Buddhism Faces Bleak Future in Japan

Temples going begging and Buddhism disappearing from funeral rites
By Sam Biddle,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2008 2:40 AM CDT
In this Nov. 15, 1997 file photo, two little pilgrims in traditional kimonos play with pigeons at Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, Japan. Japanese temples are being threatened by a decline in interest and influence...   (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)
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(Newser) – Buddhism, once a significant element of Japanese culture, is beginning to decline in both popularity and influence, reports the New York Times.  Buddhist rituals are even fading from funerals, where the religion once had a near-monopoly, as the Japanese increasingly rely on funeral homes, or skip funerals. If something doesn't change soon, the religion will "die out," predicts one priest. "We can't afford to wait. We have to do something."

The religion is being hurt by a lack of priest successors in family-run temples and dwindling populations in rural areas, where the most devoted tend to live. The priest attributes Buddhism's fading impact to its lack of relevance. "It doesn’t meet people’s spiritual needs,” he explained. “In Islam or Christianity, they hold sermons on spiritual matters. But in Japan very few Buddhist priests do that.”