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Dharma World Buddhist magazine

October-December, Volume 38

content of this issue of Dharma World Buddhist magazine


The Evolution of Funerals in Japan

Cemeteries and Changing Lifestyles in Japan by Norio Yoneda

About half a century after [Rissho Kosei-kai's] cemetery was established, it began to experience alterations that reflected the changes in the daily lives of the Japanese people.

Norio Yoneda is the director of Kosei Cemetery in Tokyo.

Changes in Care for the Dead in Japan by Stephen G. Covell

Death practices - how we deal with the body, where we dispose of the remains, how we ritualize the passing of another human being - have changed in Japan.

Stephen G. Covell is Mary Meader (Associate) Professor of Comparative Religion, chair of the Department of Comparative Religion, and director of the Soga Japan Center at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. He received his PhD from Princeton University in 2001. His research focuses on contemporary Japanese Buddhism and he is the author of Japanese Temple Buddhism: Worldliness in a Religion of Renunciation (University of Hawai'i Press, 2006).

Recent Trends in Funerals in Cross-cultural Perspective by Michael Pye

The question arises whether . . . secularization processes lead to a convergence in the understanding of death rituals as between Japan and western Europe.

Michael Pye was professor of religious studies at the University of Marburg, Germany, from 1982 to 2004, where he is now professor emeritus. He is currently a research associate at the Shin Buddhist Comprehensive Research Institute at Otani University in Kyoto. From 1995 to 2000, Dr. Pye served as president of the International Association for the History of Religions. His books include Skilful Means: A Concept in Mahayana Buddhism and Beyond Meditation: Expressions of Japanese Shin Buddhist Spirituality.

Rituals for the Dead Today by Haruyo Inoue

Privatization, individualization, and the rejection of religion are the three main trends I see in the evolution of rituals for the dead in recent years.

Haruyo Inoue is a professor in the Faculty of Human Life Design at Toyo University in Saitama Prefecture, Japan. She received a PhD in sociology from Shukutoku University in Chiba Prefecture and specializes in death education and gender studies. In 2000, she founded Ending Center, a nonprofit organization to promote death education. She has authored several books, including Kodomo no sewani narazuni shinitai (Wanting to die without burdening children).

Traditional Buddhism and Diversification in Funeral Practices by Yoshiharu Tomatsu

Because death and funerals can be explained in many ways, there can be confusion and worry over how to conduct funerals, complicating the dealings between relatives and the temple.

Yoshiharu Tomatsu is head priest of the Jodo Shu (Pure Land) sect temple Shinko'in in Tokyo and is a senior research fellow at the Jodo Shu Research Institute. Since 2010 he has been secretary-general of the Japan Buddhist Federation and secretary-general of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations. He is a lecturer in religious studies at Taisho University and teaches at the Keio University School of Medicine, both in Tokyo.

Truly Feeling Connected to Eternal Life by Shinmon Aoki

What one experiences at the scene of a death is a deep recognition of perpetuity and eternity.

Shinmon Aoki was born in Toyama Prefecture in 1937. After leaving Waseda University in Tokyo, he managed a restaurant in his native prefecture while aiming at a literary career. The restaurant failed, and he went to work at a funeral home. His bestselling book, Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician, was set in such a funeral home. A Japanese film loosely based on the book, titled Departures in English, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2008.

Funerals and Japanese Buddhism: Between Doctrine and Popular Custom
by Kokan Sasaki

Buddhist doctrine and popular custom, which in logical terms should be considered contradictory . . . , have in fact been skillfully joined together to form the composite religious form that we call funerary Buddhism.

Kokan Sasaki, LittD, was a professor in the Faculty of Literature at Komazawa University in Tokyo, where he is now a professor emeritus. His specialty is religious anthropology and cultural anthropology. His recent books include "Hotoke" to chikara - Nihon bukkyo bunka no jitsuzo ("The Buddha" and power: A true picture of Japanese Buddhist culture). He is an advisor to the International Institute for the Study of Religions in Tokyo.

The Lotus Sutra and Confucianism: A Report on the Fifteenth International Lotus Sutra Seminar by Joseph M. Logan

Confucius said: "I dare not claim to be a sage or a ren (virtue) man. But I strive for these without being disappointed, and I teach without becoming weary. This is what can be said of me."

Joseph M. Logan is a senior fellow at the Essential Lay Buddhism Study Center in Tokyo. His work as a member of the center's translation team focuses on English wording and cadence with the goal of making recitation in English a more effective practice for internalizing a sutra's teachings.

Buddhist Economics for a Sustainable World by Sulak Sivaraksa

The Niwano Peace Foundation presented the twenty-eighth Niwano Peace Prize to Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa of Thailand in recognition of his unflagging contribution based on the core principles of his Buddhist faith to a new understanding of peace, democracy, and development and to his advocacy for environmental protection. The prize was presented in Kyoto on July 23. The following is the recipient's acceptance speech.

Sulak Sivaraksa is cofounder of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists and founder of more than a dozen international organizations. He was a Thai Buddhist monk for two years, and then completed his higher education in Great Britain, where he also worked as a writer and commentator for the BBC. He is considered by many to be the intellectual voice of his generation in Asia and has published numerous books and monographs, including Seeds of Peace: A Buddhist Vision for Renewing Society.

Religion's Response to the Earthquake and Tsunami in Northeastern Japan
by Keishin Inaba

People of faith are . . . acting to comfort the sufferers, collaborating with each other across religious lines.

Keishin Inaba is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Human Sciences at Osaka University. He obtained his PhD in the sociology of religion at King's College, University of London. He is the author of several English and Japanese books on religion and altruism, and he is one of the organizers of the Japan Religion Coordinating Project for Disaster Relief, launched in response to the massive earthquake in northeastern Japan on March 11.


The Starting Point of Prayer by Nichiko Niwano

Nichiko Niwano is president of Rissho Kosei-kai and the Niwano Peace Foundation, a president of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, and special advisor to Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan).

The Threefold Lotus Sutra: A Modern Commentary (106)

The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law Chapter 19: The Merits of the Teacher of the Dharma (1)
by Nikkyo Niwano

This is the 106th installment of a detailed commentary on the Threefold Lotus Sutra by the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano.

Dharma World October-December 2011, the Evolution of Funerals in Japan

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