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Brain Death

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Situation Former study
Details This was the first in the series of meetings convened by the Institute for Zen Studies in which the officials in charge of educational affairs at the Ōbaku and various Rinzai headquarters met together to discuss current issues relevant to the religious concerns of Japanese Buddhism. In this initial series the issue of brain death, with the critical questions it poses to medical ethics, was discussed over the course of seven meetings held from July 1991 to March 1992. Central questions were considered, such as “Does brain death constitute the death of the person?”; “Organ transplant: What comprises ‘life’ in a person?”; “Brain death and organ transplant: The narrow gap between life and death”; “Religion (Zen) and the problem of brain death: Perspectives on discussing and elucidating the nature of the problem.” Lectures were also heard from Ōmine Akira, Prof. of the Philosophy of Religion at Osaka University; Nagura Michitaka, Prof. of Sociology at Ryūkoku Univ.; and Hirata Seikō, Zen master at Tenryū-ji.

Summary of Meetings
First meeting: July 19, 1991. A discussion of current views on brain death and organ transplantation in the medical field and in public opinion.
Second meeting: August 19, 1991. Discussions of whether brain death constitutes death of the human organism; of organ transplantation and the problem of what constitutes life for a human being; of the narrow divide between life and death and how it relates to the issues of brain death and organ transplantation; of the appropriate position on Zen with regard to brain death.
Third meeting: September 30, 1991. A lecture on issues relating to brain death, by Prof. Ōmine Akira of the Nishi Hongan-ji school of Pure Land Buddhism, Osaka University, and the Osaka University Medical School.
Fourth meeting: October 24, 1991. A lecture on issues relating to brain death, by Prof. Nagura Michitaka of the Ryūkoku University Department of Sociology.
Fifth meeting: November 22, 1991. A lecture on brain death from the standpoint of Zen, by Rev. Hirata Seikō, Chief Abbot of Tenryū-ji, Director and Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Zen Studies.
Sixth meeting: January 30, 1992. A reassessment of the problems relating to brain death and organ transplantation based on the three lectures and on the Japanese government’s recently released report of the Japanese government’s Special Commission on Brain Death. The participants discussed how members of the Zen clergy might best respond to the complex personal and social questions connected with these issues.
Seventh meeting: March 2, 1992. A discussion of the central issues that emerged during the course of the meetings and provisional conclusions.
A summary of the meetings and discussions is provided here; some conclusions are discussed here.
Name of group
leader and members
Itō Kandō 伊藤貫道, Director of Educational Affairs, Hōkō-ji
Kagawa Kankō  香川寛光, Director of Educational Affairs, Butsū-ji
Kakimi Soryū 垣見祚隆, Director of Educational Affairs, Eigen-ji
Kawamoto Hakumei  川本博明, Director of Educational Affairs, Kennin-ji
Kitamura Sōkiku  北村 宗掬, Proselytizer, Kenchō-ji
Gotō Tenshō  後藤典生, Director, Rinzai School Union of Proselytizers
Suko Bien  須古美延, Director of Educational Affairs, Nanzen-ji
Tahara Gisen  田原義宣, Director of Educational Affairs, Tenryū-ji
Hiratsuka Keidō 長谷川 義恒, Director of Educational Affairs, Shōkoku-ji
Maeda Shōdō 前田昌道, Director of Educational Affairs, Daitoku-ji
Morii Kōdō 盛井幸道, Director of Educational Affairs, Manpuku-ji
Yokota Sōchū 横田宗忠, Proselytizer, Myōshin-ji
Kichida Kōdō  吉田幸道, Rinzai School Young Monks’ Association
Watanabe Kandō 渡辺寛道, Staff member, Center for the Advancement of the Myōshin-ji School
Imaizumi Motoji 今泉元司, Professor at Ehime Univ.
Horio Tsutomu 堀尾 孟, Professor of Philosophy, Ōtani Univ. (Group leader)
The Staff of the Institute for Zen Studies