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An Interview with Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD) from The University of Kitakyushu, Japan.

20/07/202320:51(Xem: 457)
An Interview with Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD) from The University of Kitakyushu, Japan.

Kiyofuji Ryushun (35)

An Interview with Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD),

Center for International Education and Exchange,
The University of Kitakyushu, Japan.


During his recent visit to Melbourne, Australia to attend the Conference on Sociology, at the Melbourne Convention Centre. Professor Dr. Ryushun Kiyofuji visited Quang Duc Monastery, 30 minutes from downtown Melbourne. On this occasion, I had the chance to interview him about the current situation of Buddhism in Japan.


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 On behalf of Quang Duc Monastery and Quang Duc Buddhist Website, I would like to welcome you and hope you had a good trip to Australia. Please introduce yourself, your background, family, education and your future role as the 15th Abbot of your family temple.


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): I am a senior lecturer in Kitakyushu University in Japan. I was born the first son of my mother and father, the 14th priest/monk in my family Buddhist temple, Tokoji Temple, in Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan. After I graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo, I entered the Buddhist priesthood in a sect of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha. After 10 years’ experience as a high school teacher I got my M.A. in SOAS at the University of London in the UK and a Ph.D. at the Kyushu University in Japan. While I mainly work as a teacher, I have supported my father as a monk. I will take over my temple in about 5 years as the 15th Abbot of my family temple. I would like to manage my family temple and continue to be a researcher in Kitakyushu University simultaneously.?


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 Tell us where and when was the first time you were aware that you are a Buddhist and what do you think about it?


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): Since I was born, I spent every day at the temple and since I was in kindergarten, I have been chanting sutras with my family and other believers in front of the Buddha in the main hall. So, I naturally felt that I am a Buddhist from when I was an elementary school student. Also, by regularly listening to a monk telling stories about Buddhism and the salvation of Buddha, I came to feel that I was always protected by Buddha from an early age. 


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 When was your temple established and what are the activities of your temple?

Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): Our family temple was built about 400 years ago in the Edo period governed by Tokugawa Shogunate. At that time, partly due to national policy, all Japanese citizens became parishioners of local temples, and the temples held funerals and Buddhist memorial services for those families. After that, some families changed to a religion other than Buddhism, but basically this tradition still continues. In addition, as a hub of the community in the area around the temple, it has also played the role of a community centre, and before the school system was established, it played the role of a school and taught reading and writing at the temple.


Kiyofuji Ryushun-18 (3)
 Vesak Day held in my temple ((東迎寺), We and the students of my university organized an fan event for my local people in that day

Kiyofuji Ryushun-18 (2)
Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun gave a lecture of Buddhism at his temple.

Kiyofuji Ryushun-18 (1)
Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun and his parents. 


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 What do you think about the new Japanese Buddhism movement and that the monks can get married and maintain the temple?


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): I think that it is an important matter for the priest of a temple to get married, and to have children to succeed him, in order to ensure that the place of faith is maintained by the believers. A place called a temple where Buddha resides, needs to be inherited by someone. In the 13th century, the holy person Shinran, a founder of a sect of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, got married for the first time as a Buddhist monk. He got married so that he could prove by himself, that in Buddhism all people are saved equally as they are. Knowing well the limits of the human being, he made it clear that it is the heart of the Buddha to save such people without abandoning them. 


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 May you share with us the training process for a lay person to become a monk in Japan?


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): There are many sects in Japan, and each sect has its own way of becoming a Buddhist monk. It is difficult to give a specific number as it varies from denomination to denomination. In order to become a monk, it is first necessary to enter the Buddhist priesthood. Before you can participate in the training, you need permission and must earn the required credits at a particular educational institution or pass an exam to participate in the training. As for other sects, training is not only for becoming a monk, but for aiming at enlightenment of the Buddha, so it is said that the real thing is after becoming a monk.


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 How do you conduct your Buddhist studies and Buddhist practices in your daily life?


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): I'm still a university teacher, not a temple priest, and I don't live in a temple yet. However, I have a Buddha shrine in a room in my apartment and recite sutras every morning and evening. In the sect I belong to, it is important to put your hands together and chant "Namu Amida Butsu.", meaning "I believe in Amida Buddha, I appreciate Amida Buddha." 


