by Evelyn Cash
I came across this story yesterday from the Buddhist Channel
reporting that as the religion dies in Japan, Buddhist priests are
resorting to desperate measures to try and regain followers. The priests are
trying everything from anime DVDs to monk and nun runway hip-hop
performances but nothing seems to be working. I found this
particularly interesting in light of the fact that Buddhism seems to be
gaining in popularity in the West.
I do wonder: would the
priests in Japan be able to get more people back into the temples if they
stressed the practical aspects of Buddhist meditation and teachings,
rather than the more devotional religious aspects? That approach
certainly worked here in the West, as noted in this 2006 story from the
Christian Science Monitor.
To quote Lama Surya Das from the CSM piece: “People are looking for experiential practices, not just a new belief
system or a new set of ethical rules which we already have, and are
much the same in all religions… It’s the
transformative practices like meditation which people are really
attracted to.” Perhaps the Japanese people would also respond more positively to practical meditation instructions than “Buddhist” anime DVDs.
As many of the other traditions and customs are fading in Japan, Buddhism may need to undergo a reinvention to survive.