Mizuko Kuyo and Japanese Buddhism

In Japan, abortion was enacted to be legal since 1949. Then onwards, abortion is culturally accepted as a social necessity to combat the issues of overpopulation and shifts in values. However, this brings endless pain to the parents and families. In an effort to address such parental grief, the need for Mizuko Kuyo arises.

Mizuko Kuyo (水子供養) means "water child memorial service". It is a Japanese Buddhism ritual for deceased fetus or stillborn child. The ceremony is affiliated with Buddhism through its observance in traditional Buddhist temples, chanting of Buddhist sutra such as Heart Sutra led by Buddhist priest and use of Bodhisattva Jizo (Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition) image tonsured, draped in robes and in meditative states. During the ritual, the mourning parents would venerate Bodhisattva Jizo, in the hope that the child is in good hands.

Abortion is a breach of the first precept of not taking life. However, Buddhism in Japan is said to be more tolerant of abortion. This leads to discussions and voices raising concerns that shouldn't it be the duty of religion to bring abortion under control?

On the positive side, it is said that Japanese Buddhism accepted that abortion is part of life and is a form of suffering as stated in Four Noble Truth. They respond to social needs and place more emphasis on the state of mind of parents. The priests tend the matters with compassion; they recites sutras, counsels the family, give reminders the grave consequences of abortions and warns them about future abortions. It is important to repent for past sins and be determined not to repeat it.