Dharma World

October-December 2011, Volume 38

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

  1. Autumn 2019, Volume 46

    Manga, Anime, and Contemporary Religion

  2. Spring 2019, Volume 46

    Is Emptiness the Goal?

  3. July-December 2018, Volume 45

    The Buddhahood of Plants and Trees: The Environment and Buddha-Nature

  4. January-June 2018, Volume 45

    Buddhism’s One Vehicle in a World of Many Religions

  5. July-December 2017, Volume 44

    Religions Tackling Extremism

  6. January-June 2017, Volume 44

    Religion and Animals

  7. October-December 2016, Volume 43

    Features: Listening

  8. July-September 2016, Volume 43

    Contemporary Ideas about Karma

  9. April-June 2016, Volume 43

    Buddhism and Food

  10. January-March 2016, Volume 43

    Dual Religious Identity: Can One Practice Two Religions?

  11. October-December 2015, Volume 42

    The Modern Significance of Meditative Practices in Religions

  12. July-September 2015, Volume 42

    Religious Rituals and Their Meaning for Today

  13. April-June 2015, Volume 42

    Religion's Contributions to Society

  14. January-March 2015, Volume 42

    Cultivating Hearts That Welcome the Other

  15. October-December 2014, Volume 41

    Buddhism and Language

  16. July-September 2014, Volume 41

    Life After Death

  17. April-June 2014, Volume 41

    Building an East Asian Community: Roles of Religions

  18. January-March 2014, Volume 41

    Aging Societies and Religion

  19. October-December 2013, Volume 40

    Nuclear Power and Contemporary Religion

  20. July-September 2013, Volume 40

    Where Does the Buddha Live Now?

  21. April-June 2013, Volume 40

    Modern Meanings of Festivals

  22. January-March 2013, Volume 40

    Transforming Greed

  23. October-December 2012, Volume 39

    Religions Coping with Prejudice

  24. July-September 2012, Volume 39

    The Significance of Religious Communities

  25. April-June 2012, Volume 39

    Buddhist Teachings on Spiritual Liberation

  26. January-March 2012, Volume 39

    The Meaning of Modern Pilgrimage

  27. October-December 2011, Volume 38

    The Evolution of Funerals in Japan

  28. July-September 2011, Volume 38

    Buddhism in North America

  29. April-June 2011, Volume 38

    Religion and the Power of Women

  30. January-March 2011, Volume 38

    What Is True Wealth?

  31. October-December 2010, Volume 37

    Dialogue Draws Religions Closer

  32. July-September 2010, Volume 37

    Tackling the Question "What Is the Lotus Sutra?"

  33. April-June 2010, Volume 37

    Religion's Role in Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

  34. January-March 2010, Volume 37

    Help in Overcoming Alienation

  35. October-December 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Prayer

  36. July-September 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Media

  37. April-June 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Health

  38. January-March 2009, Volume 36

    The Changing Forms of the Family and the Role of Religion

  39. October-December 2008, Volume 35

    The Meaning of Giving in the Contemporary World

  40. July-September 2008, Volume 35

    Buddhism in the Face of Environmental Crisis

  41. April-June 2008, Volume 35

    The Many Forms of the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin

  42. January-March 2008, Volume 35

    Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

  43. October-December 2007, Volume 34

    Buddhism and Bioethics

  44. July-September 2007, Volume 34

    Respect for Ancestors

  45. April-June 2007, Volume 34

    Self-Examination and Peace Work

  46. January-March 2007, Volume 34

    Buddhism and Social Responsibility: Boddhisattva Practice Today

  47. October-December 2006, Volume 33

    Buddishm in Dialogue

  48. July-September 2006, Volume 33

    Religions Working for Peace

  49. April-June 2006, Volume 33

    Creating the World of the One Vehicle: The Centennial of the Birth of Rev. Nikkyo Niwano

  50. January-February 2006, Volume 33

    The Human Condition and Religion: A Global Future?

  51. November-December 2005, Volume 32

    Remembering Hiroshima

  52. September-October 2005, Volume 32

    Spirituality and Development

  53. July-August 2005, Volume 32

    Women in Contemporary Japanese Religion and Society

  54. May-June 2005, Volume 32

    Rissho Kosei-kai 67th

  55. March-April 2005, Volume 32

    "Thousand Buddhas," Sanbanggulsa Temple, South Korea

  56. January-February 2005, Volume 32

    Emerging Forms of Spirituality

  57. November-December 2004, Volume 31

    Peace Building Through Multi-Religious Cooperation

  58. September-October 2004, Volume 31

    The Increasing Importance of Dialogue and Cooperation

  59. July-August 2004, Volume 31

    Paths to Reconciliation

  60. May-June 2004, Volume 31

    Religion in Crisis

  61. March-April 2004, Volume 31

    Spiritual Friendship

  62. January-February 2004, Volume 31

    Resolving Conflict

  63. November-December 2003, Volume 30

    Dividing Good From Evil

  64. September-October 2003, Volume 30

    Common Truths: Cooperation Among Religions

  65. July-August 2003, Volume 30

    Niwano Peace Foundation

  66. May-June 2003, Volume 30

    Religionists United in Prayer for Peace

  67. March-April 2003, Volume 30

    Life is Larger Than Globalization

  68. January-February 2003, Volume 30

    Emerging Forms of Spirituality

  69. November-December 2002, Volume 29

    Roundtable Disscussion at the World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom

  70. September-October 2002, Volume 29

    Sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

  71. July-August 2002, Volume 29

    The Most Reverend Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Recipient of the 19th Niwano Peace Prize

  72. May-June 2002, Volume 29

    National Treasure Tapestry Illustrating Shakyamuni Sermon to the Faithful

  73. March-April 2002, Volume 29

    Celebration of the Anniversary of Shakyamuni's Birth

  74. January-February 2002, Volume 29

    Religious Delegates Gather in New York for WCRP Symposium