Sunday, October 28, 2001

Afghanistan Frontlines

After breakfast, I returned to my room in a hotel in Kobe where I was for a Seicho-Noi-Ie Grand Seminar. Opening the newspaper, I listened somewhat absent-mindedly to the BBC World News on TV. Before I knew it, I was drawn to the images of John Simpson, reporting from Afghanistan on the frontline confrontations between the Taliban and Northern Alliance troops. Different from the Gulf War, there are almost no raw, detailed reports from the frontlines. What we do get are cut and dried facts--names and numbers of how many locations the U.S. bombed, how many combat aircrafts went out, which cities/towns were attacked--devoid of human pain and sorrow. Then again, similar to what we saw during the Gulf War, computerized images of Taliban buildings and tanks destroyed by the guided missiles from U.S. bombers are shown repeatedly. This, too, is devoid of the cries of those who lose their lives, or the images of the people who are suffering because of this destruction. It's almost like a computer game.

The newspaper reports, which have no visual images, are even more abstract, with many vague, ambiguous references to, "Attacks today were more intense than usual," or "U.S. bombers today concentrated attacks on such-and-such?" In today's edition of the Nihon Keizei Shimbun (Japan Economic News), there was an article which said, "Bombing continued, the most aggressive to date, on the 26th and 27th, as more than 30 bombs were dropped successively on the base positions of the Taliban troops north of Kabul in an air strike which was said to reach near civilian homes." We who read these articles, are surprised and shocked at the descriptions--"most aggressive to date," "dropped successively," "reach near civilian homes"--and tend to imagine, not only that the Taliban forces are experiencing huge losses at the hands of the violent U.S. bombings, but also that there are many Afghan civilians who have become victims of these attacks.

However, reports from the "frontlines" by Mr. Simpson, showed no exchange of gunfire, no soldiers flinging themselves at the enemy, nor carpet bombing upon the Taliban troops. In a moment before dawn, in 25 degrees (Centigrade) weather, with no wind, bombings occur only sporadically. Even those are from one or two U.S. bombers whose silvery wings look small against the clear blue sky. There are no sounds of return fire from the anti-aircraft guns, and, amidst it all, there are small explosions that occur and little mushroom clouds billow sporadically here and there. Soldiers of the Northern Alliance look out at it all calmly, chatting amongst themselves. Moreover, according to the explanation given by the commanding officer of the Northern Alliance unit, the Taliban frontline base immediately in front of them was not touched, but the backup trucks and tanks were being shot, in sniper-like fashion from above, and destroyed . In other words, U.S. forces avoided hitting the Taliban main positions, and were, instead, attacking the peripheral areas. Come to think of it, it was strange that there were "over 30" (in other words, less than 39) bombs dropped in what was touted as "the most aggressive attack to date." Even at a rate of one every 15 minutes, it would have been 40 within the span of 10 hours.

For soldiers and civilians hurt or killed in combat or bombings, war is definitely horrible, but there seem to be wars carried out for political reasons which "pull some punches". I recall that President Bush said recently, "The Taliban are tough." This seems very strange. Not giving it their all, and yet calling them tough? It seems that in this war (and in other wars as well), we ordinary citizens are getting news that is "turned around."

Placing it on a piece of dark colored paper, I tried drawing a picture of a bottle of liquid soap that was in my hotel room. It had a strange effect--like the entire picture was somehow "turned around."

- MT

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

My Father's Birthday

Today being my father's birthday, we invited my parents to a dinner party tocelebrate the event. By "dinner party", though, I mean, a modest gathering with the five of us and my parents, 7 total, partaking in a meal together. My twosons, who are attending college and living on their own, were there too, so it was the first time in a while that we were all together. Although dinner wasn't until 6 pm, I, being the chef, got home at about four, and my wife and I got started on the preparations. We shared the duties with me making the sushi and my wife making various side dishes. Since my father likes rolls, I made two each of two different types of rolls, and rounded things out with tuna, salmon, and yellow tail, arranged on a platter in an attractive color scheme.

Whenever we make sushi rolls at our house, we usually make something called "Asahi Maki." This goes back about 4-5 years ago, when I was in Otaru City, Hokkaido for a Seicho-No-Ie Grand Seminar, and refers to a roll that I tasted when I went to a sushi restaurant called "Asahiya," on Sushi Restaurant Row there. It was so delicious that I jotted down everything that went inside the roll, went home, made it and served it to my family. It was such a hit that it's become a family tradition of sorts. You wrap lots of the ingredients--which include tuna, squid, seaweed, cucumber, shiso and sweetened ginger--firmly into a roll, and you get something with an indescribable taste and texture. It probably has to do with the contrast in the different textures of the tender tuna and the crisp cucumber and ginger. The other type of roll I made has crab legs, avocado, cucumber and shiso -- a variation on the California Roll.

