Tendai Buddhism, Japan
I am Kansho Kayaki, Deputy-Chairman of the Conference of the Tendai Buddhist Denomination, Japan.
I would first like to express my appreciation for being given this opportunity to address the Forum Seminar of this international conference, a conference made possible through the cooperation of the Church of Cyprus and the Community of St. Egidio.
The Tendai Buddhist Denomination, Japan, hosted the Religious Summit Meeting on Mt. Hiei on August 3rd and 4th in 1987, with representatives from religions around the globe, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, in the spirit of The Meeting of the World’s Major Religious Leaders in Assisi – A Day of Prayer for World Peace, the first such meeting, hosted by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in October, 1986
Since that first meeting, we have convened The Religious Summit Meeting on Mt. Hiei – An Interreligious Prayer Gathering for World Peace each year, and on the 3rd and 4th of August, 2007, we hosted the 20th Anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mt. Hiei with 2,000 participants, including religious leaders from 18 countries around the world. The theme of the meeting was reconciliation and cooperation.
We also issued a unanimous statement regarding the South Korean nationals that had been taken hostage in Afghanistan, an urgent issue at that time, making the plea that we could not hope to solve problems through acts that disregard the value of human life, acts which could only cause hate, devastation and further confusion, and that we believed the early release of the hostages was the best way to move toward a solution to the problem. This statement contributed to the release of the hostages and gave additional meaning to this religious summit.
What I have been asked to talk about today is Economic Develoopment and the Civilization of Coexistence – the Role of Religions in Asia.
I am the chief priest at the Sanpo-En at the foot of Mt. Hiei. For the past 30 years, I have been bringing Japanese youth to Saipan and young people from Saipan to Japan (both screened applicants) every year.
Thirty years have passed already since I started this program. I have brought somewhere in the neighborhood 1,300 young people to Saipan and have welcomed close to 700 young people from Saipan, all at my own expense.
Dengyo-Daishi, who some may know as Saicho, established Japanese Tendai Buddhism with educating the young as one of his major goals. In his writing he said that since he was born, he had never used harsh words and had never raised his hand in anger, hoping that his followers, too, would foster youth in the same manner. He asked his followers to make persistent efforts to foster the young warmly, telling them that he would be grateful. This is why I carry on in this tradition by continuing this program.
As you know, Saipan was once a fierce battlefield in World War II. It was said that the number of soldiers killed in the war was about 30,000, and the number of non-combatants killed in the war was about 10,000. Some say that the number of those killed in the war was a high as 60,000 or 70,000.
Banzai Cliff in Saipan is where many Japanese committed suicide by throwing themselves off the cliff shouting “banzai” when US troops invaded the island. Seaside Cliff, which is also known as Suicide Cliff, is where people who had fled over the mountains jumped to their deaths one right after the other. We hold memorial services at locations such as these, chanting the Heart Sutra with youth at the end of the services to pray for the repose of the souls of the people who met their unfortunate deaths in this way.
At the location of the Japanese Army headquarters at the time, we can still see the remains of rusty tanks and antiaircraft batteries. We also hold memorial services there.
The remains of people who died there can also still be found. There was a time when recovering the remains of these war dead was an earnest endeavor. Since then, however, enthusiasm has waned. And now, the majority of visitors to Saipan visit for sightseeing, with only a few now visiting to pray.
When we think about the people who died, longing for their home, we believe there is some meaning in visiting Saipan with young people once a year to tell the victims of that cruel war about the peace and prosperity that has come to Japan.
The peace and economic growth that Japan is fortunate enough to experience today did not come about suddenly. The peace and economic growth that we know today was made possible by the great suffering of those who came before us. And the affluent society that we now enjoy was built by the efforts of our forefathers who worked so hard without much food in their stomachs. Because of this, we should pray for war victims and our ancestors with a feeling of awe.
In Saipan, we release lanterns into the Mariana Trench. Participants from Japan and the natives of Saipan, the Chamorros decorate the lanterns, writing “Namu Amida Buddha” and the Lotus Sutra in Japanese on them. Non-Asians also participate in the ceremony.
In Buddhism, we believe that the soul moves from Shigan, this world, to Higan, the other world. The lanterns floating in the Mariana Trench always move from south to north. Japan is at the north end.
The young participants say that these lanterns look like soldiers marching toward Japan. It is a magnificent view, as if the souls of the war dead are departing from this world to the other world.
And now, a food crisis has become a major concern in the world.
In the world markets, grain has become the target of speculation and the price increases are large. The steep rise in the price of grain is the result of the conversion of grain to biofuel and the increase of demand for grain in developing countries. As a result, rebellions have broken out in developing countries, such as countries in Africa that are suffering from food shortages. Rich countries try to gain profit through speculation and by taking food away from poor countries. We, the individuals involved in religion, should not accept such economic growth.
Agricultural products are natural resources affected by weather, but they are critical for us to sustain our lives. Economic growth for individuals involved in religion, at least, is not something that takes food from others.
In addition, the 21st century is a time when it is increasingly impossible for only one country to manage food, economy and energy all by itself. Thus, we need to cooperate and negotiate among countries for co-existence and co-prosperity.
Individuals involved in religion in Asia attempt to respect diversification. They don’t eliminate others. Asian religions are characterized by their tolerance of different religions and the hope for co-existence. Recently, I feel that a sense of self-righteousness and exclusionism are threatening world peace.
I think it is impossible for us to achieve world peace without cooperation among the religions in Asia.
Thank you for giving me your kind attention.