World

Kyoto temple puts faith in robot priest

KYOTO: A 400-year-old temple in Japan is trying to hot-wire interest in Buddhism with a robotic priest it believes will change the face of the religion.

The android, based on Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy, preaches sermons at Kodaiji temple in Kyoto.

"This robot will never die, it will keep updating itself and evolving," priest Tensho Goto told AFP. "With AI, we hope it will grow in wisdom to help people overcome even the most difficult troubles. It's changing Buddhism."

The robot Mindar began service earlier this year. With religion's influence on daily life flat-lining in Japan, Mr Goto hopes it will be able to reach younger generations.

A recent Osaka University survey showed a wide range of feedback from those who have seen the android at work.

"I felt a warmth you wouldn't feel from a regular machine," said one of those polled.

Others were less convinced, some insisting it was too "fake".

Mr Goto denies accusations that Kodaiji 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." - AFP

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