The two major religions in Japan are Shinto (the indigenous faith of the Japanese people) and Buddhism. Buddhism originated in India and apparently arrived in Japan via two routes, Korea and China. Buddhism came to Japan about 1500 years ago. Buddhism took some time to get a foothold in Japan because of its more complex theories. Today in Japan there are numerous sects and sub-sects of the religion. Like most, I am curious about the various religions in the world and surprised by some of the similarities.
Whilst in Japan, I had the great fortune to meet with Sato-san, a monk who is based in Nagoya. Sato-san spent a significant portion of his life working as a businessman overseas and has a good command of English. This fascinating man became a monk only after retiring from the business. I admired his determination to go through the stringent training at the age of 60 that even young men fail to handle. He has a wonderful sense of humour and his anecdotes about whilst he was in training are excellent entertainment. This learned man can talk with you on numerous subjects including comparison between Buddhism and other faiths such as Christianity and Islam. He even went so far as to point out components of other religions that he personally saw as particularly valuable.
Sato-san is an excellent communicator and sitting with him for just a short time he was able to put forward the basic beliefs of Buddhism in a way that were easy to grasp. Even though the religion is thousands of years old, he used current everyday way of life as examples to communicate his thoughts and ideas.
I have been to what seems to be innumerable temples in Japan but the opportunity to have this fascinating man walk me around the monastery was unforgettable. The space assigned to each trainee monk is literally too small for today’s taller Japanese man to stretch out. Having Sato-san explain some of the scripts as we walked added yet another dimension.