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在线下单,请日本僧侣上门做法事

更新时间:2016-9-23 10:07:21 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Japan’s Newest Technology Innovation: Priest Delivery
在线下单,请日本僧侣上门做法事

SAKAI, Japan — The stubble-haired Buddhist priest lit incense at a small, cupboardlike altar just as members of his order have done for centuries. As the priest chanted sutras, Yutaka Kai closed his eyes and prayed for his wife, who died last year of complications from a knee replacement.

日本堺市——那名光头的佛教僧侣按照他那一派的老规矩,在一个形似橱柜的小祭坛前焚香。在僧侣诵经时,甲斐裕(Yutaka Kai,音)闭上眼睛,为去年死于膝关节置换手术并发症的妻子祈祷。

Kai, 68, set aside his family’s devout Buddhism when he left his rural hometown decades ago to work in a tire factory. That meant Kai did not have a local temple to turn to for the first anniversary of his wife’s death, a milestone for Japanese Buddhists.

68岁的甲斐几十年前离开农村老家到一家轮胎厂上班时,把家族对佛教的虔诚信仰抛到了一边。这意味着,在他的妻子去世一周年之际——对日本佛教徒来说,这是很重要的一件事——他无法求助于当地庙宇。

Cue the internet. In modern Japan, a Buddhist priest can now be found just a few mouse clicks away, on Amazon.com.

那就求助于互联网吧。在现代的日本,只需点几下鼠标,就能在Amazon.com上找到一位做法事的和尚。

“It’s affordable, and the price is clear,” said Kai’s eldest son, Shuichi, 40. “You don’t have to worry about how much you’re supposed to give.”

“价格不贵,而且明码实价,”甲斐的大儿子、40岁的秀一(Shuichi,音)说。“你不必担心钱给多或者给少。”

The priest at Kai’s memorial, Junku Soko, is part of a controversial business that is disrupting traditional funeral arrangements in Japan. In a country where regulations and powerful interests have stymied much of the so-called gig economy — Uber, for instance, is barely a blip here — a network of freelancing priests is making gains in the unlikely sphere of religion.

僧侣底均库(Junku Soko,音)在甲斐举办的追悼仪式上做法事,是对日本传统葬礼安排的颠覆,因此充满争议。在这个国家,法规和巨大利益阻碍了很多所谓的零工经济——例如,Uber在这里仅是昙花一现——但是一个自由职业僧侣网络正不可思议地在宗教领域获利。

Their venture is viewed by some as unseemly, and it has drawn condemnation from Buddhist leaders. An umbrella group representing Japan’s many Buddhist sects complained publicly after Amazon began offering obosan-bin — priest delivery — on its Japanese site last year, in partnership with a local startup.

在有些人看来,他们这样做生意是不合适的,佛教领袖也对此提出谴责。在去年Amazon日本网站开始与当地一个初创公司合作提供僧侣上门服务之后,一个代表日本很多佛教派别的综合组织进行了公开抱怨。

But the priests and their backers say they are addressing real needs. They assert that obosan-bin is helping to preserve Buddhist traditions by making them accessible to the millions of people in Japan who have become estranged from the religion.

但是,那些僧侣及其支持者称,他们在满足现实需要。他们认为,僧侣上门服务通过为上千万与佛教疏远的日本人提供服务而有助于保护佛教传统。

“Temples will sell you 10 yen candles for 100 yen,” said Soko, 39. “They’re protecting their own interests.”

“寺庙会把10日元的蜡烛卖到100日元,”39岁的底说,“他们在保护自己的利益。”

Such arguments will be familiar to anyone who has watched e-commerce companies upend other parts of the economy, from book publishing to airlines, taxis and hotels.

任何观察过电子商务企业颠覆其他经济部门(从图书出版到航空公司、出租车和酒店)的人都熟悉这样的论点。

In Japan, even in areas far less sensitive than religion, newcomers often receive a chilly reception, and startups are rarer than in other, rich countries. Among the explanations are a scarcity of venture capital, the political clout wielded by established businesses and a culture that values stability over the creative destruction that drives growth in countries like the United States.

在日本,甚至在不像宗教那么敏感的领域,新来者往往受到冷遇,这里的初创企业比其他富裕国家要少得多。其中一些解释包括:缺乏风险资本;现有企业具有很强的政治势力;以及日本文化重视稳定多于创造性破坏,正是后者推动了美国等国的发展。

Yet religion may prove to be an exception. It is so opaque — and so removed from the day-to-day lives of many modern Japanese — that a little technological disruption may prove welcome.

不过,宗教可能会被证明是个例外。它非常不透明——远离很多现代日本人的日常生活——来一点技术破坏可能会受到欢迎。

The stakes are material as well as spiritual. As with religious institutions in many other countries, temples in Japan receive generous tax breaks.

利益争夺既有精神方面的,也有物质方面的。与很多其他国家的宗教机构一样,日本的寺庙享有慷慨的税收减免。

“If it becomes a fee for services instead of a donation, and the government says, ‘OK, we’re going to tax you like a regular business,’ how are we supposed to object?” said Hanyu Kakubo, a priest at the Japan Buddhist Federation, which opposes obosan-bin.

