I want to make clear that individual and small groups of Soto affiliated clergy throughout Japan are doing their utmost and whatever they can to help ... as are so many here in Japan, from the boy scouts to the Yakuza!
Countless people are raising money in any way possible. Kids have been going door to door Unicef style to collect change. There is a waiting list of volunteers at our local city hall due to the outpouring of people. There are individual Soto priests and groups of priests doing what they can, working morning to night.
However, taking nearly 1/3 of donations for themselves, restoring the woodwork and fancy gold decorations at a temple, should not be a priority now, today, right in the middle of this ongoing humanitarian disaster. What is more, the Soto-shu is not being clear in Japan that they are doing this (and they were not even clear here in the west that they were doing this until, about 10 days into fundraising, this was discovered). For example, the Japanese webpage at Soto-shu has not emphasized that so much of the money is going to be kept for buildings.
That says "曹洞宗は本日、日本赤十字社に寺院・檀信徒の皆さまからお預かりしている曹洞宗義援金から１０００万円を寄託いたしました。" (From the Soto-shu Relief Money that we received in trust from our temples and followers, we donated Y10,000,000 to the Japan Red Cross). There is no mention I see there at all that, accordingly, about Y3,300,000 (so far! more is pouring in!) is being kept for temple buildings. Nor does the original page for donations emphasize the fact clearly, saying only ambiguously "お寄せいただきました義援金は、被災寺院向けまたは一般向け（各自治体等）への義援金として, この災害で被災された方がたの救援、被災地の復興支援などとして活用させていただきます" (Your relief donations which we receive will be used as relief money for general use (in each region etc.) and for temples which suffered calamity, so that we may use it to help and relieve the many people who suffered loss and calamity in this disaster, support the redevelopment of disaster impacted regions and the like).
I will speak out against collecting money to rebuild temple altars at a time like this ... when what needs to be rebuilt are homes, schools, hospitals, old age facilities ... and lives. I am sure that most people who donated were thinking of widows and homeless children, not rebuilding a fallen Hondo (temple main hall).
Now, let me clarify that I do -not- think that Soto-shu's actions are intentionally meant to be misleading or callous to the suffering people who could use the money. I would instead describe it as a misguided and clumsy attempt to use the money to rebuild temples which the Soto-shu believes is the 'right thing to do'. Some see it (and perhaps rightly if in less urgent times) as catering to the spiritual needs of people to do so ... although I rather think that, before altars, the homeless and injured could use rebuilt homes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, playgrounds, rehab centers and the like. I cannot see collecting money now for temple buildings when people have more urgent and immediate needs ... and that is certainly what most people are donating for when they think of "disaster relief".
There are hundreds of individual and groups of priests around Japan trying to raise money and such, and many up in the impacted areas working day and night to help people as best they can. However, it is true that there seems to be a lack of coordination and focus, and simply re-donating to the Red Cross, and keeping 30% for temples ... when people have real "where is my next meal coming from" needs out there ... seems to defeat the purpose of many of the donors who might not understand that so much money is going to fixing the fancy goldleaf on temple buildings.
It is very sad, and may go far to explain the general disconnect of temples from ordinary people in Japan. Most Japanese I have spoken to are not too surprised that many priests would take care of their own assets and homes first (most live in the temples with their families).
Some may defend rebuilding temples as restoring a "vital part of Japanese culture", and that is certainly true. However, right now, having food, homes, clean water, school books for kids, hospitals, pharmacies and old age homes for displaced elderly is also a "vital part of Japanese culture" ... Or, should we put that aside while we replace all those pretty Kesa and fancy hats that were ruined in the dampness of the Tsunami?
Monks are doing their utmost in various places to collect funds for "disaster relief" by Takuhatsu (ritual begging rounds). However, do the people who donate know that some of the that money may end up with Soto-shu and, if so, spent on restoring altars ahead of getting to people homeless in the shelters? I think that many might be surprised.
Taking about 1/3 of donations for restoring the woodwork and gravestones at temples is perhaps a good thing ... in ordinary times, when so much of the country is not in ruin with hundreds of thousands of people with true needs. It is not a priority now, today, right in the middle of this ongoing humanitarian disaster.
What is more ... so many groups, "New Religious" groups, Christian Churches and more, are truly mobilized and helping in this disaster ... sending supplies where needed (well organized, for one should always coordinate with the authorities in doing so to avoid oversupply and misdirection of help), dispatching doctors and dentists affiliated with their religious groups, carpenters, plumbers, counselors and school teachers and the like. Read more here ...
... no place to hide! I came back to Tsukuba (Ibaraki Prefecture) yesterday to find a town returning to calm, neighbors helping neighbors, and a great spirit of volunteerism and service. People are staying out of the rain, trying to avoid drinking the water, and the ground still shakes now and then ... but, otherwise, pretty ordinary March day.
These are images and newsreports of the 1896!tsunami in Japan which is said to have killed 27,000! people, rivaling the current disaster. 30,000 may have died earlier the same year in a separate tsunami.
Nor is that the only such case, with dozens of earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, plagues, fires, wars and atom bombs just in the past century in Japan ... with hundreds of thousands dead or displaced.
And, in great part, this is also a source of strength in Japanese national character, as people pull together at such times and overcome. Sure, this recent disaster has a couple of twists ... the nuclear thing and such ... but countless Japanese folks (and non-Japanese too) are doing so in this case too. Something like how Americans needed the hardship of "crossing the great frontier" to make American Character ... Japanese may thrive from nature's hardship and challenge.
I am sitting in near-normal safety in Tsukuba, while folks are truly suffering 100 miles northeast of here. The highways are filled with relief trucks moving supplies that way, local community groups are pitching in too in my town and 10,000 others. I sent Mina and Leon to be with relatives in Osaka, the "safe" part of Japan (although they also have had a killer tsunami or two down there in centuries past), because the radiation levels here in the air, rain and water are not advisable for growing children. For an old guy like me, however, little concern or threat.
The subject of today's sit-a-long ... no where to run to, baby ... no where we need or can run, baby ... just be still, baby, even as we run for the hills!
Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.
All this while people are hungry and homeless! They have also been sitting on their thumbs since these events began, doing little more than sending a handful of people to have a 'look-see' up there ... much of that at how their temples are doing! Yes, there are individual priests and groups of priests doing what they can, working morning to night, but nothing on the scale we are seeing from other religious groups. When I wrote them to see if they would open their temples nationwide to refugees, they responded that they would think about it.
Personally, as the Japanese are quite well off generally as a country, I would strongly suggest looking at organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children, which help people in like events in countries which are not so well equiped, Haiti and such.
However, even within Japan, other Buddhist and non-Buddhist religious organizations are taking real steps to help, and the so-called "New Religions" are taking up the ball .... sending food, water, blankets, toilet paper, toothbrushes, plumbers, carpenters, doctors and dentists (best in coordination with the authorities to prevent oversupply and misdistribution) ... while the established bureaucracies such as the Soto-shu are doing so much less. Read some about the other groups here ...
Read a little more about what the Soka Gakkai is doing here ...
On March 16, Soka Gakkai youth volunteers from Hokkaido, Aomori and Akita prefectures reached the Iwate Culture Center. They met with Soka Gakkai Iwate prefectural youth leader Shun'ichi Tomita to organize the delivery of relief supplies throughout the region, based on requests from the affected areas. On March 15, the first delivery of relief materials reached Otsuchi town in Iwate prefecture which had been out of communication since the earthquake. Otsuchi, located on the coast, had been completely isolated due to the earthquake, tsunamis and fires. The delivery was made possible due to the efforts of one Soka Gakkai member from Otsuchi, Masaki Takagi, whose own home was completely swept away by the tsunami. He was able to contact the Soka Gakkai Iwate Culture Center after driving 80km to Hanamaki City where he finally found a working phone. On contacting the Iwate Culture Center, Mr. Takagi was able to notify them of conditions in Otsuchi, requesting relief supplies be sent, including blankets, food and water. He also clarified that the roads near the wildfire that had broken out in the area were still accessible and that Otsuchi was reachable.
Taiwanese Buddhist group, Buddha's Light International ...
The monastery in Taiwan began loading supplies into vehicles to be transported to the people in the area who had lost homes, possessions, and loved ones due to the earthquake and tsunami.. Medical supplies and food are of the first order, but blankets and creature comforts are also important. Most important, though, is the gentle touch of a caring hand: Someone wiping a tear from a scared child's eye. The compassionate, loving gaze of someone who cares deeply. These heartfelt connections are the elements are not overlooked by Fo Guang Buddhists.
Church World Service ...
CWS's response centers on emergency relief support to at least 5,000 families, about 25,000 individuals, now living at 100 evacuation sites in the northeastern area of Japan - the prefectures of Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, Ibaragi and Tochigi. Assistance will include immediately required food items and non-food items through a partnership with the Japan Platform, known by the acronym JPF. CWS will focus on evacuation sites where basic needs of food, water, sanitation, electricity and fuel are not being met. These sites are presently being prioritized and identified by JPF.
The CWS response will include ready-to-eat food to meet calorie requirements of those living in evacuation sites. In addition, the response team will distribute sanitation kits, including napkins and soap to fill significant sanitation and hygiene gaps. Water consumption requirements at evacuation sites will be addressed, and one potential substitute for water could include prepared green tea. Blankets, accessed from sources from within the region, are being prioritized to help protect people from the cold, which is becoming an increasingly dire problem as fuel and gas supplies are running out. In order to maintain radio contact at evacuation sites, batteries will be supplied to support victims receiving vital news on nuclear and radiation related developments, information collection and communications. Gas and fuel supplies will also be provided to evacuation sites.
Relief efforts will be carried out by member non-governmental organizations of the JPF and will be coordinated with other humanitarian agencies as well as local authorities. Assistance will be delivered based upon Sphere minimum standards in terms of calorie consumption requirements, water consumption requirements and appropriate sanitation measures. The CWS Asia/Pacific head of emergencies will be stationed in Tokyo this week to coordinate the response along with CWS team on the ground. Relief items will be accessed within the Asia/Pacific region.
Taiwanese Catholic and Protestant Churches ...
The bishops urged all Christians engaged in the medical field to join rescue teams organised by the government or NGO to help Japan.
According to Taiwan's Central News Agency, the compassion of the Taiwanese population can be seen in the tonnes of material aid that arrived yesterday in Tokyo.
A first batch of 26 tonnes of relief supplies, including coats, masks, blankets, generators and mineral water, arrived at Narita Airport outside Tokyo, whilst another shipment of instant noodles, 298 generators and 200 heaters arrived at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
"Happy Science" (Science of Happiness), another Japanese "New Religion" ...
Happy Science has established an Emergency Disaster Headquarters and has started various supportive activities in the affected areas, prioritizing our efforts in insuring the safety of the people.
At Happy Science Temples and Local Branches across the world, we are praying from our hearts that people will be relieved of their sufferings. We also pray for the quick recovery of the stricken areas. We have opened up our facilities in these areas to the public as temporary evacuation centers. Happy Science will do all that is possible to provide everyday commodities and any necessary assistance through our volunteers.
Tzu Chi Foundation ...
On March 23, Tzu chi volunteers sent 10 tons of relief goods to the cities of Rikuzentakata and Ofunato, which were severely affected by the earthquake and tsunami, in Iwate Prefecture. On March 24, a disaster relief team will travel to these two cities to prepare for aid distributions on March 25.
Tenrikyo, another "New Religion", has been sending water. Catholic groups have sent doctors and dentists (we have several medical/dental schools affiliated with Soto-shu).
In contrast to all that ... with the exception of individuals and small groups of priests here and there ... Soto-shu has been doing next to nothing. Shame on us.
I am sure that there are individual priests, or groups of priests, giving their --all-- this day, out in the trenches.
