The Technological Objects Of Japanese Buddhism Essay

The Technological Objects Of Japanese Buddhism Essay

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Although industrial robots no longer receive the attention they once did, robotics and the robots themselves remain closely tied to the sacred. While the robots working in manufacturing plants may no longer be consecrated, roboticists at Junji Furusho’s lab at the Osaka University Department of Computer-Controlled Mechanical systems drape a demon mask over the head of their biped robot (Motohiro). Shinto priests no longer receive invitations to a robot’s first day of work but a robot at the Central Cemetery in Yokohama, Japan does its own consecrating. Shaped like a human, the machine is lowered into the prayer hall every morning to chant Buddhist prayers on behalf of human beings. If a robot can build merit for human beings, perhaps one day it will earn merit for itself; engineer Masahiro Mori believes that “robots have the Buddha-nature within them—that is, the potential for attaining buddhahood” (Terry).
Technological objects have a history of sacred activity in Japanese Buddhism. Just as Shinto priests officiated at the sanctification of industrial robots, Buddhist monks lead consecrations at the demise of everyday objects. Annual rituals exist, for example, for discarded dolls and printing blocks, both of which possess life and the potential for Buddhahood. These objects share their “life” with humanity and their memorialization promotes their peaceful integration into the cosmic Buddha (Terry). The Japanese possess a nearly unshakable faith in the power of technology to benefit human life, which leads to their welcome of both industrial and entertainment machines. The popularity of the humanoid robots demonstrates the Japanese fondness for humanity; there is no trace of the disdain so prevalent in the soteriological promise...


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...he glorification of the humanoid robot in Japan. Popular science publications provide an excellent opportunity to examine the relationship between science, our view of the natural world, and religion. Just as robot stories are “interfaces between culture and science” scientific robot publications mediate between our view of the natural world and our culture (Becker). In their accounts of cyborg research, scientists can and will express the religious worlds that contribute to the direction of their paradigms. While many of the individuals come from different backgrounds, religion maintains some power over their work. No amount of materialist scientific practice will eliminate the cultural grounds of the human person; the religious environment in which one is raised and trained contributes to the ways in which the person will see the natural world and practice science.

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