In an effort to draw new converts, a group of Japanese monks has turned to an oddly un-Buddhist method: alcohol and rap. Calling the strategy “Buddhism 2010,” monk Kansho Tagai, who is content to be known by his new street name, Mr. Happiness, says that Japanese Buddhism is in crisis, and delivering sutras to a hip hop beat is the answer. “Getting the young people back to religion is the key to Buddhism’s survival,” Tagai tells CNN.
Tagai’s strategy, which includes hip hop shows at the temple, seems to be working: “Twice as many people, especially the young, are now visiting the temple,” he says. The monks have even opened a bar called, imaginatively enough,The Monk Bar, where young adults can relax, talk about their problems, and be soothed with Buddhist texts, along with the house special called “Heaven.”