The Rinsho Buddhism Chaplaincy Training Program 7th Lecture Series (2021)

While we exist in society,

We hold on to one thought:

Understanding the reality of birth, aging, sickness, and death,

we take hold of the present moment

#1 May 12th: Public Health in the Era of COVID-19: A Society of Interbeing based on insight into Dependent Co-arising

Dr. Gen Oi – Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University

What contributions can be made to our contemporary society experiencing COVID-19? How can we humans accept and go beyond the limits of our world-view that puts humans at the apex of the ecosystem? Dr. Oi will consider “a society of interbeing” based on insight into the Buddhist teaching of Dependent Co-Arising, which indicates that all sentient life exists while supporting itself.      

#2 May 26th: Separating without Saying Farewell: Facing the Sudden Death of a Family Member

Prof. Susumu Shimazono – Specially Appointed Professor, Sophia University

There have been many grieving families during the COVID-19 calamity who were not able to directly see off those family members who died from the illness. What kind of healing process can we expect from the sadness and anger of having lost a dear family member in this way? Grieving families who have lost loved ones in accidents or natural disasters also face this “separation without farewell”. In what way can Buddhists support such suffering?

#3 June 9th: Becoming Intimate with Those Facing Economic Hardship: The way of offering aid amidst a discriminatory society

Rev. Gakugen Yoshimizu – Senior Research Fellow, Rinbutsuken Institute for Engaged Buddhism

It has now been an extended period of years that Japan has been referred to as a Disconnected Society or a Society without Human Bonds (mu-en shakai). While economic based discrimination has been widening, many people are continuing to try to exist after having fallen through the social safety net. The number of elderly living in the streets is increasing, and since the COVID-19 calamity began, non-regular and part-time workers have had their contracts terminated. Rev. Yoshimizu will speak about the experience of trying to make contact and become close with these people facing economic hardship, and how Buddhists can discover “connections” that transcend this reality.

#4 June 30th: Towards the Revival of Local Society: The role of the Buddhist monk as coordinator

Rev. Shunei Hakamata – Representative, Association for Thinking about Mind and Life

Agrarian communities in Japan have experienced extreme depopulation in the migration of most people to the large urban areas during this era of high economic growth. This has resulted in  a variety of serious problems, such as the predominance of an elderly population, suicide, and death from isolation. Rev. Hakamata will discuss the role that Buddhist priests and temples can play as coordinators of local society in order to revive the heart-to-heart “connections” among the human-to-human bonds that have been severed.

#5 July 28th: Skilled Trainees who have been discarded: From having no place to live to getting arrested

Thich Tham Chi – President of the Vietnam Buddhist Association in Japan

In order to make up for the lack of labor force in Japan, many young people from Vietnam have been allowed to enter Japan as “skilled trainees”. In order to do so, however, they have taken on huge debts. Now, during the COVID-19 calamity, many have lost their jobs and have no place to go. In this reality, many of these young Vietnamese are choosing suicide. Thich Tham Chi, a Vietnamese Buddhist nun, will talk about her work supporting these young men and women both materially and psychologically.

#6 August 25th: Connecting to what is living, connecting to what is life: Grief care for families of victims of violent crime

Ms. Yumiko Honda – Representative, Inner City Grief Care for a Peaceful Nation

Victims of crime may have their lives stolen in a sudden moment of violence. The sorrow, anger, and feeling of loss for grieving families may be incalculable. From Ms. Honda’s talk, we will have the chance to learn about what kind of care and support Buddhists can offer based on her own experience of providing grief care over many years to mothers of the children who were killed in the Ikeda Elementary School stabbings of 2001.

#7 September 8th: Listening Deeply to the Voice of Life: Life care for those in the final stage

Ms. Miyuki Uchiyama – Visiting Researcher, Tokyo Jikei Medical University

“Will someone please kill me soon?” Patients who are facing the end of life may lose their meaning to life and cancer can torment them with physical pain. Families who see their loved ones in such condition can feel that there is nothing they can do and words cannot describe their suffering. In Ms. Uchiyama’s talk, we will learn about her work as a Rinsho Buddhism Chaplain working with people directly and the way of intimate presence in confronting the spiritual pain of patients and their family members that is “the suffering of life”.

#8 September 29th: “It was so great that you could come often.” Raising Children Together

Mr. Shigeyoshi Wada – Representative, Kuda-kake Association

All children are born into this world possessing the seed of awakening or buddhahood. It is a great richness that children possess a variety of special characteristics. Young people and children nowadays in Japan feel suffocated by a social system and social values that have led to high levels of school dropouts and those shutting themselves off from society called hikikomori. It seems the meaning of this is that young people need their own time and space to live. Rev. Wada will consider the way for children to cultivate their inner power and to live in co-existence.  

#9 October 6th: Operating a Temple School to Provide Children’s Meals: Young adults who provide aid to children

Rev. Chiryo Matsumoto – Chairman, Hachioji Buddhist Association

In Japan, the relative poverty rate of single parent households is now approximately 50%. The burden of the isolation and disintegration that is occurring in rural communities is brought to bear directly on children. Buddhist temples in these regions used to be the center of the community. Now, some have begun to support children living in poverty with the help of teens and young adults. Rev. Matsumoto will present on how priests and temples have begun to engage in such cooperative work.

#10 October 20th: Disaster Relief provided by Buddhists: 10 Years After the Great Northern Japan Disasters

Rev. Hitoshi Jin – Managing Director, Rinbutsuken Institute for Engaged Buddhism

It has been now more than 10 years since so many lives were lost in the Great Northern Japan Disasters. However, there are many victims of the disasters who have not been able to return to their homes and towns. Can we say that the way that aid towards rebuilding these areas has proceeded in an appropriate way? Rev. Jin will reflect on the activities of the past 10 years since the very moment of the disasters, and he will speak about the aid work by Buddhists that is still needed in these areas.

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