However, I am also sure that the Soto-shu in Japan, with its 14,000 affiliated temples nationwide, universities with medical and dental schools, thousands of priests and lay followers, substantial financial and material resources, could be doing --just as much, if not more-- than other religious bodies do, even smaller and less organized. We need only look so far as the actions of tiny churches in North America to see what religious organizations can do, and what Buddhist organizations did during times such as Hurricane Katrina.
There are refugees now from this Tsunami, so I might ask why cannot Soto-shu do exactly what Tzu Chi and others did for Katrina refugees?
Tzu Chi provides immediate and direct financial assistance in the form of checks or gift cards to evacuees in Houston, Beaumont, Dallas, Kansas City and Phoenix. The emergency check or gift cards will allow families to buy daily necessities, food, water, clothing, and prescription medicine. ... A mobile dental vehicle, equipped with two dental stations and owned by the Los Angeles-based Buddhist Tzu Chi Free Clinic, is now providing free dental treatment for the evacuees in Houston area.
Oh, and a simple phone call to the coordinating governmental authorities ... and Soto-shu certainly has the political connections to get the right people on the phone ... will provide them information and what is needed where, all to avoid oversupply and needless effort.
But, instead, they are worried about getting the gold decorations repainted on their temples? Now? You think that getting the temple buildings cleaned up is what these homeless, cold, jobless people need for their spiritual and material comfort now? That is where we should be sending our, and directing others', money as the best use for it now?
Shame on us. I believe it shows how hollow this religion is sometimes at its heart with its "Compassion" talk.
Ryokan, the old big useless fool, writer of cheap poetry and wanderer in both worlds, this one and the next, writes:
Violets and dandelions mixed together in my beggar's bowl are offered to all the buddhas Manifest here, there and everywhere
Broken bowls, begging bowls, that's what we are. Nothing special, nobody special. Takuhatsu is the action of going begging in the streets, floating away in this fleeting world, things given and received, but who gives, who receives? In the light of the sad events of the past few weeks, Let's take a look at this bowl.
. NOTE: OUR INTERNET CONNECTION IS NOT YET STABLE HERE IN JAPAN, AND THERE IS A POSSIBILITY OF BEING UNABLE TO SUSTAIN OR OF LOSING THE SIGNAL AT ANY POINT DURING THE NETCAST OF THIS ZAZENKAI. FOR THAT REASON, PLEASE FOLLOW ALONG ON YOUR OWN IN CASE WE CANNOT MAINTAIN THE NETCAST. THANK YOU. OUR ZENDO ... MORE THAN SUFFICIENT, AS WE CAN SIT WITHIN EVEN A GRAIN OF DUST ... WILL BE A CORNER OF A ROOM LENT TO US BY A TRUE FRIEND IN OSAKA. GASSHO, JUNDO NOTE THAT DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME HAS BEGUN IN THE U.S. and CANADA (IT WILL NOT COMMENCE IN EUROPE UNTIL MARCH 27th)
Please join our SPECIAL MEMORIAL ZAZENKAI for all those who lost their visible lives, those they love, as well as in dedication to all who are homeless tonight in northern Japan. The netcast will commence from 9am Japan time Saturday morning (that is New York 8pm, Los Angeles 5pm (Friday night), London midnight and Paris 1am (early Saturday morning))
... and to be visible at the following link during those times ...
If not possible for you to join 'live' in your location at those times, the entire sitting is recorded in 'REAL TIME' and available for full participation at any time after that
LINK TO BE POSTED HERE AFTER LIVE SITTING
I shall chant today theSHARIRAIMON(Verse of Homage to Buddha's Relics) (once in Japanese ... the words are below if you wish to follow along) ... then, we shall continue in our usual way with the Heart Sutra in English and according to the schedule below.
JUNDO ONLY WILL CHANT THE SHARIRAIMON (Verse of Homage to Buddha's Relics) in Japanese ...
