Are you someone who thinks that mediation requires silence and eyes closed to any outside stimulation to be effective? Or have you ever tried meditating to music? How about meditating to techno music: the fast-tempo, rhythmic, electronic music more commonly associated with the disco than with states of contemplation?
Well, that is what Japanese Buddhist priest Gyōsen Asakura is doing to revive attendance at his Fukui City’s Shō-onji temple. It appears that the US is not the only country in which attendance at religious institutions (at least, among Christian churches) has declined dramatically from a generation ago. According to Craig Lewis of Buddhistdoor, 27,000 of the country’s 77,000 Buddhist temples are expected to close over the next 25 years, due to lower participation rates in religious institutions and a declining population in rural areas (434 temples have already closed in the past decade).
Asakura is trying to address that in his temple by introducing techno music, combined with traditional Buddhist chants and accompanied by psychedelic lightshows and Buddhism-inspired computer graphic imagery, into occasional services. According to Asakura, he is only following an ancient Buddhist teaching that “The Pure Land is a world of light.” While Buddhist temples have always incorporated light in its ceremonies, in the form of candles, they have generally not included electricity or other modern technologies. So Asakura believes he is merely bringing traditional Buddhist practices into the 21st Century.
So, you might be wondering….just how does a Japanese priest stumble onto techno music as a technique to turn more young people onto Buddhism? Well, it turns out that Gyōsen Asakura, prior to becoming a priest, was actually a DJ in Japanese clubs.
Which is why it is so great to follow your bliss. It may lead you to unexpected places!
There are some videos of these services on YouTube (naturally), so I tried meditating with them before writing this post. I’ve meditated both to just the music and also while watching the video on my computer. For me…..THIS TOTALLY WORKS! Yes, I was a bit dubious when I read about meditating to club music. But I found the music alone to be relaxing without being…what is a good euphemism for boring?…so repetitive or expected that my surface mind loses interest and starts engaging in its chatter thinking. And the video? I find it mesmerizing! The lights are so beautiful and so integrated with the music, so my surface mind is wrapped up in that without diminishing my higher/connected mind’s ability to seek guidance. Actually, I really love it. Things might change as I play it more times and it becomes more familiar, but for right now, it brings a new approach to my meditation. So I’m grateful to Gyōsen Asakura for expanding my meditation horizons.
Check it out yourself in the video below: