In the days, weeks, and months after the tragic “triple disaster” of the Great Eastern Japan Disaster of March 11, 2011, the Japanese Buddhist community responded with an outpouring of energy and activities. Buddhist priests from around the country flocked to the region to support devastated temples and communities bury and pray for the deceased. This traditional grief care work, which continues today, formed the core of the Buddhist contribution to post 3/11 Japan. However, there were other Buddhist groups and individuals that became deeply involved in material aid to the region. Buddhist engagement in the nuclear issue was more slow to develop and this work is documented in other areas on this homepage. A “diary” of this work over the first year after the disaster is chronicled in our publication, This Precious Life.
Aid & Relief Work
AYUS International Buddhist Cooperation Network:AYUS was established in 1993 by a group of socially engaged Buddhist priests to support NGOs doing aid and development work overseas. A number of its founders and present staff are core members of JNEB and have participated in INEB Conferences.
Kodo Kyodan Buddhist Fellowship: Kodosan is a contemporary lay Buddhist order based in the ancient tradition of Japanese Tendai. It’s third president, Rev. Shojun Okano, is a core JNEB member and also is a member of the INEB Advisory Committee.
The Zenseikyo Foundation & Buddhist Council for Youth and Child Welfare: (Update 8/17) Under the directorship of Rev. Jin Hitoshi, a core member of JNEB, Zenseikyo brings together more than 60 different Japanese Buddhist denominations to work for the prosperity of young people.
Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA): SVA was established in 1980 by a group of Soto Zen priests concerned about emergency aid in Indochina. While it has become a mostly professional relief NGO, some Soto Zen priests still have important roles and participate in its work. These priests are friends in our larger network.
Local Temple Relief Work: Many of the temples that were destroyed or affected in the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in northern Japan were Zen temples. Not only these but many other temples in the region have served as shelters for the victims of the disaster, and many priesst have been tirelessly working for both their material and spiritual support, while existing in this difficult environment themselves.
- The Losses and Disaster Situation of Each Buddhist Denomination (Bukkyo Times, January 1, 2012)
- What Temples Can Do as Evacuation Shelters During a Disaster (by Shinobu Izawa Jimonkoryu, June 2011)
- The Jodo Pure Land denomination’s Young Priests Association of Tohoku enlisted the support of the Hitosaji One Spoonful Association of young priests who feed the homeless in Tokyo to help feed victims of the disaster in the Iwaki area of Fukushima. Click here for video.
- A Zen Master’s Witness of the Primeval Force of Nature by Shodo Harada Roshi (April 11, 2011)
Messages and Support from International Buddhists:
1) Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne of Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka: Thinking about Natural Disasters and Religion: Looking for Another Way of Living” (10/10 in Tokyo) watch it here on UStream
2) Sulak Sivaraksa (INEB leading founder) Creating a Post 3/11: The Development of Happiness(Kyoto 7/24, Tokyo 7/26 Watch it recorded from USTREAM)
3) His Holiness the Dalai Lama (INEB Patron) Event in Tokyo 4/29
4) Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh (INEB Patron)
5) Buddhists and Khmer Society Network (BKSN) – Cambodia
6) Buddhist Solidarity for Reform (BSR) – South Korea
Grief & Trauma Care:
Japanese place especially high importance on proper burial and funeral rites. In turn, Japanese Buddhism’s central role has been offering funeral rites and ongoing memorial services for the people to come to grips with grief over the passage of time and to come to terms with dying as well as living. In the wake of the earthquake-tsunami disaster, many Japanese priests are working hard to care for the dead and their bereaved loved ones. Now in 2012, some Buddhists are trying to create a more highly developed system for caring for people with long term trauma.
- Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry (London Review of Books, Vol. 36 No. 3, February 6, 2014)
- Reuters Video of Buddhist Priests chanting in front of mass graves
- Images of priests chanting for the deceased (click forward on the right hand button)