Monday, July 14, 2008

In Japan, Buddhism May Be Dying Out

The New York Times has an interesting piece on the decline of Buddhism in Japan. Buddhism has been in decline throughout the last century. So has Judaism. But whereas Judaism saw a third of it members murdered in a decade and has seen large numbers assimilating in recent years, the decline of Buddhism has been linked to social and economic modernization. Traditionally, Buddhism has centered around monasteries, which were either supported by the local nobility or were themselves the local rulers. With the end of feudalism and the introduction of democracy, the monasteries have lost their patronage and their power. In 1900 a fifth of the world was Buddhist. In 2000 a twentieth. But Japan has always been different. In Japan Buddhism was tied to local, family run temples. Japanese monks, priests, actually, are free to marry. But even in Japan, there has been a noted decline in public support.

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