And you probably thought Buddhism was a boring religion, didn’t you?

Buddhism in Japan has many sects, but most are based on the idea that one can achieve Nirvana and become one with the universe by living a modest and selfless life, letting go of worldly thoughts and desires.

Some might assume that means that in order to really be practicing the religion, you have to become a monk, living a simple life of nothing but daily rituals and ascetic meditation. So you might not expect one night of Buddhist memorial services to be filled with loud music, dancing lights, and drone shows, would you?

Perhaps you should think again.

The above video is from Ryuganji Temple in Kyoto, whose “Techno Memorials” included a drone show with floating Buddhas, techno music curated by a live DJ, flashing lights, and even a live performance from Pure Land idol group Tera*Palms, all in the name of achieving Enlightenment.

▼ A video of the drones taken by a spectator

This kind of scene might seem completely out-of-place in a Buddhist Temple, which usually would be a place of quiet and meditation. But this temple is of the sect called Pure Land Buddhism, in which the main belief is that you don’t have to live an austere life or endure long rituals to achieve Nirvana. According to Pure Land Buddhism, it doesn’t matter how you behave in this life, because the world is corrupt, and you can’t attain Enlightenment while you live on this plane anyway.

The goal instead is to be reborn into the Pure Land, where it is much easier to attain enlightenment. All you have to do to get into the Pure Land is simply chant the name of the “Namu Amida Butsu” (or Amitabha Buddha in English) while visualizing him, his bodhisattvas, and the Pure Land, or concentrating on his virtues. You don’t even have to chant out loud, or use any tools; simply having faith in him can be enough.

▼ A light show complemented by techno music

There’s one sutra in Pure Land Buddhism that says “In this world, ten days and ten nights of benevolence is more precious than 1,000 years of benevolence in the land of Buddha”, so every year in October and November, Pure Land Buddhist temples celebrate Juya Hoyo (十夜法要), a ten-night festival of memorial services. And with Pure Land Buddhism’s relatively relaxed approach to Nirvana, it’s no surprise that Ryuganji Temple’s Juya Hoyo festival would use modern technologies to host a Techno Memorial night.

▼ Pure Land Buddhist idol group Tera*Palms

The spectacle is not just a show, however; there’s rhyme and reason to it. The music contains what sounds like the chanting of a sutra, and the lights and drone shows could be a visual representation of the Pure Land, much like how a mandala is a symbolic picture of the universe in Tibetan Buddhism. The idol group, Tera*Palms, is also a group whose concept is to “practice Buddhism together with their fans”, and their performances incorporate Buddhist sutras and traditional arts.

It could also be a method for Ryuganji Temple to attract younger audiences by utilizing modern technology and popular culture. Other temples have been steadily modernizing their practices, like offering digital purification fires, in order to keep up with the modern world, and Pure Land Buddhism might have an advantage in that with its rejection of ascetic practice. Since this particular approach seemed to be pretty popular, based on its buzz on social media, it’s likely that we’ll be seeing more of this kind of religious practice in the future!

Reference: Ryuganji Temple Official Page, BBC Religions, Tera*Palms Official Page
Source: Twitter/@goamigo0226 via Golden Times
Top image: YouTube/Ryuganji Santetsusan