Study Tour: The Current State of Japanese Buddhism and Its New Movements

The theme of the previous INEB Conference in Bodhgaya, India was The Future of Buddhism. For Buddhist Asia, Japan in many ways shows what the future of Buddhism as well as the future of these Asian societies might come to look like. Since Japan’s push toward modernization and “westernization” in the mid 1800s, Japanese Buddhism has been struggling to adapt. Its unprecedented step in Buddhist Asia of allowing its monks to abandon the monastic vinaya while developing massive modern lay denominations has been a revolutionary step fraught with problems but also filled with potentials. Today, Japanese Buddhism faces the major challenge of its marginalization in a highly secular, post modern society. Mirroring the economic downturn and development of gaps between rich and poor in mainstream society, the traditional system of temples is in crisis, and Buddhism world is struggling to create a meaningful social role for itself in 21st century Japan. The trends and challenges in Japanese Buddhism offer important lessons to other Sanghas in Buddhist Asia as their societies are following similar paths of economic and social development.

STAFF:

  • Rev. Yuzuki Matsushita (Shingon Vajrayana sect)
  • Rev. Jin Sakai (Jodo Pure Land sect)
  • Rev. Yoshiharu Tomatsu (Jodo Pure Land sect)

SCHEDULE

November 6th: The New and the Old (Kanagawa Province)
8: 30 Departure from Kodosan

9: 30 Arrival at Ippo-An, Kamakura and meeting with Ven. Sudhammacara (Rev. Ippo) a Japanese Soto Zen priest who ordained in Burma for 5 years and is also close with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. He teaches meditation and an ecumenical “One Dharma” Buddhism to Japanese looking for Buddhist practice that is more practical and relevant to their daily lives.

11:45 lunch

13:00 depart Kamakura

14:00 arrival at Joshin-ji temple (Jodo Pure Land sect) in Hiratsuka City with Rev. Kennichi Yoshida who has been rebuilding his small rural temple community by providing more affordable grave sites, creating a grief care support group as well as a group of priests involved in counseling work, and acting as a local parole officer for criminal youth.

16:00 depart Hiratsuka

17:00 dinner

19:30 arrive back at Kodosan (Kodosan is part of a large post-war Buddhist movement of new Buddhist temples and communities based on lay leadership, so you can compare it with the temples you visit on the study tour)

November 7th: Urban Temples and Their New Movements (Tokyo)

8: 30 depart Kodosan

10:00 arrival at Komyo-ji temple, Kamiyacho. This is a small urban temple that has opened various areas on the grounds as an “open café” for any one to come, relax and enjoy quiet, slow time. At this temple, we will learn of the activities of young priests, like the Higan-ji virtual temple, to better educate and develop themselves to the realities of urban life and the needs of urban people.

12:00 lunch

13:00 depart Komyo-ji

13:30 Myo-oh-in temple (Shingon Vajrayana) and meeting with Rev. Shunsui Ichihashi, a fully ordained female priest who is the daughter of the abbot and married to to a fully ordained male priest, and their young son born 2 years ago. Their temple and relationship represents what the future of Asian Buddhism could look like with fully ordained female priests and male priests working for their sangha and society.

15:00 depart Myo-oh-in temple

15:30 arrival Shinko-in temple to meet with Rev. Yoshiharu Tomatsu, the former Secretary General of the Japan Buddhist Federation which represents all the traditional Japanese Buddhists temples. He will inform us about the deeper structural problems of Japanese Buddhism and its relationship with the government and public organizations.

17:30  dinner

19:00 departure for Kodosan

20:00 arrival at Kodosan

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