Our second son, who's a college freshman, and my daughter, who's in her second year of high school, came home around 5:30 and began helping to get things ready. Our older son, who's a junior in college and had had classes until the last minute, arrived several minutes after 6:00 pm. The two boys, who don't get much from us as a monthly allowance, work part time to supplement their incomes. As a result, they don't get to eat sushi very much, so really took advantage of the opportunity and enjoyed the meal. Anticipating something like this would happen, we cooked five cups of rice for the sushi for the seven of us, and the sushi, as well as the leftover fish, was all gone before we knew it. It was gratifying to see it disappear so quickly, and made the preparation all worthwhile.

After dinner, we gave Father his gifts. My wife and I gave him a compact flashcard for the new digital camera he bought and has started using recently. The grandchildren gave him a leather book cover to put on the paperbacks that he reads. Although they probably had no way of knowing that he's started reading the paperback version of "Before the Dawn" by Touson Shimazaki, I thought it was a very well thought out gift. Thinking perhaps that my mother had something todo with it, I looked over at her, but couldn't tell from her smiling face whether or not she had.

- MT

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Three Beliefs in One

Several questions regarding the terrorist attacks were raised by the attendees of the Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture in Mito City, Ibaragi Prefecture. There were such general questions as, "What do you, as a religious leader, think of the attacks?" to more specific questions such as, "As Japanese citizens, is it right for us just to be grateful for being as blessed as we are?" or "Shouldn't we concern ourselves more with our relationship with the Muslim influence?" Time constraints prevented me from answering all the questions in depth, but I did emphasize the following points: That is, the recent events were not conflicts between religions, but, rather, one between nations or countries, and/or a political problem between a small group of radical extremists versus countries. Not too long ago in Japan, there was a group of radical extremists called the Aum Supreme Truth who believed in a very unique, very unusual, doctrine, and they tried, using armed strife, to take on the Japanese government. The recent events in the United States are similar to this but have been taken to an international level. Just as the former was not a battle or conflict between the Aum Supreme Truth and Japanese Shintoism, or one between Buddhism (Members of the Aum Supreme Truth claimed to be Buddhists.) and Shintoism, the latter is not a battle or conflict between Islam and Christianity or Judaism.

Another thing I emphasized at the lecture was that Judaism, Islam and Christianity are much like "spiritual brothers and sisters" in that they all share belief in the same God (one Absolute God). So one God is not being pitted against another. This is an extremely important point. If one "God", supposedly of more merit, is pitted against another, it is impossible for both to coexist peacefully. However, in reality, that is not so. These three monotheistic religions all share the same absolute God. But they differ in their view on who communicates God's words or teachings better. This "difference in interpretation" is the reason for these three religions. Broadly speaking, to those of Judaism, the Old Testament is the best, to those of Christianity, the New Testament completes the Old Testament, and to those of the Muslim faith, the Koran completes the sum total of the prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments. In this way, if the three would stop being so attached and adamant that their interpretation is "the one absolute", and, as seen in the diversity of nature, recognize the fact that there are a probable diverse number of ways for expression of the One Absolute God, and, furthermore, show their respect for this diversity, the three would not only live together in coexistence, but also develop and grow.

Theoretically, that is how it goes, but, things don't always go according to theory. After the lecture, I stopped by Lake Semba, which sits adjacent to Kairakuen Park in Mito City. The gingko trees had already started to turn a golden color and the cherry trees were starting to turn red. Looking at all the beautiful colors of the fall--colors somewhere between green and yellow, a gradation of colors from green to red, and neutrals between red and brown--spread out and layered, creating a truly complicated yet delicate mosaic of colors, my thoughts turned to how, since we all love this diversity of nature, there was no reason why we cannot recognize and appreciate the diversity of religions and cultures and celebrate them all.

- MT

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

A Heartfelt Invitation

Results of an experiment have shown that the prayer, "Please bless (this person) with a baby" are actually effective. This study was written up in a recent edition of the "Journal of Reproductive Medicine", a respected medical publication, so must be scientifically sound. Since there have been a number of past studies that have verified the effects of prayer, it can be said that this experiment has gone further in confirming that "prayer is effective." However, the "whys" and "hows" of the connection between the mind and pregnancy, and the prayer mechanism are not known.

