Inspired by the spiritual thought of Jainism, thousands of Japanese have turned towards the Indian origin religion and are living like astute Jains, apart from marking their calendars for an annual pilgrimage to India where they spend weeks studying Jain script under learned monks, reports Times of India.
Reportedly, the town of Naganoken, home to the seventh century Zenko-Ji temple with a hidden Buddha, sees hundreds of Japanese nationals travel to Palitana and Shankheswar in Gujarat to embrace Jainism every year.
Devotees wrapped in a white loincloth, chant the navkar mantra, follow dietary self-abnegation, wake up with the sun, consume only warm water, meditate for hours at derasars in Japan (Jain temple) and dine before the sunsets.
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A traveller named Churushi Miyazawa came to India in 2005 and in her first meeting with Gachadhipati Swargiya Jayantsen Suriswarji Maharaj Saheb, a senior monk, she was inspired by the charm of the religion. With that, she has now decided to shed her past, lead a minimalistic life, give up the comforts she earlier soaked in and vow to live like a Jain.
Churushi, who has changed her name as Tulsi, wanted to take Deeksha (renunciation). “My guru entrusted me with a bigger task: To spread Jainism across Japan. Every month, since then I have been travelling to India four to five times a year with hundreds of Japanese who are ready to embrace Jainism,” Tulsi said.
After Naganoken, the popularity of Jainism is spreading in Osaka and Tokyo too. Not only have thousands of Japanese turned to Jainism, but many are taking up monkhood. Under normal practice, initiation into monkhood comes after immense training. The initiates live with monks in temples and the preparatory phase can last anywhere between six months and 10 years, says Babulal Jain-Ujwal, an expert in Jainism.
Just a month ago, 2,500 Japanese travelled to Tharad in northern Gujarat and spent a week there with the disciples of Jayant Sensuriswarji Maharaj Saheb.
“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 Saheb.
Another group of Japanese nationals is expected to travel to Gujarat next week. The Japanese are also taking Hindi tutorials to understand the intricacies of the religious texts, said Jain-Ujwal.
“A new temple is being planned in Japan and now we are told there are more than 5,000 families are newly inducted into Jainism,” he added.
The Japanese follow the eight-day holy festival of Paryushan too. “There they fast for eight days (atthai) by merely consuming warm water. Even children follow Paryushan and keep fasts for a day or two,” said Tusi.
“The appeal of ahimsa or non-violence propounded by Jainism has found a connection with all of us,” added Tulsi.
Buddhism, another Indian origin religion, is a major religion in Japan, and it has the second-highest number of followers in the country after Shintoism.