Monday, October 29, 2012
In1976, out of my aspiration to be an agronomist who can save the world, I entered graduate school at the University of Birmingham in the UK. But because I had lost confidence in myself and my ability to master the English language, I soon became totally depressed. It was a book that gave me a ray of light in such dark times. The book was the Japanese version of Rev. Nikkyo Niwano’s "Return to Humanity," which my father had handed to me when I left Japan. I learned that from a Buddhist perspective, I am at one with the life-force of the universe; this knowledge helped to lessen my self-attachment, and gave me great encouragement. Seeking this light, I joined Rissho Kosei-kai after returning to Japan.
The ultimate reality of all beings is emptiness, the buddha-nature, which is the great life of the universe. I try to remember this reality whenever I chant the Odaimoku and bow before the Buddha image. Then I find the boundary between other beings and myself begins to soften, even if just for a moment, and I feel one with all that exists and full of vitality and energy. I treasure this idea, because it is the greatest thing I have ever learned: the teaching of the ultimate reality of all beings. (written for Shan Zai 2012-10 issue)
私たちの実相は、「空」「仏性」「大いなる宇宙のいのち」であると学びます。お題目を唱える毎に、ご本仏にひれ伏す毎に、私は実相を思いおこすように努めています。一瞬ですが、自他を隔てる境界線が不鮮明になり、あらゆる存在とのつながりを覚え、体には元気が充満するのです。実相を学んだ事は私の最高の宝です。（Shan Zai 2012年10月号に寄稿）
Monday, March 28, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
The earthquakes which attacked Japan on March 11 were devastating. Gigantic tsunami swept away thousands of lives instantly. Many people lost their lives, their families, and houses. The nuclear power plants affected by the earthquakes started leaking the radiation. I am from Japan and my family live in Japan. Seeing all these, my heart was broken. But I am very much touched and encouraged by the warm and kind thoughts and prayers of my friends in the US. I would like to ask you to send your message to people in Japan. I am sure those who are striving to live strongly in this turmoil will be encouraged. Your prayer will be a light in darkness. I hope we will together build the world of caring and sharing.
Monday, September 6, 2010
It was a sunny beautiful day, with no cloud.
We, three sisters, were playing on the 2nd floor of our house.
At that time, I saw a strong flash lightening, and the next moment, I found myself buried under the house. I could not move.
The eldest sister was able to go out and called for help. Several sailors came and I was rescued. Then I heard a small girl crying at the other side of the house. It was 2 year old sister who was still under the house.
I found her legs under a big beam. She was crying loud. All the sailor men together tried to move the beam but the 4 or 5 beams were all connected and they could not move even an inch.
The sailors gave up and were gone to help other people.
Where is mom? What is she doing? Please come back hurry. My sister’s legs will be cut off. I was so worried and only waited for help.
At that time, I saw a person running and approaching to us as fast as an arrow. Her hair was all curled. It looked like a woman, almost naked. Her body was violet in color. She spoke to us in a loud voice. It was Mom. “Mom!” We called her loud.
Fire started breaking out here and there.
And fire started also very close to my house. My Mom’s face turned pale blue.
She looked down her youngest daughter. And she stared around the place to see how beams were piled up.
Then she found a small space, where she placed her body beneath.
She put the beam on her right shoulder and gave full strength. I heard a big sound, Bari Bari, and saw the beam stay in the air.
Sister’s legs were freed and the elder sister pulled her out. And my mom jumped to her and held her tightly. We all cried.
I learned the atomic bomb exploded when my mom was picking eggplants in the field. Her clothes were burnt and torn, so she was almost naked. Her hair was all curled. Her body was severely burned. Particularly at her right shoulder which she used to push the beam, the flesh appeared and blood was bleeding.
My mom fell down on the ground weakly.
She started to suffer from pains.
By going through heavy pains, she died at that night.
After introducing this story, Toui sensei posed a question to a group of young girls.
"Was this mother an exceptionally strong mother?
Was she a strong mother who could move something several sailor men together could not move?
Your mothers would do the same to help you in such a situation.
Mothers hold all this strength within."
Toui sensei emphasized the power of mothers. What I learned from Toui sensei was that not only mothers but also all people possess great strength within. I was very much inspired by what mother of Michiko did. It is mother’s compassion with which we can tap this potential.
I would like to share with many people, that we have great potential within. Before saying, “No I cannot,” why don’t we try it again with more compassion next time. We may be able to lift the heavy beam as the mother did to rescue her daughter.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Good Morning, friends!
