Japanese Engaged Buddhism: From Caring for the Individual to Transforming Society

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an International Conference on Socially Engaged Buddhism

December 17, 2020

10:00-17:30 Japan Standard Time via Zoom

Hosted by: The Research Centre for World Buddhist Cultures Ryukoku University
Co-hosted by: International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
                        Japan Network of Engaged Buddhists (JNEB)
                        International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC)
                        Ryukoku University Center for South Asian Studies (RINDAS)
Support by: The Department of Religious Studies of Ryukoku University

Conference Theme

Japan has a long history of Buddhist priests and laypersons being active in a variety of social issues. Since the dawn of the modern era in the mid-19th century, a variety of forms of socially engaged Buddhism have developed in Japan, yet at the same time Japanese Buddhism in general has suffered through periods of socially passivity and marginalization. In the last 15 years with the onset of a variety of social problems, especially caused by worsening economic conditions, Japanese Buddhists have developed a wide variety of new socially engaged Buddhist activities, such as rescue and care services for natural disaster victims, support for those suffering from social discrimination and poverty, psycho-spiritual care for the depressed and suicidal, and engagement in nuclear and environmental issues. These activities are increasingly connecting with like-minded work by socially engaged Buddhists in Asia and other parts of the world. This one-day conference will be the first attempt to bring together and present this variety of new socially engaged Buddhist activities in Japan. It will also include guest appearances from leading socially engaged Buddhists in other parts of Asia.

This conference was originally planned for October 2020 as a full international conference in association with INEB. However, due to COVID, the number of speakers and participants has been confined to those present in the Kansai region. A national and international Zoom link will be created for participants throughout Japan and the world to participate with simultaneous translation offered into English. We look forward to a wide ranging audience from both within Japan and across the globe.

Morning Session: 10:00-13:00 JST

Opening Welcome:

  • Prof. Mitsuya Dake (professor at the Research Centre for World Buddhist Cultures of Ryukoku University & INEB Board member)
  • Prof. Sulak Sivaraksa (Founder of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, Thailand)

Buddhist Activities to Confront Individual Suffering

  • What kind of death should we consider suicide as? How Buddhists deal with preventing suicide: Rev. Sei Noro (Jodo Shin Pure Land Hongan-ji priest; professor at the Ryukoku University Department of Buddhist Studies)
  • A Society of Extreme Elderly & End-of-Life Care: Rev. Daihaku Okochi (Jodo Pure Land priest; Rinsho Buddhist chaplain trainer; Gansei-ji temple’s Satto-san Home-Visit Nursing Station)
  • Confronting Trauma from Natural Disasters—The Potential of Buddhism when Orated: Ms. Yuko Kubota (Jodo Shin Pure Land Hongan-ji temple wife, radio announcer and chairperson of “First Star Team” Buddhist Recitation School)
  • Rinsho (clinical) Buddhism & Issues in Developing Human Resources: Rev. Yozo Taniyama (Jodo Shin Pure Land Otani priest; professor at Tohoku University Department of Applied Religious Studies)
  • Panel Discussion: The Role of Rinsho Buddhism in Confronting Individual Suffering, Chair: Rev. Masazumi Okano (President of the Kodo Kyodan Buddhist Fellowship, INEB Advisory Committee, Japan Buddhist Federation Board member)

Lunch Break: 13:00-14:00

Afternoon Session: 14:00-17:30

Buddhist Activities to Confront Social and Structural Suffering

  • Gender, LGBTQ, and Discrimination—The Wish for the Well-being of All People: Ms. Kaori Matsuzaki (board member of the Institute for Abbots of the Future, Japan Buddhist Federation public relations office)
  • Poverty and Urban Alienation—Considering a Buddhist Approach to Aid: Rev. Gakugen Yoshimizu (Jodo Pure Land priest; co-founder of the Hitosaji Association for homeless support, Rinsho Buddhism chaplain trainer)
  • Depopulation and Regional Development—Reviving local communities through alternative lifestyles based in Buddhism: Rev. Chisa Yamashita (Jodo Pure Land nun; managing director of Amrita Buddhist Social Enterprise)
  • Environmental Issues and Regional Development—Clean energy and a new financing mechanism using the Buddhist way of making offerings: Rev. Ryogo Takemoto (Jodo Shin Pure Land Hongan-ji priest; TERA Energy co-founder, INEB Eco-Temple Network)
  • Panel Discussion: A Buddhist Vision for the Future of Japan, Chair: Rev. Ryogo Takemoto

Farewell Closing:

  • Prof. Hisashi Nakamura (professor emeritus at Ryukoku University, INEB Honorary Advisor)
  • Mr. Harsha Navaratne (INEB Chairman, Sri Lanka)

Registration: Free

  • A very limited number of participants will be allowed to attend on site at Ryukoku University. For everyone else, a Zoom link will be provided.
  • For English language participants, simultaneous translation will be offered from Japanese to English, contact & register with your name, affiliation, and e-mail address: Jonathan Watts (JNEB Coordinator): wattsj@jneb.net
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