Amazon’s Rent-A-Monk Service Criticized

February 27, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. criticize / ˈkrɪt əˌsaɪz / (v.) – to give negative feedback
ExampleEnvironmental organizations criticized the company for the harmful waste it produces.

2. commission / kəˈmɪʃ ən / (v.) – to send on a mission or a job
Example: The government commissioned him to go to the province to set up public hospitals.

3. commercialize / kəˈmɜr ʃəˌlaɪz / (v.) – to turn something into a business
Example: Some stores have commercialized holidays by having holiday sales.  

4. sacred / ˈseɪ krɪd / (adj.) – something that is important to a culture or religion and can only be used for specific purposes
Example: The Bible is Christianity’s sacred book.

5. petition / pəˈtɪʃ ən / (n.) – a written document pushing someone or a group of people to change something
ExampleAll farmers signed the petition to close down the power plant near their lands.


Read the text below.
The Japanese Buddhist Federation (JBF) criticized Amazon Japan for its rent-a-monk service, saying that the company is making money out of a religious act.

The Federation questioned Amazon’s behavior toward religion when it started advertising services offered by a company that commissions monks to perform Buddhist ceremonies such as funerals.

According to the JBF, Amazon is commercializing a sacred tradition and therefore harming the religion’s public image. JBF chairman Akisato Saito said that in the Christian and Muslim religions, commercialization of any religious act does not exist. The group cannot help but feel doubt and disappointment toward the company’s actions, Saito added.

Through Amazon, a group called MinRevi Ltd. assigns the monks to visit homes or places where the families want to conduct the ceremonies. The packages offered range from 35,000 yen ($296.72) to 55,000 yen ($466.28). They include chanting sutras and giving sermons. This kind of service began in 2009 and started with just offering Buddhist funeral advice. MinRevi officially started its funeral and monk services in 2013. Monks offering their services for the company get their income after all expenses incurred by the group have been deducted.

The monk services Amazon offers received quite a good rating from its customers.

The JBF will send a written petition to Amazon this year to ask the company to stop offering monk services. The Federation is known to represent 90 percent of all Buddhist organizations in Japan. According to data, there are about 96 million Buddhists in the country.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think it is a good move for JBF to file a petition against Amazon? Why or why not?
·         How would you deal with the issue if you were Amazon?

Discussion B

·         Who should be held responsible for this issue – Amazon, MinRevi Ltd., or the monks?
·         What would you do to make sure not to offend people from other cultures or religious backgrounds?

February 27, 2016