It's probably safe to say that the stage for this experiment was "the whole world." Those who were receivers of the prayers were 219 women who, from December 1998 to March 1999, were undergoing treatment for infertility at Cha General Hospital in Seoul, Korea. Those who were responsible for giving the prayers were members of various Christian denominations in the United States, Canada and Australia. The prayer givers were only given photos of half the women in the study, in batches of five at a time, and during the course of the three weeks of treatments, they gave direct prayers such as, "May this person definitely get pregnant" or indirect prayers such as, "May our prayers for her pregnancy be answered." As a result, of those who did not receive prayers, 26% became pregnant, but, of those who did receive prayers, 50% became pregnant. None of the women in either group knew that the prayers were taking place.

The women in this study were undergoing in vitro fertilization. The fertilization rate was about the same for both the prayer receivers and non-receivers, but the big difference came when the embryo was transferred to the woman's uterus to develop naturally. Although the probability of multiple births increases due to the administering of hormones during the in vitro process, the proportion for these multiple births was greater in those who received prayers than those who did not. Dr. Rogerio Lobo, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University, who headed the team conducting this study said, "We set out with the expectation that we would show no benefit of prayer."

We can't blame them for thinking that since the predominant thinking of modern day scientists is that our mind's are generated by electro-chemical reactions within our brains. So, it would be impossible for such a faint, miniscule amount of energy such as that to cross the Pacific Ocean and travel to Korea, through the concrete walls of the hospital in Seoul, and stimulate the fertilized eggs in the uteri of the women there. This time science proved that "there actually are things that science cannot explain." It's no mistaking, then, that the hearts of many Japanese citizens played a large part in Crown Princess Masako's pregnancy.

- MT

Sunday, October 14, 2001

A Prayer to Dispel the Dark Clouds of Battle

(Please feel free to make copies of this prayer and share it with those around you.)

Though scenes of conflict are shown on TV day after day, this is false appearance. Though people, consumed with hatred, stand on street corners waving their clenched fists, this is false appearance. Though there may be reports of "hundreds have died", this is false appearance. This is not to say that these facts do not exist in the phenomenal world, but rather that, in the True Image World created by God, there is no hostility, animosity, hatred, anger or sadness. That which appears as though it "exists", does so because of our minds--our minds that recognize the enemy and our minds that hate, get angry and mourn. It is because we believe that that mind to be the "true mind." Once we release that mindset, conflict will disappear because God did not create a world in which His creations hate each other nor did He create a world in which those created "in His image" need to kill each other in order to fulfill His will.

The act of killing in the name of "God" is delusion. The mind that vows revenge while calling upon the name of "God" is delusion. Thinking that God has to fight against evil, is delusion. Thinking that the world of God will not be manifested without "God" judging other children of God, is delusion. This is all delusion, but it is played out in the phenomenal world created by children of God. Though none of this is the will of God, if man has the wild idea that this should be, it is reflected in the phenomenal world and these feelings are expressed in fighting. Like a play acted out in a theater, this is not "real" or "genuine", but is fictitious and imaginary. However, we, as "actors" not only perform this play physically, but also by skillfully combining stage props, lighting, and sound effects, we throw ourselves into the play feeling as though it is all, indeed, "real." This is a play that we wish for. This is a play that we wrote. This is how one act of the battle began. It is by no means something begun by God.

Though Act One of this play may be "Conflict", we can perform "Peace" and "Trust" in Act Two. This is possible not only because we can perform "Peace" and "Trust" in the same way we performed "Conflict", but also because both "Peace" and "Trust" are real, and, from the onset, have always existed in the world of God. There is no need for man to try and forcibly create on earth something that already exists in the world of God. If man simply recognizes that which already exists, it shall appear. Since "peace" is God, it is already in the hearts of all children of God. Since "love" is God, it is already in the hearts of all children of God. The only problem is that this is open only to some and closed to others.

We are children of God, and, as such, we have within us God's infinite love, peace, and trust. God does not discriminate between His children because of differences in religion, race or ethnicity. Neither should we discriminate between our brothers because of differences in religion, race, or ethnicity. God blesses all with His infinite love, peace and trust, and so we, as children of God, spread that love, peace and trust amongst all mankind. We are so very grateful that God always blesses mankind.

(The "Prayer for World Peace" may be given after this.)