AIV prompts people in Asia, Africa and Japan "an awakening" and release
thier potential; moreover, we all think together and take action to make an equal world regardless of thier background such as class, age, religion, the gap between rich and poor, and people
with disability or not.
Shohan Tokiwa, Chief Priest
Thanks to everyone for being here during this busy time at the end of the year in Japan.
Tsubosaka Temple has had a mysterious connection to India since around 1965. It was Dr. Matsuki Miyazaki who made that connection possible. After leaving his post as director of Kikuchi Keifuen, the care facility for patients with Hansen’s disease in Kumamoto Prefecture, Dr. Miyazaki, based on his own wishes, became involved in relief work to help Hansen’s disease patients in India. Upon seeing him, Shoken Tokiwa, chief priest of Tsubosaka Temple, was impressed by the tongue reading of braille by blind Hansen’s disease patients, and having determined to follow the way of a Buddhist priest, used the temple to help Dr. Miyazaki in his work. This relief work was begun based on an agreement between the governments of Japan and India, with the operating cost covered through private donations. It was the first private welfare work after the Second World War. The Center of this work was established in Agra, the city famous for the Taj Mahal, with the construction funded through donations from many people in Japan, and there were even kabuki performances to solicit donations along with help from people of the Imperial Household. Prime Minister Nehru rushed over to attend the cornerstone laying ceremony for the construction of the Center. The work performed under Dr. Miyazaki’s leadership was extremely difficult, and it is hard to describe in words the hardships of the doctors and nurses from Japan and India, who examined thousands of patients a day in a severe climate. After treatment, quarrels would break out among patients over the amount of medicine they had received, which would be unthinkable nowadays. But under Dr. Miyazaki’s leadership, the work was performed quietly. Our temple also sent staff over as volunteers, raised money by transcribing the sutras, and comforted the doctors who were working at the local site.
During that time, on June 14, 1972, Dr. Miyazaki perished in a plane crash. Many patients were saddened and by chance, Shoken Tokiwa, who had gone to Delhi Airport to meet Dr. Miyazaki, looked for him at the site of the crash with Dr. Miyazaki’s son’s family. He served as the officiating priest at Dr. Miyazaki’s funeral. Dr. Miyazaki’s body was cremated in the courtyard at the Center. All the people there chorused together that Dr. Miyazaki would become eternal. Although he had passed away, the work had to continue. Dr. Mitsugu Nishiura moved the work forward, encouraging the staff in a strong voice to carry on. Dr. Nishiura continued with the work, making efforts to nurture Indian doctors. Arranging things so as to facilitate the nurturing of doctors and concluding that this work must be done by people from India, he transferred it to the Indian government in 1976.
With this transfer a connection was formed that resulted in the building of the large Kannon stone statue. While the statue was being built, Tsubosaka Temple continued with its welfare work in a variety of ways, including by providing relief for Hansen’s disease patients focusing on the Center and beginning the administration of a school. However, Dr. Nishiura passed away in 1985, shortly after the large Kannon stone statue was built, and with the passing of Shoken Tokiwa in 1988, a state of emergency resulted from the successive loss of these pillars of the Indian support project. I think that Tsubosaka Temple had the option to stop the work at this time, but remembering the words of Shoken Tokiwa regarding our debt of gratitude to India, Tsubosaka Temple put his words to action by continuing the work, including establishing an international welfare foundation in Asia and Africa and providing the foundation with funding and human resources.
The temple’s ideas regarding the debt of gratitude are as follows:
It is said that the foundation of today’s Japanese society was created during the era that the capital was located here in Nara. The people of that era chose the spiritual culture of Buddhism by which to build the foundations of society amid the unsteady circumstances of East Asia. I think that Japan prospers today because of that choice. The spiritual culture of Buddhism reached Japan through China, after having come to maturity over a long period of time in India. Because this wonderful spiritual culture blossomed in India, it reached Japan and became the foundation of Japanese society. Over the course of history Buddhism was lost to its cradle, India. We in Japan cannot find a reason not to have a special connection by which Japan supports India, the country that fostered Buddhism, thanks to which Japan has prospered, and which is now suffering. And we must not forget our debt of gratitude to India.
Even if we say the word “support,” we can’t fulfill that obligation just by doing what we Japanese think we should do. While spending a little time, while living with the people of India, experiencing trial and error together, it seems like we’ve come to a 50-year turning point. Even if we provide support simply by doing what we think is good, it comes back to us with a different reaction than we had expected. How many times we thought to stop providing support. Each time I heard warm-hearted voices, it was like I was hearing the voice of heaven, and those words penetrated the essence of things. There were many stonemasons involved in building the large Kannon stone statue that I just mentioned. Since we couldn’t just suddenly let them go after the project was finished, we had them work on other stone statues and stone temples. But they disputed the way they were treated on their jobs. If that was their attitude I thought that we should tell them to stop working for us, upon which Koin Takada of Yakushi Temple told us, “Since those people produced a big Kannon statue you have to treat them right.” And so we changed our viewpoint and restarted our operations so that as many stonemasons as possible would be able to become independent, and we improved their stone masonry environment which thus far had been old-fashioned, equipped it with a large crane, and did our best to create an environment to facilitate their work. Thanks to that, we had many stonemasons working real hard, and assembling the technology that we have developed thus far, managed to produce a splendid stone statue of the Great Nirvana (Dainehan). What’s more, a photo of the Great Nirvana statue appeared on the front page of the local newspaper, and because of that the town became famous as a town of stone. Many stonemasons learned how to work the machinery at this factory and made various statues for us. And as they were improving their technical skills they were able to support their families and became independent stonemason bosses. We sold the equipment at that factory to one of the stonemasons bosses, and the factory is still in operation now under him.