Thank you very much for having me here at this beautiful Pacific Unitarian church in this beautiful Sunday morning.
I am deeply grateful to all Unitarian Universalists fellow members, as you have actually made a significant impact on my life.
Rissho Kosei-kai is a Buddhist organization founded by Rev. Nikkyo Niwano in 1938 in Tokyo. My parents joined Rissho Kosei-kai when I was small and I respected them very much because of their dedication in practicing Buddhism in their life. But I had a negative view on religion in general as it often becomes a cause of wars instead of cause of peace. I was deeply touched when I learned about Rissho Kosei-kai’s active work for global peace through interfaith cooperation. I wished to walk the Way of the Buddha as my parents, in the Buddhist organization which was founded and guided by such an inspired leader, Rev. Niwano. So I decided to join Kosei-kai 30 some years ago.
After a few years, I came to know a story of historical encounter of Rev. Niwano with Unitarian Universalists, and particularly Dr. Dana Greely, then president of UUA. Rev. Niwano was surprised to have found the strong similarities between Unitarians and Rissho Kosei-kai in formation, ideas, and purpose. And Rev. Niwano sensed a strong feeling of brotherhood and even unity with Dr. Greely. Rev. Niwano got tremendous inspiration and spiritual support from Unitarians and Dr. Greely for his pursuits of interfaith work.
Without Rissho Kosei-kai’s active engagement in interfaith cooperation and global peace, I may not have started my Buddhist life. For this reason, I owe great indebtedness of gratitude to you all.
In the United States, more people are interested in Buddhism. And I have come to know some Buddhist jokes. I would like to share one story with you.
One woman asked, “Why couldn’t the Buddha vacuum under a sofa?”
Husband answered, “Because he had no attachments.”
Buddha was born in India as a prince of a kingdom 2500 years ago. In his sincere search of truth, he renounced all his wealth and family, and he became an ascetic. After 6 years of arduous practices, he sat under a bodhi tree, where he awakened to the truth of the universe. Being free from attachment and illusions, he attained perfect peace and happiness. He became an enlightened one, the Buddha.
What is wisdom?
Wisdom of the Buddha is not mere intelligence or cleverness but an all-encompassing wisdom that grasps the essence of all things. It is the wisdom that sees the reality of all beings. All beings are constantly changing through interaction with each other. All beings are sharing one great life. Therefore, all beings are fundamentally equal and all precious. From the eyes of the Buddha at the time of his enlightenment, it is said that he was able to see wisdom and virtuous signs embraced within all human beings. All beings looked shining in radiance.
Because of illusion and attachment, however, people obscure the mind and cannot see the reality as it is. People see only the surface of things, instead of seeing deeply. They see things and judge in a short scope instead of longer scope. People see things dualistically, judging things good or bad, right or wrong, like or dislike, and I and others. Because of these shallow observations and false judgments, they enter into illusionary thought, creating suffering by themselves.
It was Buddha’s earnest wish to free them from suffering. This is why Buddha started sharing the Dharma, Buddhist teachings, so that they can remove illusion, liberate themselves from sufferings, and eventually attain supreme wisdom and compassion, the same as the Buddha himself. He opened the way to become a buddha. And he showed the way to become a buddha, so that everyone can unfold one’s innate wisdom and compassion, by following the way.
Dharma is the core of one’s peaceful and fulfilling life.
Universal truth manifests in many forms. It is our understanding that all faith traditions are the manifestations of this truth. And all teachings are important paths to come to grasp this truth. Buddhism is one of important paths for awakening, which I follow.
What is compassion?
Compassion is deep sympathy. It is the wish to relieve others of their sufferings and the wish to make others happy. Everyone has this mind within. It is the purpose of Buddhism to nurture genuine compassion.
Compassion arises from understanding the true nature of reality. Buddha perceived equality of human beings’ true nature, called Buddha nature. By realizing this equality, we are able to experience the knowledge that we and others are one, thus allowing deep compassion to be generated from within.
When I cut my finger, I spontaneously hold with it with my other hand. When my wife cuts her finger, I sense pain but it is not the same as my own. When someone else cuts their finger, the sense is much less. Why?
From the Buddha’s eyes, we are one. But from the ordinary eyes, we are all separated. Clearer understanding of the reality helps us generate compassion.
The other day, I saw a lady walking on a parking lot in front of our office in Irvine. A car approached behind her and honked. She was very surprised and turned her back to see the driver. I saw on her face a sense of surprise and little anger. Interestingly her angry face turned to smiling face when she realized that the driver was her friend, who was waving his hand with a big smile.
