Trance inducing electronic beats and psychedelic lights, two things that people wouldn’t normally associate with Buddhist temples. However, thanks to a former DJ turned Buddhist priest, that may be about to change.
In an effort to attract more visitors and have people take an interest in Buddhism Shō-onji (照恩寺), a Pure Land Buddhism temple in Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture, has begun offering “techno memorial services.” These unique services blend the electronic sound of techno music with the traditional music and chanting used in typical Buddhist memorial services. It also features some amazing multicolored lighting and Buddhism inspired CG-imagery that are, for lack of a better word, trippy. You can check out a video of one of these ceremonies below, just make sure to dim the lights and open your mind before you watch in order to get the most out of this mind-altering experience.
This surreal take on the traditional Buddhist memorial service is the brainchild of Gyōsen Asakura, the 49-year old chief priest at Shō-onji, who in his 20s worked as a DJ and also has experience working with lighting.
As for why exactly Asakura decided to go this route with the memorial ceremonies offered at his temple, he gives the following explanation.
Buddhism says “The Pure Land (a heaven-like celestial realm) is a world of light.” It is said people used to use the most advanced technologies available to them at the time in order to ornament temples with gold leaf and thus recreate this “world of light.” What I want to do with this project is use lighting and contemporary technology in order to make it possible for people to get a more accurate image of what Lord Buddha’s world looks like.
Overall, people, both young and old have reacted very positively to Asakura’s update to this Buddhist tradition. Even Asakura’s father, the former chief priest of the Fukui temple, has expressed his support for Asakura’s project.
To date the techno memorial service has only been held twice, once in May and once in October of last year. However, Asakura seems to have every intention of continuing to improve and raise awareness of his unique project. Currently, Asakura is raising funds via the crowdfunding site Readyfor. The funds will be used to acquire better equipment which will be used in future memorial services. His current goal, which he has already met, is 300,000 yen (about US$2684).
The next techno memorial service is currently scheduled for May 3, 2017, so if you happen to be in the Fukui area around that time you may want to stop by Shō-onji and get your mind blown.