Buddha and Jesus side by side

Many Western hotels have a Bible in every room. I never quite understood why that was the case, so today I looked it up. Apparently the Bibles in hotel rooms are the work of an American society called ‘Gideons International’. Their main objective is to provide Bibles free of charge. They are best known for placing Bibles in hotel rooms, but they also distribute Bibles to hospitals and jails.

When I was in Japan, I noticed something interesting in our hotel room: it held not one but two religious books. Our Western style room contained a Bible (The New Testament to be exact) and a copy of The Teaching of Buddha.

bible and buddhist teachings in a hotel room in japan
The New Testament and The Teaching of Buddha side by side in our Japanese hotel room. Also notice the emergency flash light next to the books, in case of an earthquake.

I have no idea if The Gideons are responsible for the Bible in the room. Do they operate outside of the US as well? Or is The New Testament just an attempt of the hotel to emulate an American style and make foreign guests feel welcome? It seems odd that a country where less than 1% of the population is Christian would offer a Bible in hotel rooms. But then again, our hotel was clearly oriented towards foreigners.

I also wonder who placed The Teaching of Buddha in the room. Surely that can’t be the work of The Gideons. Is there a similar society for spreading the word of Buddha? Or is it just an initiative of the hotel business in Japan to make Japanese guests feel equally welcome?

bible and buddhist teachings in a japanese hotel room
The Teaching of Buddha, in English and Japanese

In any case it felt really typical of Japan that they would offer multiple options, thus attempting to please all guests and to avoid any possible offence. It also felt a bit exotic to see The Teaching of Buddha in our Western style room. It’s little differences like these that make life in Japan so fascinating to me!

I later found out that The Teaching of Buddha is provided by The Society for the Promotion of Buddhism (Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai). The Society is Japanese in origin and was founded by Mr. Numata in 1965. Meanwhile it has offices all over the world. They compiled the book The Teaching of Buddha and have distributed over 8 million copies to hotels in over 50 countries. You can order a free copy of The Teaching of Buddha from your nearest local branch.


12 thoughts on “Buddha and Jesus side by side

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  1. I have copies of The Teachings of Buddha & the Japanese/English New Testament published by the Gideons. Also picked up the Book of Mormon from a hotel in Utah. They do want you to take it if you plan to read it and learn something from it.
    I’m wondering how someone can get a copy of the Japanese/English New Testament from the Gideons when located outside of Japan??? Someone I know wants to study Japanese by reading the Bible in Japanese.

  2. I first saw the The Teaching of Buddha in Hawaii in 2001. I stayed at a hotel there while my folks went to a dance. I recently found the BDK office in California and they sent me a copy. Very interesting reading. If you are interested in this topic, google for a New York Times article entitled “Bible Now Shares Hotel Rooms with Other Good Books”. It mentions how other religious groups are placing their books into hotels.

    1. Thank you for the article recommendation! I’m all for diversity, so I think it is very interesting that other religions have started placing their books in hotel rooms as well.

  3. i don’t always see a bible placed in a hotel room if i travel here in south east asia. when i do, chances are it’s in a country where majority of the community practice christianity. either that or the company owns or manages the hotel probably wants to do a similar practice to what’s done in many western overseas countries.

  4. Just as an aside, a couple of my students recently told me about a comedic manga series called 聖⭐お兄さん (Sei Oniisan). It apparently has Jesus and the Buddha as young men sharing an apartment in Tokyo. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but you might find it interesting to check out!

  5. I ran into the same curious sight last time I was in Chiba (in an area obviously aimed at accomodating foreign guests). It was the same version of the teachings of Buddha, too. I wound up reading some of it out of curiousity–perhaps encouraging curiousity is part of what the Gideons were going for?

    1. It sure sparked my curiosity, and yours as well I see ^_^

      I have a friend who even took The Teaching of Buddha home with him. Whenever someone does that with a Bible, The Gideons do not consider it stolen. It is just being used by someone who had a need for it at the time.

      I’ve gotten more and more curious about who distributes The Teaching of Buddha so I looked it up. It is the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism. Like The Gideons, they provide free copies of this book to hotels and to anyone who asks. I’ll write an update of the blog post to add this info 🙂

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