If we see this world as it is, we can live in friendship and compassion, instead of hatred and conflict.
Compassion and attachment are different. Attachment arises in the mind of self-centeredness. Compassion arises when we overcome ego mind. Wisdom to see the interconnectedness of all beings generates compassion.
One Buddhist sutra says, “This sutra can make one without kindness give rise to the mind of compassion.”
Sharing the Dharma was the Buddha’s utmost compassion.
Compassion is not just for Buddhists. It is the Universal Truth. Everyone who diligently lives the truth similarly embraces warmness, compassion, and wisdom.
I had a chance to meet Mother Teresa about 20 years ago. I visited her center, called Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta in order to offer our Donate-a-Meal Peace fund to her work. This Peace fund comes from RK members’ Donate-a-Meal practice. In this practice, we skip a meal once a week, and share the hunger and pain with those who are in difficult situations. With a prayer in compassion, we donate the money equivalent to the meal we skip.
In order to prepare myself for meeting with Mother, I spent three days in one of her homes for the poor, where I washed the body of old men and cleaned the floor. Mother was always with God, and what I thought I needed to do was to strengthen my connection with the Buddha. Then God and Buddha would take care of the rest.
When I visited her office, she welcomed me in such a beautiful smile. She was very small but radiant, shining, soft, and smiling. She proposed to use our donation for constructing a correction center for girls.
At my second visit, Mother took us to the building site. We got on a small taxi, where I was sitting next to Mother, touching her shoulder. Living and working in a slum in Calcutta must be harsh. I asked her if she was physically all right. “There are many things to get done. I cannot take a rest.” She answered in big smile. She was truly a manifestation of compassion.Her smile resonated Founder Niwano. It was one or two years before he passed away. As he was aging, he stayed in bed most of the day. One of senior members who was attending just by the side of his bed, said, “Founder, I am sorry, but lately you cannot do as much work as you used to do.” Founder smilingly said, “Oh, not at all. While closing my eyes, I am offering my sincere prayers to all RK members and everyone in the world. That keeps me quite busy.” He pursued the practice of revering every one’s Buddha-nature.
The practice of compassion is the result of one’s enlightened nature. Those who have come to know the all-encompassing wisdom can continue to find creative and appropriate ways to render warm and generous support and inspiration to others, even though they may be in a most difficult situation. Genuine compassion is the sign of one’s high spirituality and accomplishing profound religious practices.
On the other hand, practice of compassion is the starting point of one’s spiritual journey as well. The six perfections, known as the practice of bodhisattvas, start with the practice of compassion. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, current President of RK guides us as, “When we free ourselves from attachments by giving, we are able to see things the way they really are. Through this, our fixed ideas are removed, the wisdom-eyes that are inherent to human nature are opened, and then we begin to see the ultimate reality of all things. Indeed, we can say that giving leads to wisdom.”
1) At family level, family members greet each other in the morning. You and I are the one to greet first. If you are already practicing, then greet with more compassion and smile. This will bring wonderful energy into our home. Don’t get discouraged even though someone you greeted did not respond well. We practice to cultivate our own heart and mind, not as much as that of others. Kind words with friendly smile are not limited to home but it is universally important. Founder Niwano always had a big smile. This smile has become RK’s treasure.
2) Practice of compassion at your work place and community is important. We practice so that our surroundings become more harmonious. One member in Denver had some difficulty in relationship with her boss. She reflected and came to decide to practice compassion at her office. She started to come in earlier and made coffee for the entire floor. And she started to serve the first cup of coffee to her boss every day. Her boss was very surprised but she continued with sincerity so that she can cleanse her mind. And she recognized much change within her and also in her relationship with boss also. She has been continuing this practice for 2 years. I learned the importance of practice from her, she is a highly intellectual American lady with a law school degree.
3) Practice of compassion is also practiced in our Sangha as pastoral care. In RK, we care about each other and walk the path together.
It was soon after I joined RK, when I had a very important experience. There was one mother in my Buddhist Sangha. One day she asked me if I could help her 14 year-old son get out from his messy and rough life. Let me call him Tad. He often cuts school and would hang out in town with friends.
