“Many of [Japan’s] approximately 75,000 temples are facing the biggest crisis in their history,” reports IPS, “because hardly anyone ever goes to them these days.”
It’s a crisis of culture, and of fading traditions. So Japan’s local religious leaders are taking a different approach. …Are they going too far?
From IPS’s report:
Concerned that Buddhism is no longer part of everyday life, the Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto sought to reach out to the younger set by coming out with a DVD depicting the life of its founder, Shinran, of Shin Buddhism, considered the most popular form of Buddhism in Japan. The 108-minute anime, which cost about 3,600 yen (40 U.S. dollars) apiece, came with collectible miniature characters, key rings, pens and notes.
The results were mixed.
“A few people who saw it were very upset because they thought the DVD insulted Shinran’s sacredness,” said KeishinTagi, a 27-year-old priest at Jodo Shinshu Temple. When he showed it to 15 kids at Sunday school, it proved “too long for them and they fell asleep,” he said. “When I showed it to the adults, they said it was boring.”
Other temples use different strategies. Some employ English-speaking priests who give inspirational speeches on Buddhism to attract tourists. Still others stage fashion shows, called the ‘Bozu Collections’, where nuns and monks dressed in ornate robes hit the runways in temples while chanting to [a] hip hop beat.
Read the full IPS piece here.
And here’s the question. Is this going too far? Or is this a skillful way of bringing people to the dharma? I most certainly have an opinion on this, and it goes something like, Whatever works, within reason. But what do you think?
Jaime McLeod says
I would tend to agree with "whatever works, within reason," and I actually think anime about the founders of sects or other important Buddhist figures could be really cool. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like this idea worked so well – bored adults and sleeping youth, oh my!
That Shinran toy is really cute, though.
David France says
Living in Kyoto, and working closely with many Temples, I see that many are, in fact, seeking to be relevant to modern life here. Some sponsor music events, festivals, dance and other cultural events, handcraft markets, they make their space available for classes and club meetings, and a variety of social events structured around Buddhist Holidays. I myself teach yoga and meditation at several Temples. One cannot escape the atmosphere of Dharma practice and I find that people who go to these events, are often inspired to ask questions and learn more about the Temple and its meaning. So I think that to say that Japanese Temples are facing the largest crisis in their history is a bit off.