Thousands of Japanese make a smooth transition from Zen to Jain | India News
Wrapped in a white loin cloth, they sing the navkar mantra, follow the dietary self-denial, wake up with the sun, consume only warm water, meditate for hours in the derasars (Jain temple) and dine before the sunsets. Thousands of Japanese are turning to Jainism. In addition to living as cunning Jainists, their calendars are marked for an annual pilgrimage to India, where they spend weeks studying Jain writing with scholarly monks.
The charming city of Naganoken, home of the 7th-century Zenko-ji temple with a hidden Buddha, sees hundreds of Japanese citizens travel to Palitana and Shankheswar to embrace Jainism every year. Churushi Miyazawa arrived as a traveler in 2005 and her first encounter with Gachadhipati Swargiya Jayantsen Suriswarji Maharaj Saheb, a high-ranking monk, enchanted her in religion. Such was the appeal that he decided to get rid of his past, lead a minimalist life, give up the comforts he drenched before and swear to live like a Jain.
Thus was born Tulsi. Churushi wanted to take deeksha (resignation) and did not accept opposition. “My guru entrusted me with a bigger task: spreading Jainism in Japan. Every month since then, I have traveled to India four or five times a year with hundreds of Japanese who are ready to embrace Jainism, “Tulsi told TOI from Japan. After Naganoken, the popularity of Jainism is also spreading in Osaka and Tokyo.
Not only thousands of Japanese have turned to Jainism, but many are preparing to take on the monk. Under conventional practice, the initiation into the monk comes after immense training. The initiates live with monks in temples and the preparatory phase can last between six months and 10 years, says Babulal Jain-Ujwal, a true source of information about Jainism.
Just a month ago, 2,500 Japanese traveled to Tharad in northern Gujarat and spent a week there with the disciples of Jayant Sensuriswarji Maharaj Saheb. “There are a lot of Japanese who come here in large numbers. They follow all our rules, they pray with us, they eat Satvik food before the sun sets, they mediate and return home to follow the same lifestyle in which we induce them, “says Nityasen Suriswarji Maharaj Saheb.
Next week, too, if travel restrictions are relaxed, another group of Japanese citizens will travel to Gujarat. To understand the complexities of religious texts, most of them are also taking tutorials in Hindi, says Jain-Ujwal. “A new temple is being planned in Japan and we are now told that there are more than 5,000 families newly incorporated to Jainism,” he adds.
The Japanese also follow the sacred eight-day Paryushan festival. “There they fast for eight days (atthai) simply by drinking warm water. Even the children follow Paryushan and keep fasting for a day or two, ”says Tusi. “The appeal of ahimsa or nonviolence proposed by Jainism has found a connection with all of us.”