In addition, we helped the wife of Dr. Desikan, the first Indian to serve as director of the Hansen’s disease patients relief center, run the Lopamudra School that opened in 1977.
Shoken Tokiwa’s ashes were laid to rest in the schoolyard of this school. I think that he’s probably watching over the children quietly as they study. This school, which ranges from kindergarten to middle school, gives exemption of tuition fees to certain students with financial difficulties to provide them with an opportunity to study. There are a total of around 500 students at the school.
The wives of the relief center staff members are on the management staff or teach at the school. Also, many Japanese people visit this school. Representatives of the Matsubokkuri Boys and Girls Choir in Nara visited with a teacher, Atsuko Arai, and engaged in cultural exchange through children’s songs of India.
Also, student and teacher representatives of this school came to Japan in June of this year. While staying at Tsubosaka Temple, they visited a home for the aged in Japan and the local Takatoricho elementary, middle schools, and participated in exchange events. With the remarkable increase in flights between Japan and India nowadays, I think that it is necessary to develop 21st-century-type of mutual support in the advanced information society, rather than depending on the one-way support of the past. With the spread of such convenient items as smart phones, I think that many young people feel that they know about one another’s countries. I think that vibrant human exchange among younger generations will help engender new exchange between Japan and India. I hope that the connection established through the fervency of Dr. Miyazaki, Dr. Nishiura and my predecessor Shoken will continue.
We have started up projects at various places and been blessed by encounters with various people. We have also been blessed with the opportunity to speak with them. We have often talked with them about the importance of a mindset completely void of confrontation, a Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) mindset and the idea of mercy as represented in the phrase, “Make the suffering of others your own suffering, and make the happiness of others your own happiness.” Since we have shared the mutual apprehension that both Japan and India in the modern era are losing these things, we have planned to start a project to teach this important mindset to people in Japan and India. Since the two countries have different languages, we have conceived of the idea to portray the spirit of mercy through pictures in order to have a mindset of mutual understanding that exceeds language. And so, after having repeatedly discussed this with Mr. Karmath of Mumbai, India, we will have pictures produced that portray the benevolence of the Kannon, based on pictures in Japan and representations in sculpture of the Kannon’s benevolence in stone caves in India. Selecting more than forty topics from the Kannon Sutras in which the Kannon’s benevolence is represented, we have produced more than forty pictures depicting stories passed down through the ages in India and Japan. I will show you one of them. This (Jigenjishujo) is a picture of the Kannon viewing all living things through compassionate eyes. I pray that exhibiting these pictures in Japan and India will revive the spirit of benevolence and the spirit of compassion in both countries. Currently we are beginning a project to produce pictures of the Jataka Tales which is the stories from the Buddha’s previous existence.
Currently India is drawing a lot of attention to itself economically. Until not long ago, if you said that you were going to India, people would ask if you were going for ascetic training? But now people ask if you are going on some kind of business, which shows how people’s impressions of India have greatly changed. Impressions of India have greatly changed regarding economics, politics and security, but I would also like India to become strong in its cultural, spiritual and social connections. And I also think that Japan should play a big role in leading those connections. Right after the Second World War Prime Minister Nehru made a present of an Indian elephant at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo for the children who had lost everything in the war. He extended a warm hand. I feel the warmth of the Indian people from that story. I think that this relationship in which we can feel human warmth is possible because Japan and India are connected by Buddhism. I want Tsubosaka Temple to learn from the precedent and provide warm support to India and be involved in exchange activities there.
In closing, I would like to say thank you for your donations and support over a long period of time. Thanks to you we have been able to maintain our connection to India. And we have also been able to have many stone Buddhist images from India. Thank you very much. I have a favor to ask. If you should have the chance to visit Tsubosaka, I would be very happy if you could pray to the stone Buddhist image and think about the fact that many people from Japan and India worked together to eradicate Hansen’s disease, which was one of the biggest problems in the world back then in the 1960s, and if you could think about the fact that there were people who died fighting that disease. The great Kannon stone statue was created as a result of their hard work, and through that great Kannon statue we have had the wonderful culture of India and the opportunity for the children of India and Japan to have exchange with each other. And through repeated trial and error experienced together by people from Japan and India, I hope that we can develop new exchange and various projects, and bring the warmth of the Kannon of Tsubosaka to as many people as possible, and so I ask for your leadership in this. Thank you very much for being here today.