Barbara O’Brien at About.com writes a blog titled, Japanese Buddhism: Going Out of Business? Based on my travels over the last decade, I’d have to say that I agree with her observations. I’d also say that the idea that we should return to the fundamental approaches of the past will only make Buddhism more irrelevant to 21st Century citizens of the world.
Some suggest Japanese Buddhism needs to re-embrace the Vinaya-pitaka, the rules for monks given by the historical Buddha that are still, for the most part, observed in the rest of Asia. Celibacy is high on the list of rules. Others call for Japanese Buddhism to diversify — branch out into teaching the dharma and providing social services other than funerals. However it’s done, Japanese Buddhism seems in dire need of a revival.
So what should the revival look like? It will be interesting, whatever happens. But the East would do well to steal a few pages out of the West’s playbook on this one. If Buddhism is to survive, it must do a Western thing and become a dynamic, living expression of relevance. When the stillness of the East, meets this dynamism of the West, we’ll have something far more accessible to people. Done correctly, the core of the teaching might avoid becoming diluted thus avoiding a New Buddhist circus of “feel good” evangelism.