Dalai Lama visits Tokyo: but did anybody notice?
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Dalai Lama visited Tokyo and issued statements that Japan must look to the future and he offered his condolences. However, in mainly un-Buddhist Japan then did many people notice?
Yes, his condolences are well meaning and he will have brought comfort to a minority of people and the media will build him up like usual. Yet did anybody listen to what he stated about the earthquake and tsunami; apart from a very small minority of individuals?
In the mass media you often read comments that Japan is mainly Buddhist but it is not factual. In truth, most Japanese people are not devoutly Buddhist in Tokyo or in Japan in general
Yes, you get pockets where the faith may be strong (Kyoto, Koyasan, Nara, and so forth) but in most major cities and especially amongst the younger generation then Buddhism is very weak. In truth, Buddhism is very distant for the majority of people and often it appears to be a religion which gets rich by charging vast sums for a new name after death.
The media in the West make it sound oh so nice. This applies to praying on the 49th day but the reality is very different.
Therefore, since the Buddhist priesthood is mainly inactive and it was stripped from its power base after the war. Then funerals and tourism is big business but not sincerity; after all, it must be hard for poor people to meet the astronomical costs of a Buddhist funeral in Japan
In truth, nearly all funerals are expensive in Japan but the Buddhists appear to be canny in modern Japan because in old Japan the Buddhists clearly did not concern themselves so much with making profits from funerals. However, after Buddhist monks were stripped from their land holdings then funerals were a way to survive.
On average around $7,000 dollars (much depends on the dollar and yen exchange rate) is paid to the Buddhist temple and this applies to cremation. Much of this cost is because the Buddhist clergy give a new name to the deceased and families have to pay high costs for dinners, presents, and prayers on the seventh day, 49th day, one year anniversary and two year anniversary after death.
Buddhism, apart from temples looking pleasing on the eye and charging high costs and inventing new names after death; appears to be much better at capitalism rather than anything ethical.
I dare say that in the countryside it may be very different but in Tokyo the Buddhist clergy appear to care little about anything; if they do, then I haven’t noticed and just like the Dalai Lama’s visit everything appears be kept hidden.
When it comes to helping the marginalized, campaigning about reducing the high suicide rate or tackling the booming sex trade in Tokyo, then I await to see any real action from the vast majority of Buddhist clergy.
This is not to rebuke Buddhism becasue Buddhist clergy in other nations, like Myanmar, are political and the same applies to other nations. However, Japanese Buddhism is very weak and distant from most people.
I was in Tokyo when the Dalai Lama visited and if I had not read about his visit on the internet, then I, like nearly all Tokyoites, would never had known.
I understand that 3,000 individuals turned up to either pray with the Dalai Lama or to welcome him. However, with around 30 million people in Greater Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures, then I think it speaks volume about what the majority of Tokyoites think.
More alarming is the hypocrisy of the media which would chide Christian or Muslim leaders for stating what the Dalai Lama stated. For the Dalai Lama issued a statement about the Heart Sutra and he commented that “Such recitation may not only be helpful for those who have lost their precious lives; but may also help prevent further disasters in the future.”
It is therefore being reported that the Heart Sutra is going to be recited 100,000 times in Dharamsala.
I am sure that if the Roman Catholic Pope stated that these prayers “…may also help prevent further disasters in the future” by reciting something 100,000 times then the Pope would come under heavy scrutiny.
Firstly, the Buddha did not believe in God therefore it is lost on many people why Buddhists pray. Secondly, prayers of any faith will never help to prevent further disasters because earthquakes and tsunamis are natural. Finally, why recite something 100,000 times when Buddha rejected God and why does any particular number matter?
The Dalai Lama is revered by many Tibetan Buddhists and his CIA sponsorship in the past is brushed under the carpet. However, in the political correct world of many media outlets it would be nice if the Dalai Lama was scrutinized like Christian and Muslim leaders are.
Therefore, his visit to Tokyo will not have been noticed by the vast majority of Tokyoites and this is no disrespect to the Dalai Lama. The same would happen if the Roman Catholic Pope visited Tokyo or the main Muslim leader from Al-Azhar in Egypt.
Tokyo is mainly “a city of no God” and in the real Buddhist sense this is not so bad; however, it is also a city of little Buddhism and religion overall is not important in Tokyo.
Yes, it was good that the Dalai Lama visited Tokyo because he will have brought “inner joy” to his supporters and offering prayers for “the fallen” will mean something to a lot of devout Buddhists in Japan.
However, did his visit have meaning in a nation which is mainly secular and in a city which is mainly godless?
http://factsanddetails.com/japan.php?itemid=604&catid=18 -Costs of a funeral
http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/02/world/world-news-briefs-dalai-lama-group-says-it-got-money-from-cia.html – New York Times states that the Dalai Lama’s office admits to taking $1.7 million dollars a year in the 1960s.
http://moderntokyotimes.com (please visit)