Japanese Priest Tries to Revive Buddhism by Bringing Techno Music into the Temple: Attend a Psychedelic 23-Minute Service

Many reli­gious lead­ers would like to liv­en up their ser­vices to attract a younger, hip­per flock, but few have the nec­es­sary back­ground to pull it off in a tru­ly impres­sive way. Not so for the Japan­ese Bud­dhist priest Gyōsen Asaku­ra, who answered the high­er call­ing after a career as a DJ but evi­dent­ly nev­er lost his feel for the unstop­pable pulse of elec­tron­ic music. Get­ting behind his decks and don­ning his head­phones once again, he has begun using sound, light, and the orig­i­nal splen­dor of Fukui City’s Shō-onji tem­ple to hold “tech­no memo­r­i­al ser­vices.” You can see and hear a bit of one such audio­vi­su­al spir­i­tu­al spec­ta­cle in the video just above, shot at a memo­r­i­al ser­vice last fall.

“Bud­dhism may be approach­ing some­thing of a cri­sis point in Japan,” reports Bud­dhist­door’s Craig Lewis, “with 27,000 of the country’s 77,000 Bud­dhist tem­ples fore­cast to close over the next 25 years, reflect­ing shrink­ing pop­u­la­tions in small rur­al com­mu­ni­ties and a loss of faith in orga­nized reli­gion among the country’s pop­u­la­tion as a whole.”

He also sites an Asahi Shim­bun sur­vey that found 434 tem­ples closed over the past decade and 12,065 Japan­ese Bud­dhist tem­ples cur­rent­ly with­out res­i­dent monks. Can this tem­ple in a small city, itself known for its phoenix-like rise from the ash­es of the Sec­ond World War, do its part to reverse the trend?

Gyōsen Asaku­ra frames his tech­no memo­r­i­al ser­vices, how­ev­er incon­gru­ous they might at first seem, as in keep­ing with the tra­di­tions of his branch of Pure Land Bud­dhism. “Orig­i­nal­ly, gold­en dec­o­ra­tions in the tem­ple are expres­sions of par­adise light,” he told THUMP. “How­ev­er, the light of a tra­di­tion­al tem­ple has not changed its form from 1000 years ago to use can­dle­light, even after elec­tric­i­ty was invent­ed. I felt doubt­ful about that, and then I thought about express­ing par­adise with the lat­est stage light­ing such as 3D map­ping.”

After all, as he said to Japankyo, “peo­ple used to use the most advanced tech­nolo­gies avail­able to them at the time in order to orna­ment tem­ples with gold leaf,” so why not har­ness today’s tech­nol­o­gy to evoke the Bud­dhist “world of light” as well? And in any case, ecsta­t­ic sen­so­ry expe­ri­ences are noth­ing new in the realm of faith, though ecsta­t­ic sen­so­ry expe­ri­ences of Gyōsen Asaku­ra’s kind do cost mon­ey to put togeth­er. And so he, in the way of most reli­gious projects the world over, has asked for dona­tions to fund them, using not a bowl but the crowd­fund­ing site Ready­for. Judg­ing by 383,000 yen (more than $3300 U.S. dol­lars) he’s already raised, quite a few tech­no-heads have seen the light.

via Elec­tron­ic Beats

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The “Amen Break”: The Most Famous 6‑Second Drum Loop & How It Spawned a Sam­pling Rev­o­lu­tion

Edward Snow­den & Jean-Michel Jarre Record a Tech­no Protest Song, “Exit”

Hear the Great­est Hits of Isao Tomi­ta (RIP), the Father of Japan­ese Elec­tron­ic Music

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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