I visited Tad at his home. He was 10 years younger than me, and apparently he was not a person whom I dared to associate with. At first, he was not at all friendly to me, but I started visiting him once in a while. I continued to visit him not only because I had learned the importance of compassion as a Buddhist practice, but also because I wanted to help him out. I offered him tutoring. I taught him math. “How can I be much closer to him?” I tried to do everything that had come up to my mind, like cooking dinner for him. I even shared a story of the stupidest thing I had done when I was younger. Awkward conversations between he and I gradually became smoother and more friendly ones. While I continued to be his teacher; he became my teacher in video games.
I was shocked when his mother informed me that he had disappeared. He had left home. I felt powerless and the only thing I was able to think of, was sitting in front of a small Buddhist altar in my room to offer the sincerest recitation of the Lotus Sutra to the Buddha and all divine deities, wishing that he was all right. Caring about him was actually my first experience of caring for others, and this prayer was the most sincere prayer I had ever offered in my life.
While I was praying, time passed and the room was getting dark. At that time, something unusual took place within me. I intuitively realized the love and care of my parents that must be far greater than my prayer and care for this young man. I also realized that I was, and had always been in the midst of loving care, compassion, and prayers from innumerable people. There in the dark, I cried with gratitude.
I was very delighted to hear that Tad had eventually come back home. I started tutoring him again. After several months, I left the town to enter the RK’s seminary in Tokyo. Two years later, I was informed that he had passed away at the age of 17, due to an overdose of sniffing paint thinner. I was very sorry that I was not able to help him out of his difficulty. On the contrary, he had helped me walk the path of the Buddha. He taught me compassion is not only for others, but also for the one who practices. He continues to live within me, and his compassion is still guiding me.
In a larger scope, we are living in the midst of compassion. Whether I am compassionate or not, I find myself in the blessings of my family, friends, nature, and all beings. It is true that there are difficulties and hardship.
Within a scope that getting what we wish is good and getting things against our wish is bad, then we cannot say all are blessings. But the Universal Truth is always working for my awakening, your awakening, and everyone’s. Through failures, we build our wisdom. Through misfortune, we nurture the depth of our human nature. Through all these experiences, we grow our human values. By recognizing that every experience is the opportunity of our growth, we understand we are always in compassion.
Thanks to your invitation to this Sunday service, I was able to take time to study the Buddha’s teaching and reflect on myself.
And I found myself in the midst of compassion right now.
Let us continue to walk together on our spiritual paths, and generate more genuine compassion within and around us, so that we can create a more peaceful and compassionate world.
I would like to finish with this thought:
“The sun never said to the earth, ‘You owe me’. See what can happen with a love like that – it can light the world.”
May all beings be in peace and happiness.
Thank you very much.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Dr. Miles shared his insights on the present global challenges, and Pastor Smith and I presented our response to these challenges based on respective religious faith and teachings.
The core of the wisdom of the Buddha is known as Dependent Origination.
Dependent Origination is a simple and profound principle, it explains that “all things in this world are always changing, through interaction with each other.”
We are all interconnected. There is no isolated self, but instead, an interconnected self. Our lives are supported by the blessings of nature and all other beings. Can you see this reality? Because of this inter-connectedness, we live with a sense of gratitude.
Everything comes into being, through Dependent Origination. We may be different in culture and race, but we are inter-connected. Therefore, we are all part of one collective entity. “Many manifestations stemming from this “One-ness”-- One but Many”. To exclude people with different values, would be delusional. Whereas, wisdom to see this reality, cultivates a generous mind and heart. We can be “inclusive” in our world view.
Every phenomenon is also constantly changing in a causal way. Our encounter at this symposium is the result of an inter-weaving of various causes and conditions. And this encounter is a cause or condition that will directly influence the future of everyone in this room -- perhaps even in the world.
Everything is changing. That is why we need to do our best in each moment.
[Buddhist Approach to Global Peace]
Whoever we meet -- our hearts will embrace those in need. Through this change in us -- the world will change.
The Buddhist Approach to Peace is to walk in this Way, and to share this Way with as many people as possible, so that together, we will attain peace and become agents of creating better world. This is the fundamental importance of the Buddhist Way.
In order to attain both personal happiness and happiness for all, we need to study and apply the Buddha’s Teachings humbly in a global context. Then, the way of the Buddha truly becomes the way of global peace.
At Rissho Kosei-kai, we have been participating in the “Donate-a-Meal” practice. In this practice, we skip a meal once a week, and share the hunger and pain with those who are in difficult situations. With a prayer in compassion, we donate the money equivalent to the meal we skip. Since it began in 1975, we have contributed to various humanitarian activities. Total contributions have amounted to $200 million dollars.
