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

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