Verse of Homage to Buddha's Relics 舎利礼文 (Shariraimon)
一心頂禮 IS-SHIN CHŌ RAI
萬德圓滿 MAN DOKU EN MAN
釋迦如來 SHA KA NYO RAI
眞身舍利 SHIN JIN SHA RI
本地法身 HON JI HŌS-SHIN
法界塔婆 HŌ KAI TŌ BA
我等禮敬 GA TŌ RAI KYŌ
爲我現身 I GA GEN SHIN
入我我入 NYŪ GA GA NYŪ
佛加持故 BUTSU KA JI KO
我證菩提 GA SHŌ BO DAI
以佛神力 I BUTSU JIN RIKI
利益衆生 RI YAKU SHU JŌ
發菩提心 HOTSU BO DAI SHIN
修菩薩行 SHU BO SATSU GYŌ
同入圓寂 DŌ NYŪ EN JAKU
平等大智 BYŌ DŌ DAI CHI
今將頂禮 KON JŌ CHŌ RAI
With wholehearted reverence we bow to the relics of the true body of the Tathagata Shakyamuni, who is fully endowed with myriad virtues; to the dharma body, which is the fundamental ground; and to his stupa, which is the whole universe. With deep respect we venerate the one who manifested a body for our sake. Through the sustaining power of the Buddha, which enters us even as we enter it, we verify awakening. By means of the Buddha's spiritual power, we benefit living beings, arouse the thought of awakening, cultivate Bodhisattva practice, and together enter perfect peace, the knowledge of the equality of all things. Now let us reverently bow.
Gassho, to all joining in this sitting from near and far. Jundo
With the death of perhaps tens of thousands here in Japan, the suffering of countless more ... seemingly innocent children and others among the hardest hit ... some perspectives and teachings on why 'bad things happen'. Karma? Nature? Destiny? A Deity's Mysterious Plan? Simple bad luck? In fact, the truth is that none of us in this life ... none of us ... escape this life with our lives. Long or short, we are here for a time, having wondrously been born ... but do not stay here forever. And, while it is shocking and tragic to see so many have their lives and homes lost at once ... the truth is that most human beings will have such times sometime in life ... if not by earthquake(there was quite an aftershock about 4 minutes into today's shake-a-long talk, as you'll share) or nuclear fallout or flood ... then by a doctor's diagnosis, house fire, traffic accident or the like. The Buddha taught that such is the human condition ... times of old age, sickness, loss and death. All worldly things are impermanent ... including you, me and those we love.
For, no less, the Buddha offered a medicine for human suffering. Together with teachings on suffering and impermanence, he also taught us another way to experience, to see, to merge into, be at peace, one and whole in these things: ... loss yet never loss possible ... birth and death amid the deathless and unborn ... time flowing as the timeless, beyond count of 'long' 'short' 'young' 'old' ... the waters rushing forward while no place to go ... the earth's shaking in stillness ... houses lost while this 'True Home' remains. "Bad" things happen hand-in-hand with a Peace, tasted in Zazen, which swallows whole all small views of "good" and "bad". Although "all things are change", and some changes are hard and ugly ... there is that which dances with all change, and a heart which, when at peace, can fully let it all just be. Flowers are born of seeds, live for a time, then fall. Same for weeds in life, though we may despise them.
Oh, I do not want anyone to mistake my words for a lack compassion toward the countless people still hungry and thirsty, cold and uprooted just miles north of here, in this country that has been so kind to me for half my life. Far from it, and my heart is broken by what is happening here. But we must feel compassion for everyone, all sentient beings everywhere now suffering.
In the story of Kisa Gotami...
When her son died just a few years into his life, Kisa Gotami went mad with grief. A wise person saw her condition and told her to find the Buddha, who had the medicine she needed. Kisa Gotami went to the Buddha, and asked him to give her the medicine that would restore her dead child to life. The Buddha told her to go out and find a mustard seed from a house where nobody had died. Kisa Gotami was heartened, and began her search, going door to door. Everyone was willing to give her a mustard seed, but every household she encountered had seen at least one death. She understood why the Buddha had sent her on this quest. She returned to the Buddha, who confirmed what she had realized: "There is no house where death does not come."
