JAPAN - Temple Puts Faith in Robot Priest

Arno Froese

A 400-year-old temple in Japan is attempting to hot-wire interest in Buddhism with a robotic priest it believes will change the face of the religion—despite critics comparing the android to “Frankenstein’s monster.”

The android Kannon, based on the Buddhist deity of mercy, preaches sermons at Kodaiji temple in Kyoto, and its human colleagues predict that with artificial intelligence it could one day acquire unlimited wisdom.

“This robot will never die, it will just keep updating itself and evolving,” priest Tensho Goto told AFP.

“That’s the beauty of a robot. It can store knowledge forever and limitlessly.”

Developed at a cost of almost $1m in a joint project between the Zen temple and renowned robotics professor Hiroshi Ishiguro at Osaka University, the humanoid—called Mindar—teaches about compassion and of the dangers of desire, anger and ego.

“This robot teaches us ways to overcome pain,” Goto said. “It is here to save anyone who seeks help.”

The pious droid delivers sermons from the Heart Sutras in Japanese, with translations in English and Chinese projected onto a screen for foreign visitors.

“The goal of Buddhism is to ease suffering,” said Goto. “Modern society brings other kinds of stress, but the goal hasn’t really changed for over 2,000 years.”

A recent Osaka University survey showed a wide range of feedback from those who have seen the android at work, with many expressing surprise at how “human” it looked.

“Westerners have been the most upset by the robot,” said Goto, noting largely positive feedback from Japanese visitors.

“It could be the influence of the Bible, but Westerners have compared it to Frankenstein’s monster,” he added.

“Japanese people don’t possess any prejudices against robots. We were brought up on comics where robots are our friends. Westerners think differently.”

Goto denies accusations that Kodaiji, recently visited by French President Emmanuel Macron, is guilty of sacrilege.

“Obviously a machine doesn’t have a soul,” he said.

“But Buddhist faith isn’t about believing in God. It’s about following Buddha’s path, so it doesn’t matter whether it is represented by a machine, a scrap of iron or a tree.”

-news.yahoo.com, 14 August 2019

Arno's commentary

Japan, like virtually all of the super-rich countries, has one of the best report cards in the world. Life expectancy stands at 85.5 years, with only 2 deaths per 1,000 live births (infant mortality). Clean drinking water: 100%; sanitation facility coverage: 100%. Trade balance: exports of $688 billion, to imports of $644 billion. When it comes to religion, Christianity is listed at only 1.5%. Japan is leading the world when it comes to robotic technology; in this case, a Buddhist idol built by man’s hand and ingenuity.

Matthew 6:7 reads: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” In this case, a mere automaton is programmed to fulfill the rote traditions of an empty religion.

One thing that caught our eyes was the statement: “This robot will never die…It can store knowledge forever.” That will not happen, because Scripture clearly predicts that all things will come to an end, which incidentally is now supported by many scientists.

Revelation 9:20: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk.” That describes the end stages of the end times, when judgment will come directly from God. Then no computer, no artificial intelligence, no scientist, no genius will be able to help.

We do well to keep ourselves strictly to Scripture and its conclusion that all the world will be judged, and there is no escape in any way, shape, or form except through faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

Read more from this author

ContactAbout UsPrivacy and Safety