank on the funerals that are carried out. I don't think there's any worry about the temples going out of business

Edit:
Just read the article, never mind.
Weird though, you certainly don't get that image in Tokyo. Maybe if they started buying their Bimmers second hand they'd have enough to float themselves a couple more generations ^^;

Last edited by Upyu : 07-16-2008 at 02:59 AM.
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Old 07-16-2008, 04:28 AM   #7
Mark Uttech
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism as 'funeral buddhism' is nothing new. I first heard this complaint back in the 70's. Buddhism in Japan is like the Catholic Church in Europe and the US. The mission of raising money has no end. When everything 'goes to market', everything becomes dependent on the market which, all day long, rises and falls.

In gassho,

Mark

- Right combination works wonders -
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Old 07-16-2008, 10:30 AM   #8
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Rob,
When my S/O found out how much it would cost to have a Buddhist funeral at the family temple, he decided that he would be happy enough to die here in the U.S.

I agree with Josh that the temples will adapt, just as they have for a millennia in the face of drastic social, economic and political change. Monks and priests don't make the religion -- in any faith. It's the belief and faith of the individual. Fat-cat clergy driving Beemers in Tokyo are a red herring. And I doubt they represent all Buddhist clergy in Japan. Maybe the form of Buddhism that currently exists as a materialistic urban institution will die out in Japan, along with that kind of funeral industry, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a backlash of people going seeking, just as they did in the U.S. and other cultures, to reconnect with their faith.

Andrew,
The emperor is considered a direct descendent of the Shinto sun goddess, Ameratsu, and is therefore held as divine. Over the centuries and shifts in balance of power between feudal/warrior clans and emperors, there were periods when major Shinto shrines were built or rededicated, and Buddhist temples were burned to the ground en masse and the monks and priests kicked out into the streets, or worse.
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Old 07-16-2008, 11:29 AM   #9
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Catholics call this the Hatched, Matched and Dispatched. They only come to church for birth, wedding, and funeral.

My Japanese friends are Buddhist; but, know very little about it.
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Old 07-16-2008, 11:58 AM   #10
lifeafter2am
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Andrew,
The emperor is considered a direct descendent of the Shinto sun goddess, Ameratsu, and is therefore held as divine. Over the centuries and shifts in balance of power between feudal/warrior clans and emperors, there were periods when major Shinto shrines were built or rededicated, and Buddhist temples were burned to the ground en masse and the monks and priests kicked out into the streets, or worse.
Wow, thats crazy!

Quote:
Bob Blackburn wrote:
My Japanese friends are Buddhist; but, know very little about it.
Thats pretty funny. Very similar to most of the Christians here in the states. They claim to be Christian, but know little about their faith and its history. I studied many of the major religions for some time before deciding on one. I guess thats the difference between a believer and a follower.


"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 07-16-2008, 01:42 PM   #11
HL1978
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Robert John wrote: View Post
Err... the image I have of buddhist monks in Japan is largely of guys in big fat robes driving a brand spanking new BMW or Mercedes
Seriously though, they make bank on the funerals that are carried out. I don't think there's any worry about the temples going out of business

Edit:
Just read the article, never mind.
Weird though, you certainly don't get that image in Tokyo. Maybe if they started buying their Bimmers second hand they'd have enough to float themselves a couple more generations ^^;
I always thought that was weird in tokyo. Kenji used to get totally pissed off at those guys claiming they were monks in name only.

On another note, remember Prem's plans to be a temporary monk during the world cup?
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Old 07-16-2008, 02:05 PM   #12
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Heh. Monks in Beemers reminded me of something I saw on one of my sojourns in Nepal some years ago --

In the Tibetan Buddhist sect of Gelug (Yellow Hat ), it is believed that you gain spiritual merit by circumambulating a stupa (monument-like structure which contains sutra scrolls and other sacred items) and by twirling prayer wheels -- a spinning cylinder on a stick, containing sacred sutras/scripture.

At Bodnath Stupa, a large stupa and the "headquarters" for Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal, I saw a group of robe-clad monks receive a generous donation of several hundred rupees from a tourist. Without a moment's hesitation, the monks flagged down a taxi that was waiting for tourist fares, and they waved the rupees in the driver's face and hopped in. For the next 45 minutes or so, the taxi drove around and around the stupa while the monks, with childlike glee, whooped, hollered and twirled their prayer wheels as they gained merit the easy way, in air-conditioned, chauffered comfort.
Who needs a steenkin' Beemer?
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Old 07-16-2008, 02:39 PM   #13
Aikibu
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Heh. Monks in Beemers reminded me of something I saw on one of my sojourns in Nepal some years ago --

In the Tibetan Buddhist sect of Gelug (Yellow Hat ), it is believed that you gain spiritual merit by circumambulating a stupa (monument-like structure which contains sutra scrolls and other sacred items) and by twirling prayer wheels -- a spinning cylinder on a stick, containing sacred sutras/scripture.

At Bodnath Stupa, a large stupa and the "headquarters" for Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal, I saw a group of robe-clad monks receive a generous donation of several hundred rupees from a tourist. Without a moment's hesitation, the monks flagged down a taxi that was waiting for tourist fares, and they waved the rupees in the driver's face and hopped in. For the next 45 minutes or so, the taxi drove around and around the stupa while the monks, with childlike glee, whooped, hollered and twirled their prayer wheels as they gained merit the easy way, in air-conditioned, chauffered comfort.
Who needs a steenkin' Beemer?
LOL! Thanks for the story Cady.

