Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism, is widely practiced in Japan, the easternmost country in the world. Zen Buddhism is also very popular on the western coast of United States, in states like California, where it became popular among the hippies and later among techies. However, in last few years, the followers of Zen Buddhism are turning to Jainism. Buddhism is the second largest religion in Japan after Shintoism, which is not even a religion in strict western definition. Around 34 percent or more than one third of Japanese follow Buddhism but these followers, especially those of Zen school, have been turning to Jainism in the last few years.
Nowadays, thousands of Japanese could be seen wrapped in white loin cloth, who follow Jain food practices, meditate in Jain temples, awake with Sunset and dine before sunset. No just that, these Zen turned Jains also visit India on annual pilgrimages and spend weeks studying Jain script.
Naganoken town of the country, home to the seventh-century Zenko-Ji temple with an idol of Lord Buddha, is center for the people who wish to convert from Buddhism to Jainism. The number of who turn to the town to embrace Buddhism and sacrifice the materialistic life for Buddhist way of minimalism is in thousands.
Since last few years, thousands of Japanese Buddhists turn up to northern Gujarat, to live with Jain disciples of Jayant Sensuriswarji Maharaj. “There are a number of Japanese coming here in large numbers. They follow all our rules, pray with us, eat Satvik food before the sun sets, mediate and go back home to follow the same lifestyle we induct them into,” said Nityasen Suriswarji Maharaj.
Churushi Miyazawa, a Japanese woman, who visited India in 2005 and became a devout follower of Jainism after a meeting with Gachadhipati Swargiya Jayantsen Suriswarji Maharaj Saheb says she gave up materialistic way of life to become minimalistic like Jains and changed her name to Tulsi. “My guru entrusted me with a bigger task: To spread Jainism across Japan. Every month, since then I have been traveling to India four to five times a year with hundreds of Japanese who are ready to embrace Jainism,” said Tulsi.
As per a report by Times of India, around 2,500 Japanese Jains visited Gujarat and another few hundred plan to visit next week. “A new temple is being planned in Japan and now we are told that more than 5,000 families have been newly inducted into Jainism,” said Nityasen.
The Japanese people also celebrate Jain festivals like eight days long Paryushan with enthusiasm. “There they fast for eight days (atthai) by merely consuming warm water. Even children follow Paryushan and keep fasts for a day or two,” says Tulsi. “The appeal of ahimsa or non-violence propounded by Jainism has found a connection with all of us,” added Nityasen.