Japanese Buddhism gets a lot of criticism for having degenerated into what some people call a “funeral business”, but I saw this story on Tricycle Editor’s blog, and thought it was great story:

This article involves a certain famous Japanese monastery called Zenkōji (善光寺), which is a Tendai/Jodo-Shu temple. Originally the temple was slated to take part in the Olympic Torch relay, but decided to take a stand and pull out due to controversies surrounding Tibet. But what I also like was this part:

Buddhist monks said yesterday that they would hold a ceremony of mourning for Tibetans on Saturday at the seventh-century Zenkoji temple, which backed out of being the starting point for the relay.

My family-in-law in Japan have complained in the past that some of the local temples they know are pretty much just business, and don’t really practice what they preach. For example, for the recent holiday of Hanamatsuri, the Buddha’s Birthday, some of the local temples had no real celebration. Also, I remember visiting famous temples in Japan in 2005 and 2007, and some just felt like tourist-traps/museums to me. I didn’t feel anything spiritual there.

However, seeing that Zenkōji is taking an active, ethical stance to the China/Tibet issue makes me feel proud of those monks. I am glad to see these monks of Zenkōji are willing to take a risk politically and speak out on ethical issues they take seriously. That tells me that they these monks are not just interested in collecting donations, but really care about Buddhism, Buddhists and welfare for others.


3 thoughts on “Awesome!

  1. How can it be both a Tendai and Jodoshu temple?

    I agree with you that it was very refreshing to see the Japanese temple make the statement they did. They did not put down or insult China but very politely stated ther would not participate in the event in support of their Buddhist brothers in Tibet.

  2. According to Wikipedia, apparently the temple is administered by a committee comprising of monks from both groups. Tendai Buddhism in general tends to work like a kind of “uber-Buddhism” or “umbrella Buddhism” so they include practices from various other schools under their fold. A Tendai Buddhist I talked to recently said that for example the practice of reciting the nembutsu to Amida Buddha is part of their practice as well. The difference is that in Jodo Shu it is an exclusive practice, while in Tendai it may or may not be part of something larger. Depends on the individual temple I suppose.

    I have been to another temple, Kaikozan Hasedera, in Kamakura that was also a mix of Tendai and Jodo Shu, so I suppose it happens more than we might think.

    Yeah, I totally agree that the fact that the monks were respectful of China, but politely took a stand was the best way to go. No need to be harsh or abusive, but not a heel either.

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