William Hazen
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Old 07-16-2008, 02:55 PM   #14
lifeafter2am
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Heh. Monks in Beemers reminded me of something I saw on one of my sojourns in Nepal some years ago --

In the Tibetan Buddhist sect of Gelug (Yellow Hat ), it is believed that you gain spiritual merit by circumambulating a stupa (monument-like structure which contains sutra scrolls and other sacred items) and by twirling prayer wheels -- a spinning cylinder on a stick, containing sacred sutras/scripture.

At Bodnath Stupa, a large stupa and the "headquarters" for Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal, I saw a group of robe-clad monks receive a generous donation of several hundred rupees from a tourist. Without a moment's hesitation, the monks flagged down a taxi that was waiting for tourist fares, and they waved the rupees in the driver's face and hopped in. For the next 45 minutes or so, the taxi drove around and around the stupa while the monks, with childlike glee, whooped, hollered and twirled their prayer wheels as they gained merit the easy way, in air-conditioned, chauffered comfort.
Who needs a steenkin' Beemer?
LOL!!! Now thats using your head!

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 07-16-2008, 03:22 PM   #15
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

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Mark Uttech wrote: View Post
which, all day long, rises and falls.

In gassho,

Mark
kind of like an Uke. LOL.

The cultural/tradition angle of this is reminescent of musical traditions that become relatively extinct in their homelands and are then revived and carried forward by lovers of the music from another land. A couple examples would be traditional Celtic music which has been literally cataloged and preserved by some musicians I know here in CA who are met with such enthusiasm in Ireland because they are very responsible for the revival of the tradition that has been taken for granted, and lost, by many native celts. Now, a new generation of kids has taken up the mantle.
Another is Hawaiian Cowboy Music, or slack-key, which was all but extinct before another friend of mine, George Winston, revived it and put the musicians back to work in California and, now again, in Hawaii. Ray Kane, George Kuo, Ledward Kaapana, etc.....Sometimes that's what it takes.

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-16-2008, 03:29 PM   #16
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

The exotic is always a magnet for seekers, which is one of the reasons why "exports" from one's own culture often seem to flourish in foreign countries when they are flagging at home. I'd think it's as true for any of the arts and crafts as it is for religion.

What's cool is that any given discipline takes on a unique and distinct flavor when adopted and adapted by different cultures.

And, Hawaiian Cowboy music, Jennifer??? How about Hawaiian Aikido music? If you can play a stringed instrument while taking ukemi, you'll be an Uke-lele!
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Old 07-16-2008, 03:36 PM   #17
lifeafter2am
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
The exotic is always a magnet for seekers, which is one of the reasons why "exports" from one's own culture often seem to flourish in foreign countries when they are flagging at home. I'd think it's as true for any of the arts and crafts as it is for religion.

What's cool is that any given discipline takes on a unique and distinct flavor when adopted and adapted by different cultures.

And, Hawaiian Cowboy music, Jennifer??? How about Hawaiian Aikido music? If you can play a stringed instrument while taking ukemi, you'll be an Uke-lele!
Har, Har, Har.

(To be honest, it made me laugh! )

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 07-16-2008, 04:10 PM   #18
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
The exotic is always a magnet for seekers, which is one of the reasons why "exports" from one's own culture often seem to flourish in foreign countries when they are flagging at home. I'd think it's as true for any of the arts and crafts as it is for religion.

What's cool is that any given discipline takes on a unique and distinct flavor when adopted and adapted by different cultures.

And, Hawaiian Cowboy music, Jennifer??? How about Hawaiian Aikido music? If you can play a stringed instrument while taking ukemi, you'll be an Uke-lele!
OMG, there's a difference between Cowboy and Aikido? That explains the last gun fight I had at the UKE CORRAL.

As for imported/exported cultures, I outline them in my upcoming novel, I'm Uke. You're Uke.

Enough PUNishment for now.

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-16-2008, 04:12 PM   #19
lifeafter2am
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

OMG!! You are both horrible!

LOL!

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 07-16-2008, 04:26 PM   #20
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

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Andrew Hanson wrote: View Post
OMG!! You are both horrible!

LOL!
Well, at least I didn't correct Cady and tell her that Hawaiian Cowboy Music is actully called Slack Ki. That would be horrible.

Oh, tha hara,the hara........step away from the ki board

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-16-2008, 09:19 PM   #21
Cady Goldfield
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Well, there is that old Aikido Cowboy song, "Gi Along, Little Do Gi."

This really has nothing to do with Buddhism or the Japanese funeral industry, does it?
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Old 07-16-2008, 09:38 PM   #22
lifeafter2am
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Wow, not anymore it doesn't.

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Siddhattha Gotama Buddha
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Old 07-16-2008, 10:45 PM   #23
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Well, there is that old Aikido Cowboy song, "Gi Along, Little Do Gi."

This really has nothing to do with Buddhism or the Japanese funeral industry, does it?
Mu.

There. That's better.

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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Old 07-21-2008, 04:07 PM   #24
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Re: The Death of Buddhism in Japan

Well, it looks like I missed the festivities. Funny...the aikido/cowboy thing. I've been meaning to sit down and write a C and W aikido tune to play at my next gig - I'm in a band which plays alot of folkie stuff - though of course know one would get it, "irimi'd up to the bar and she tenkaned into my arms, my heart near broke as she said onegashimasu, etc..."

Back to the topic though. I'm curious whether the religious outfits in Japan, like here in the USA, get to do their thing entirely tax free off the backs of the working people?

You know...like do they get to build multi-million dollar churches without paying a lick of property tax and do they get to take the tax free money, have fire and police protection that I pay for and the rest of the working folks, and then use it to fund political action groups to further their agendas of divisiveness and general no goodery?

Just curious whether anyone here knows if the religion business in Japan operates with the same sort of free ride corporate welfare type of deal that they get here in the USA.
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