In January,1991, when the Gulf War broke out, I was in the office of the Donate-a-Meal program in Tokyo. Just after the war ended, I was able to take a truck full of medicine, food, and powdered milk to children in Baghdad from Amman, Jordan.
As Japan was with the multi-national force, confronting Iraq, it was a very challenging experience for me to visit Baghdad. In this city, I met with a young Iraqi woman staff at the UNICEF office. The office had just reopened on that day. After hearing the Donate-a-Meal practice of many people, she tearfully said, “How grateful I am to know that people on the other side of the globe are praying for our peace.”
Many RK members sincerely offered prayers for peaceful resolution of the war and safety of people in their everyday chanting. Youth and children stood on street corners in the cold winter -- even when it was snowing in Northern Japan -- asking for support for the children in Iraq. In that short meeting with the young woman in Baghdad, I was convinced of the importance of sincere actions, rather than just words. When we trust, we are trusted. I experienced Dependent Origination and the way of building confidence between peoples and nations in the midst of a war-torn area.
What is our vision for the future?
Is the world where countries are protecting themselves by military force and nuclear weapons the world we are truly envisioning?
Are we truly talking with our children about what kind of world we want to build? If the conversation is based on a mere wish that the lives of our children are secure and that our nation continues to be peaceful and wealthy, then how is it possible to make this world without nuclear weapons; where all children have access to basic education?
It is important to expand our scope of thinking, so that we are sure to strive for living in harmony with all beings.
On the UCI campus, there is a student group, called Olive Tree Initiative, who send students from various background every year to Israel to study the Israel/Palestine issues from the wide spectrum of views and stances. Upon returning, they share their learning. I have found the same ‘light’ in them. It is the light I often see in the people who humbly and selflessly engage themselves in creating peace for all beings.
(3) The third point in our Buddhist approach to global peace is to work towards cooperation among different religions.
As Swiss-German theologian Hans Küng states, “No Peace Among Nations until Peace Among the Religions”.
Founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, with his conviction that all religions originated from the same Universal Truth, dedicated the latter half of his life for promoting interfaith cooperation. In 1970, the first World Conference of Religions for Peace was held in Kyoto with more than 300 leaders representing all major religions. They discussed their shared future. All the negativity that religions have created in the history of humanity, were for the first time transformed into a radiant positive force to build peaceful world.
Now the world is facing another challenge; proliferation of nuclear weapons and further building of military power all over the world.
The US reduction of its military expenditures may not be an option, but it has to be the determination of all religious communities in this country.
Not only praying and wishing, but we need to take action in building more significant causes for global peace. Rissho Kosei-kai has joined the new call by Religions for Peace, “Arms Down! Campaign”. Our focus is to circulate petitions and get 50 million signatures world wide, for arms reduction and to support the UN Millennium Development Goals, which includes achievement of the Universal Primary Education for all children in the world.
Buddhism is a Way to benefit all beings in the world and to promote ones’ own human values. By engaging ourselves in benefiting others, we are further awakened to a deeper compassion and wisdom. And through promoting human values of all beings, can peace in the world be secured.
As Ekayana Buddhists, we acknowledge all faith traditions as Ways for peace in the world. We need to continue to walk our Spiritual Paths together , until world peace is achieved.
Let’s walk the respective ways of our faiths -- hand in hand.
Let us start from you and I.
Let us make one more step forward with respect in our own Ways.
Let us each be more mindful in this precious moment.
Thank you for your attention.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
We took a train from Shinjuku and arrived at Kita-Kamakura before 11am.
The first place we walked to was Engaku-ji temple.
Engaku-ji (円覚寺), is one of the most important Zen Buddhist temple complexes in Japan and is ranked second among Kamakura's Five Mountains.
The temple was founded in 1282.
I asked a monk walking by about Dr. D.T.Suzuki, as I remember he practiced Zen at this temple. And the monk said that his grave is at Tokei-ji temple next to Engaku-ji.
I was excited when I found his grave. Offering sincere prayer of gratitude to him at his grave, I felt D. T. Suzuki's presence. "Thank you, D.T. Suzuki." I renewed my vow to share the Dharma in the U.S.
Tomoko and I walked in the Kamakura hills, where we happened to meet a kind gentleman, Mr.Kawahara, who kindly showed the hiking path leading to the Great Buddha. On the way, we departed from the main path and took a picture in front of the statue of Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-1199), Founder of the first warrior government (bakufu) in Kamakura.
Ups and Downs. Tomoko and I enjoyed this hiking. This is just like our life. Tomoko and I were always together, in joyful times and also difficult times.