Uehiro Project 2: Traditional Wisdom and Ethical Thought

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A Study on Spirituality, Happiness, and Ethics in Asia and Japan


Lead Researcher
Seiji Kumagai, Associate Professor, IFoHS


Since the Industrial Revolution, humanity has made great strides in science and economics. In particular, Japan has become one of the world’s leading economic powers through its rapid economic growth after World War II. By virtue of that, our lives have become more convenient, the options in our lives have increased, and we can enjoy great material wealth. The economy, science, and technology have continued to develop, informatization and internationalization have advanced, and diverse lifestyles and values have appeared.

On the other hand, explosive developments in science and technology have led to nuclear wars and accidents, rapid globalization has disrupted traditions, and excessive information has complicated people’s life plans. In this way, people’s worries have deepened. As a result, although society is rich and convenient, the difficulty of living has been increasing, and there are no signs that this trend will stop. In order to overcome these difficulties, it is necessary to reconsider “the path of a good life (ethics),” that is, how it will be possible to live a happy life, and how to translate this into social practice.

Although it is difficult to investigate and respond to the situations of all citizens individually, traditional values and ethics that have been shared across time, regions, ages, and genders may be universal enough to bring happiness to humanity in future societies (at least in part).

Considering this context, the purpose of this project is to systematize the traditional spirituality, sense of happiness, and sense of ethics of Japan and neighboring Asian countries, and to apply and return them to today’s society, thereby contributing to the construction of happier lives and societies.


Research Projects

A. Traditional Spirituality and Ethics in Japan and Asia
Japan has become an affluent and convenient society through rapid economic growth since the end of World War II, but the difficulty of living in a society with disparities is increasing. In order to overcome these difficulties, it is necessary to reconsider “the path of a good life (ethics),” that is, how it will be possible to live a happy life, and to translate this into social practice. This project aims to elucidate the traditional spirituality and ethics of Japan and Asia by focusing on Buddhist cultural areas in South Asia, the Tibetan and Himalayan regions, and East Asian countries.

B. Research on Ethical and Religious Views that Support Gross National Happiness (GNH)
The international community has become increasingly aware of happiness in recent years. We can see a notable example in the adoption of the International Day of Happiness (March 20) by the United Nations in 2012. As part of the background for this change, we cannot overlook the growing international interest in Bhutan’s “Gross National Happiness” policy (GNH). Research on GNH has been promoted from the viewpoints of economics and development. However, the fact that the basis of GNH policy originates in a unique religious ethic deeply rooted in Bhutan has been overlooked. In light of the situation mentioned above, this project will focus on “Gross National Happiness” and examine the reality of the ethical and religious views that form the foundation of this policy from multiple perspectives, not only in Bhutan, but also in the Tibetan and Himalayan cultural spheres as a whole. In addition, this project will also include a comparative study with the religious ethics and spiritual culture of Japan.

C. Discussion of the Development of Traditional Wisdom Technologies and their Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI)
Since modern times, science, capitalist economics, and Western knowledge have been emphasized, while traditional Japanese and Asian wisdom has been neglected and thought of as outdated information. However, the impasse in science, capitalism, and Western thinking has led to a need for a new direction. This project focuses on the “traditional wisdom” that has been accumulated by humankind over a long period of time and will create new technologies by integrating traditional wisdom and science, aiming to contribute to human happiness and peace. Moreover, we will advance the study of technology development, specifically promoting the development of traditional-wisdom-DX and -AI, including the improvement of the AI-Based Chatbot “Buddhabot” and considering its application to other fields. In addition, ELSI discussions regarding the research and development of happiness technology and mental support technology, which are being developed under Goal 9 of the Cabinet Office Moonshot R&D Program, will be promoted.