“如果它不再是捐赠,而是收取服务费的形式,那么政府会说,‘好吧,我们会像对普通公司那样向你们征税’,我们该怎么反对?”日本佛教协会(Japan Buddhist Federation)的僧侣夏久保判由(Hanyu Kakubo,音)说。该协会反对僧侣上门服务。

As with adherents of many religions, Buddhists typically give donations to priests for their services. Proponents of obosan-bin argue that conventional temples already operate like businesses — ones that put customers at a disadvantage though murky pricing. The amount is left up to the donor, a custom that leads many to overpay, Soko said.

与很多宗教的信徒一样,佛教徒一般为僧侣的服务布施。僧侣上门服务的支持者们认为,传统寺庙已经在像公司那样运作了——通过模糊定价将顾客置于不利地位。底说,捐多少钱由捐款者决定,这个习俗导致很多人花钱过多。

“They don’t want to make things clear,” he said.

“他们不想让事情透明化,”他说。

Much of the reaction in Japan to obosan-bin has been positive, for equally familiar reasons: It offers convenience and low, predictable prices.

日本人对僧侣上门服务的总体反应是正面的,因为同样令人熟悉的原因:它很方便,价格又低,而且价位可以预期。

“There has been fierce criticism from the Buddhist world, but these days many people are abandoning religious funerals altogether,” said Noriyuki Ueda, an anthropologist who studies Buddhism at Tokyo Institute of Technology. “At least people using obosan-bin think having a priest is necessary.”

“佛教界存在激烈的批评,不过如今,很多人完全放弃了佛教葬礼,”东京工业大学(Tokyo Institute of Technology)研究佛教的人类学家上田纪行(Noriyuki Ueda)说。“使用僧侣上门服务的人至少认为有个僧侣是必需的。”

Kakubo of the Buddhist federation conceded that many temples had done a poor job of adapting.

日本佛教协会的夏久保也承认,很多寺庙在与时俱进方面做得很差。

“We need to reflect on the fact that we’ve created this situation where people feel that they have to turn to the internet,” he said, adding: “Are we protecting our vested interests? Yes, obviously.”

“我需要反思一个事实:目前的情况是我们自己造成的,人们觉得不得不求助于互联网,”他说。他又表示:“我们在保护自己的既得利益吗?显然是。”

When Kai’s wife, Chieko, died, her funeral was held at a secular funeral parlor. But for the anniversary, Kai decided he wanted a priest.

甲斐的妻子千惠子去世时,她的葬礼在一个世俗殡仪馆举行。不过在一周年之际,甲斐想还是需要一个僧人。

“We had a big altar in the house where I grew up, but not here,” he said, gesturing around his small, tidy apartment in a public housing complex.

“我小时候家里有个很大的祭坛,但是这儿没有,”他指着自己位于一个公房公寓楼里的整洁的小公寓说道。

He said he rarely thought about religion until his wife’s death. In the years after World War II, rural dwellers like Kai poured into places like Sakai, an industrial suburb of Osaka. Relatively few bothered to put down new religious roots in the city.

他说,妻子去世前,自己很少想到宗教。在“二战”后的那些年里,甲斐这样的农村居民涌入堺市这样的地方。堺市是大阪的一个郊外工业区。几乎没人愿意在这座城市打下新的宗教根基。

Today, 70 percent of Japanese identify themselves in surveys as nonreligious or atheist though many said they still followed traditional religious customs such as going to a Shinto shrine at New Year or periodically visiting their ancestors’ graves.

如今,70%的日本人在调查中认为自己是无信仰者或无神论者,不过很多人说,他们依然遵循一些传统宗教习俗,比如在新年时去神社,或者定期祭拜祖先的坟墓。

Kai’s daughter-in-law found Minrevi’s website. Her only request was that the priest should belong to the order to which the Kai family had belonged in his hometown, in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku.

甲斐的儿媳发现了Minrevi网站。她唯一的要求就是这名僧人必须属于甲斐的家族在故乡所属的那个派别。甲斐的故乡是四国岛爱媛县。

Soko fit the bill. At the ceremony, which took place in Kai’s apartment, Soko delivered a short homily about faith and remembering the dead.

底符合这个条件。在甲斐的公寓里举行的仪式上,底发表了简短的信仰讲道,并追念死者。

The Kais seemed satisfied: They said they would request Soko for the next important death anniversary, in two years’ time.

甲斐的家人似乎很满意:他们说会在下一次重要周年时要求底主持——也就是在两周年时。

Soko said innovations like obosan-bin are vital to Buddhism’s survival. Most temples’ dues-paying congregations are shrinking as a result of social change and rural depopulation.

底说,僧侣上门服务这样的创新对于佛教的生存非常重要。由于社会变迁和农村人口的减少,大部分寺庙的香火钱变少了。

Incomes are shrinking, too. Revenue at temples and other religious institutions has fallen by a third in the last 20 years, mostly because of a drop in regular donations from long-term members, according to the government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs.

收入也在萎缩。据日本文化厅(Agency for Cultural Affairs)称,在过去20年里,寺庙和其他宗教机构的收入减少了三分之一,主要是因为长期教徒定期捐赠的减少。

“In the seminary, they teach you to chant sutras, but they don’t tell you anything about how to manage a temple,” Soko said. “We have to try new things.”

“在佛学院,他们教你诵经,但不告诉你任何关于寺庙管理的事,”底说道。“我们不得不尝试一些新事物。”

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