(Jesus also offered a parable of the mustard seed: To those who have faith the size of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible to you).
NONE OF US CAN ESCAPE.
YET, NONE OF US EVER LESS THAN FREE WHEN SEEN WITH A BUDDHA'S EYE.
For donations to the children and people of Japan and other places around the world also in need ...
There are people without homes, food, loved ones just 100 miles north of here. My son (who is -not- the child in the photo at left) is obviously shaken, tossed around with the other children in his school classroom when the earthquake hit. A seven year old cannot understand. The child in that photo must be so much more confused ... beyond a child's understanding. The aftershocks and "meltdown" talk as we constantly checked for bulletins were beginning to get to our son, so we send him (with my wife) off to relatives on the other side of Tokyo. After a fews days with no water or toilets (they're back now ... luxuries ... ), checking news bulletins for the nuclear reactors (about 110 miles from here) and being woken from sleep by the aftershocks ... I'M TIRED! But I can't help just feel fortunate that my family and I seem so well off, unscratched. Inconvenienced and sleepless at worst, maybe a bit rattled.
Zazen truly has helped to keep all in perspective this week, centered, bringing stability in the sometime chaos ... earth moves, heart still (even if now and then racing when the rafters and electric lines shake back and forth.). One truly can feel terrifying fear AND fully see through the fear AT ONCE! Fear and Peace, AS ONE! Our "a little" broken house can be fixed. Compared to those really without, hungry and sleeping in the cold, missing sons and daughters, wives and husbands swept away ... we're untouched.
Other than "stuff" ... a fallen roof, some cracked wooden beams, smashed furniture, and broken buddha statues (can they be broken?) ... we're okay. After a couple of days without power and water ... I sit here drinking my coffee, typing on the computer, enjoying a hot shower, like any other day. Here, things are getting back to normal. "Stuff" can be fixed. For these other people, some things will be much harder to repair ... their broken hearts and uprooted lives. All we can do is send our empathy and hopes out to those not so lucky.
Oh, and make efforts to lend a hand were needed (there are probably people in your own community who could use your help today... not only in Japan), and don't forget the cash.
A few people have asked me were to send money. As the Japanese are quite well off generally as a country, I would strongly suggest looking at organizations like Doctors Without Bordersand Save the Children, which help people in like events in countries which are not so well equiped, Haiti and such.
Please 'sit-a-long' with our MONTHLY4-hourZAZENKAI, recorded in 'REAL TIME' and available for full participation 'ON DEMAND' at ANY TIME, no different from the 'live' sitting . Just click then on the links below:
THE 'REAL TIME, ANY TIME' recorded version is divided into 3 parts as follows (click on the blue links) :
Our Zazenkai consists of our chanting the 'Heart Sutra' and the 'Identity of Relative and Absolute (Sandokai)' in English (please download our Chant Book at the link below), some full floor prostrations (please follow along with me ... or a simple Gassho can be substituted if you wish), a little talk by me ... and we close with the 'Metta Chant', followed at the end with the 'Verse of Atonement' and 'The Four Vows'. Oh, and lots and lots of Zazen and walkin' Kinhin in between!
Please download and print out the Chant Book (PDF) at the following link:
I STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT YOU POSITION YOUR ZAFU ON THE FLOOR IN A PLACE WHERE YOU ARE NOT STARING DIRECTLY AT THE COMPUTER SCREEN, BUT CAN GLANCE OVER AND SEE THE SCREEN WHEN NECESSARY. YOUR ZAFU SHOULD ALSO BE IN A POSITION WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE COMPUTER SCREEN WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF THE ZAFU FOR THE CEREMONIES, AND HAVE ROOM FOR BOWING AND KINHIN.
ALSO, REMEMBER TO SET YOUR COMPUTER (& SCREEN SAVER) SO THAT IT DOES NOT SHUT OFF DURING THE 4 HOURS.
I hope you will join us ... an open Zafu is waiting. When we drop all thought of 'here' 'there' 'now' 'then' ... we are sitting all together!