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Buddhist monks dispense wisdom online

KYOTO >> When people have troubles and concerns, they often turn to spiritual advisers. In Japan, many families belong to a Buddhist temple that they have been connected with for generations.

However, with that long and revered system now in decline, a new form of connection is catching on that allows for easy connection between Buddhist monks and those in need of spiritual help.

And it all takes place online.

Hey!Bouz, created in 2019 in Kyoto by IT company V-Crews, offers registered users an introduction to a monk. The word “bouz” comes from “bozu,” the Japanese term for monk.

Members can request an introduction, inquire about fees and schedule a time to meet. Consultations can be in-person at temples or take place online.

Currently, about 30 monks of various sects — from temples primarily in Kyoto, but also in Osaka and other prefectures — have registered, and about 200 people have used the service thus far.

“I was able to dispel the stereotype that monks are inaccessible,” one member shared. Another said that “I couldn’t talk to my family or friends about it, but I could talk to the monk.”

As parishioners have left their temples, the temples have been faced with more and more people moving away from Buddhism. Hey!Bouz has offered a way for Buddhist monks to continue to practice their craft.

Junzan Makino, a 51-year-old priest at Choraku Temple in Kyoto, registered with the service more than two years ago and has been counseling men and women in their 30s to 60s on such topics as interpersonal relationships and raising children.

He said he had felt that his connection with the general public had been weakening with the times.

“I try to listen to people in a quiet environment and allow them to organize their thoughts,” said Makino. “Some people visit the temple casually even after consultation. I feel that a new relationship with the public is being born.”

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