Funeral Buddhism

Photo by Ko Sasaki for The New York Times
Ryoko Mori, a Buddhist priest, visited a household, marking the anniversary of a forbear’s death.

Here is an excerpt from an interesting article from the New York Times. It suggests that interest in Buddhism is declining in Japan.

When it comes to funerals, though, the Japanese have traditionally been inflexibly Buddhist — so much so that Buddhism in Japan is often called “funeral Buddhism,” a reference to the religion’s former near-monopoly on the elaborate, and lucrative, ceremonies surrounding deaths and memorial services. But that expression also describes a religion that, by appearing to cater more to the needs of the dead than to those of the living, is losing its standing in Japanese society.-New York Times

And that may be true for North America as well. Many Jodo Shinshu temples in the west are struggling with declining memberships.

“If Japanese Buddhism doesn’t act now, it will die out,” he said. “We can’t afford to wait. We have to do something.” -Ryoko Mori, Chief Priest at the 700-year-old Zuikoji Temple in northern Japan

Temples throughout North America are constantly trying to find the balance of cultural traditions from Japan, while at the same time, trying new ideas to make Buddhist practice more relevant in today's world. Some temples now have ministers who are more fluent in English and have begun to introduce meditation (not a true Jodo Shinshu practice).

During its path around the world and over time, the dharma remains the same. Let's just hope the journey continues.