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 May you let us know, briefly, about the current situation of Buddhist temples in Japan (how many Buddhist organizations and activities which your temple is involved in)


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD):  There are currently 13 sects of Buddhism in Japan. They are (from the oldest):

  1. Hosso sect, (法相宗)
  2. Kegon sect,(華厳宗)
  3. Ritsu sect, (律宗)
  4. Tendai sect,(天台宗)
  5. Shingon sect,(真言宗)
  6. Yuzu Nenbutsu sect,(融通念仏宗)
  7. Jodo sect, (浄土宗)
  8. Jodo Shinshu sect, (浄土真宗)
  9. Ji sect, (時宗)
  10. Rinzai sect, (臨済宗)
  11. Soto sect, (曹洞宗)
  12. Obaku sect, (黄檗宗)
  13. Nichiren sect,(日蓮宗)


Regarding the Jodo Shinshu sect, each temple has created various organizations to spread Buddhism to men and women of all ages, such as the Buddhist Men's Association, the Buddhist Women's Association, the Buddhist Youth Association, and the Buddhist Boys' Association. 



Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 How does Buddhism affect the young and scholars at the moment, especially the Buddhist research movement in Japan?


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD):

Unfortunately, young people are moving away from Buddhism and few young people are aware of the need for religion and temples. However, the problem of the heart is not solved. Temples need to be made more accessible by creating an atmosphere that makes it easier for young people to visit, holding events and so on.


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 How are Buddhist Ethnic groups (especially Vietnamese) in Japan and your temple?


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): There are Vietnamese temples in the metropolitan area because the metropolitan area has been populated by Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s. However, in recent years, the number of young people such as Vietnamese technical intern trainees has increased rapidly in rural areas. Since there were no surveys on how Vietnamese Buddhists practice, where there are no temples, I conducted a fact-finding survey. As a result, I found out that the Vietnamese have been living a lonely life in places where there is no Vietnamese temple. Recently, an increasing number of Japanese temples have been creating an environment that makes it easy for foreign Buddhists, such as Vietnamese, to access. My family temple also recently held an event for Vietnamese Buddhists. For Vietnamese Buddhists, of course, it would be best to have a Vietnamese-style with a Vietnamese monk, but in areas where there is no such temple, I think it is necessary for a Japanese temple to take over as an alternative.


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:

 After, Is Buddhism still exist in Japan Universities?


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): We can study Buddhism at nearly 20 universities. Until near the end of World War II, these universities were for those who wanted to become a Buddhist monk. But now the doors are wide open, and these universities also now have departments other than Buddhism. In addition, there are more than 30 universities that are run by Buddhist temples, but it is not always possible to study Buddhism. 


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng: Importantly, The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is a global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused 691,724,012 Coronavirus Cases and 6,900,712 people death. What is your point of view (Buddhism) about Covid-19?


Senior Lecturer Kiyofuji Ryushun (PhD): After covid-19, I think we need Buddhism more than ever. I think that the number of people who have absolutely no connection with others, or who cannot form relationships with others, has increased, and the number of people who suffer from loneliness is also increasing. That is beyond the power of science. In order to build connections between people, it is necessary to increase opportunities for local people to gather at Buddhist temples, and I think we should listen to Buddhism together and learn how to live a good life.


Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tạng:  Thank you very much for your time.


The interview conducted at Quang Duc Monastery, Melbourne, Australia
Quang Duc Monastery, Melbourne, Australia
Thursday, June 29, 2023

Photos: Thich Dang Tu & Thien Phuoc

(Vietnamese vesion of this interview)



Some photos of Senior Lecturer Ryushun Kiyofuji
at Quang Duc Monastery, Melbourne, Australia
Thursday, June 29, 2023

Kiyofuji Ryushun (4)Kiyofuji Ryushun (5)Kiyofuji Ryushun (5-)Kiyofuji Ryushun (10)Kiyofuji Ryushun (13)Kiyofuji Ryushun (14)Kiyofuji Ryushun (17)Kiyofuji Ryushun (20)Kiyofuji Ryushun (31)Kiyofuji Ryushun (35)Kiyofuji Ryushun (36)Kiyofuji Ryushun (38)Kiyofuji Ryushun (40)Kiyofuji Ryushun (42)Kiyofuji Ryushun (44)Kiyofuji Ryushun (45)Kiyofuji Ryushun (46)

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