Zen asceticism, young Japanese fleeing from daily chaos

Meditation, fasting and mountain retreat programs growing in popularity. For monks, it is a sign of the complexities of modern society.


Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A life without computers and cell phones, with restrictions on eating and washing, sometimes even hanging upside down from a precipice. They are practices of ascetic life to which young Japanese are becoming increasingly attracted to escape the chaos of the city, in search of themselves and of peace of mind.

The offering of asceticism programs is not new to Buddhist temples, instead the times have changed. According to various monks, it is precisely the complexity of modern society that motivates the growing number of adherents to the ascetic life. Some participate to find help in overcoming the physical and psychological difficulties of everyday life; others because tired of human relationships.

One example is a program that was held towards the end of September, when 30 people, mostly young people, practiced Zen Buddhism at the Kameoka Hosenji Temple in the Kyoto Prefecture. During the retreat, the participants woke up at 5.20 in the morning. The day continued with meditation, prayer, and manual outdoor work until 10 pm, when it was time for bed. Temple leaders argue that the number of young people has increased in recent years, especially among people over the age of 20.

In Narita (Chiba Prefecture), the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple organizes fasting sessions lasting between three and seven days. The number of members has more than doubled over the past ten years: from 200 to 460 per year. After a week of preparation and a hospital check-up, those who undergo fasting retreat to a "confinement" seminary: they cannot leave the temple, are obliged to attend two ceremonies each day, but can spend the rest of the time as they prefer, between reading and zen meditation. Bathing is forbidden as it debilitates the physic.

GIAPPONE_-_1111_-_Ascetismo.jpg