Buddhism sect assembly dissolved following financial turmoil
Koya, Wakayama (Japan) — The supreme decision-making body of the KoyasanShingon sect of Buddhism was dissolved following turmoil over massive losses from failed fund-management programs.
Kosho Shono, head of the religious corporation’s executive body, dissolved the sect assembly on Feb. 27 after the assembly passed a no-confidence motion against him over a fund management fiasco resulting in some 680 million yen in losses.
It is extremely rare for a religious body to see a no-confidence motion passed and its assembly dissolved, the latter marking the first time since the enforcement of the current Religious Corporation Law in 1951.
According to Kansho Mori, head of the sect’s finance division, the group has been managing its funds since 2002 and currently handles some 3 billion yen. While the religious corporation used to primarily purchase long-term financial products that mature in 30 years, from around 2007 it started purchasing short-term products that mature in four to five years by re-managing early redemption funds. Out of these funds, investment losses from short-term products that had reached their maturity by 2012 has amounted to some 680 million yen.
Mori, however, explained that the sect wasn’t suffering an overall loss, saying, “Our total profits exceed our losses.” The return on the group’s assets has been used to subsidize financially-strapped Koyasan University, as well as the sect’s operating expenses and social welfare services.
At the sect’s assembly session on Feb. 26, Shono said, “Our fund management hasn’t been going the way we want.” Dissatisfied with his explanation, assembly members lodged a no-confidence motion, which was passed by a narrow margin. In return, Shono dissolved the assembly the next day.
The assembly comprises 27 members elected from 10 regional blocs across the country and 10 members appointed by the head of the executive body. The election of the local members will be officially announced on March 8, and voting by postal mail must arrive by April 18.
The KoyasanShingon sect was established by renowned monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi, 774-835) during the Heian era and is headquartered at Kongobuji temple in Koya, Wakayama Prefecture.