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12 Septembre 2011 09:30 | Neues Rathaus, Kleiner Sitzungsaal

Japan after the Earthquake by Kansho Kayaki

Kansho Kayaki

Bouddhisme Tendaï, Japon

I’m Kansho Kayaki, Chairman of the Tendai Congress.  It is such a great honor for me to be given this opportunity to speak on this panel. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Community of Sant’ Egidio and everyone who is involved in this meeting. The theme given to me is “Japan after the Earthquake.”

Already six months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, yet the reconstruction has just begun. Such a catastrophe occurs once in a thousand years. The scale of the disaster is unprecedented and has been exacerbated by the problems of radioactivity from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plants. It is, however, the Japanese government’s role to tackle these issues in order to accelerate the economic recovery, rebuild the infrastructures, and manage and control the damaged power plants.

I believe we, the clergy, have a different role to serve in a Post-Earthquake society. In this devastating situation, religions must support human relationships. We can do this by holding each other’s hands, listening with a sympathetic ear and finding ways to help each other – this is the Buddhist’s point of view.

The calm and orderly manner of the Japanese in the affected areas was praised all over the world. People overseas told us that it was wonderful to see Japanese standing in a queue patiently, not complaining aloud, and putting others ahead of ourselves in this kind of disaster. It is difficult for Japanese to understand that whenever natural disasters occur, arson and looting break out and the police with guns have to be employed to cope with the situation.

It must be beyond one’s grief to lose something that you’ve work so hard to obtain and realize and to lose someone you love and cherish suddenly as you watch helplessly. Every survivor’s words touched my heart. To a person they said, “I’m grateful that I am alive.”, because of that, their sorrow seeps deeply into our hearts.

Unlike the western mind set, which is based on individualism and self assertion, we value mutual consent. It is common for people to show their emotion when they feel sad, but Japanese people tend not to display feelings of distress. “Everything is transient.” I think, because we embrace the concept of transiency, we accept misfortune and endure sorrow. Everything changes. Good things and bad things, nothing can remain the same. This is the concept of “mujo”, transiency.

This idea of transiency flows through our bodies like blood. At the same time, we accept that human beings are small and powerless in the face of natural disasters and we live next to death side by side. This is nobody’s fault. We simply have to take it as is. This way of thinking was not embedded in our consciousness in one or two generations. It has been a component of Japanese awareness for almost fifteen hundred years, with Buddhist teachings as our foundation.

We have noticed that personal relationships have become shallower in recent years. But after the Great East Japan Earthquake, it seems even those people who had conducted themselves in egocentric ways started to re-think their attitudes. I believe they now think that being so self involved is shameful and they should do something for others even if they have to make sacrifices. They think that we can no look away from others’ misfortune. This act is the manifestation of the Buddhist compassion.

Moreover many people have realized that we should not take small things for granted; such as eating regular meals and having a place to sleep. Many also recognized that water and electricity are not there all the times whenever we want them. Many of us have started to notice how important it is to live with gratitude; not to be egoistic.  This is also one of the most important Buddhist teachings.

The well-know the Japanese author and poet, Kenji Miyazawa wrote “. . . Do not consider yourself, but put others before you.” In his milestone poem, Ame ni mo Makezu (Unbeaten by Rain).

Aside from whether we are aware of it or not, we know that Kenji’s writings describe the most noble and ideal way to live our lives. This is similar to the words of our founder, Dengyo Daishi, “. . .  the supreme form of compassion is to forget oneself and to do everything good for others.”

Because of the Great East Japan Earthquake, it seems the Japanese went through a sudden transformation and a switch in the ‘DNA of the Japanese heart/mind’ has been turned on. Without exception, everyone has a Buddha-nature. It seems that we, humans, are programmed so that at the time of an emergency this Buddha-nature is switched on. You might say this is Buddhist DNA.

“Do not be overly taken with success nor should we live our lives in despair even under dire circumstances. Live each moment at our very best. Take care of and keep our friendships with others. Live with joy and happiness. Blame no one.”  Living this way is not easy to achieve. However, Buddha teaches us that this will lead us to happiness, and the teachings have been passed down to us by previous generations.

Our nation was reduced to ashes at the end of World War II. But we know that our ‘DNA’ led us to recovery and reconstruction from the scorched earth. Everyone must be feeling the Buddha-nature even though some may not have been experienced it yet. It comes up from deep inside of our bodies. This is the Japanese DNA that has been influenced by Buddhist teachings.

Japan has experienced an unprecedented gigantic earthquake, but as long as we have this Buddhist DNA, we will overcome the difficulties and rebuild Japan. I have no doubt.

I appreciate your kind attention, Thank you very much.


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