Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Greatest Thing Is Love

I gave the following message at our Special Sunday Service on December 5, 2010. First I gave a short message to the congregation including Sunday School students and Junior Youth Group students. Then, Sunday School and JYG students dismissed I shared "The Greatest Thing Is Love" with Sunday Service attendees.

Message of This Month:
December is a good month to give a lot of love to others. We are all children of God. We have to realize this truth; however, learning the truth only by knowledge or meditation is not enough. We rather have to take action. In Seicho-No-Ie we call this a deed of love. First, we need to know that we are all children of God. Then, we bring out our God's nature through deeds of love.
Then, what is love? In the Bible love is described in this way: "Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; (Sunday School students, do you know the meaning of 'conceit'? It means you have too much pride in yourself. Love is not to show off what you've done for your friends.) love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
So, please be kind to others and help them. Be patient to your family members and not blame them. Do not be jealous of others happiness but be joyful for them. Do not be selfish but think of others first. Keep a record of only good things. Have hope and work hard to realize your hope and never give up. Then, we will be able to have a wonderful year 2011. I hope all of you can practice this love throughout the year 2011. Thank you very much.

The Greatest Thing Is Love:
Seicho-No-Ie Founder, Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi, wrote many books and some of them introduced the teachings of Buddhism through his inspiring interpretation. One of these books is Mumonkan Kaishaku (means commentary of gateless gate). In the 8th koan (a paradoxical question for Zen meditation) there is a story of Keichu who produced the very first vehicle in ancient China. Keichu made a vehicle and then broke up it as if he was seeking something. Another person, then, asked Keichu what he was doing. Keichu said he was looking for the vehicle.
This is a paradoxical question of Zen, but we always have a similar question in our lives. For example, I have a paper crane made with an origami paper. When you unfold it, it becomes an original origami paper. Now, where is the crane? There is no crane but only a plain paper. Then, can you make a crane other than with this paper? Yes, you can. As long as you know how to make it, you can make a crane with any paper. Then, where does the crane exist? The crane exists only in a person who makes a crane by paper.
This is another example. Almost 2 months ago, I asked Chris to play the piano for this special Sunday Service and right now you've just listened to the beautiful music. He didn't have a music sheet but played beautifully. Where does this beautiful music exist? Is it in the piano? No. Is it in the music sheet" No, it is in Chris' mind. When he has a piano, he can play this beautiful music.
We see something through physical or material existence; however, the real thing does not exist in the material. The day after Thanksgiving, I threw out my back. I was not able to move at all for two days. I had shiatsu massage and Japanese spa therapy Monday and my pain was relieved, but it came back when I worked on my computer for 2 hours. Then, I tried acupuncture and my pain was relieved, but it came back when I walked around shopping at Target. So, I went to the acupuncturist again and I am better now. But I have to take care of myself until my back heals completely.
In Seicho-No-Ie we learn that matter does not exist and the physical body does not exist. However, I had an unbearable severe pain in my back last week. Where did my pain go and where did my pain exactly exist last week? This is like the paper crane does not exist in the original paper or Chris' beautiful music does not exist in the piano. However, many people tend to think that their physical bodies are themselves and believe their health or bad health exists in their physical bodies because they are strongly attached to their physical bodies. Some people are attached not only to their physical bodies but also to money.
This is a newspaper article from Alameda Times-Star which I keep in my scrap book. Mr. Jack Whittaker was a millionaire. He was a successful businessman and saved $17 million. He was happy and thrived. However, everything changed when he hit the Powerball in December 2002. According to the paper, "It was then the largest single jackpot ever, worth $314.9 million. Whittaker opted for the lump-sum payout of $170 million-$93 million after taxes." He lost many things because of this winning.
Whittaker's home and car were repeatedly burglarized. The paper described, "In all, Whittaker says, he's been involved in 460 legal actions since winning. He recently settled a lawsuit that alleged his bank failed to catch $50,000 in counterfeit checks cashed from his accounts." His friends asked for money to borrow but they never paid back, so he lost all his friends. He not only lost his friends but his wife. His daughter has battled cancer for years, but money cannot heal her disease.
This shows that money itself does not make people happy and thrive because the physical body or money is the master of our lives. Our child of God's nature itself is the true self. We call it the True Image. When we realize this True Image and our life itself is eternal, we will be able to release our attachment from our minds and realize true happiness in our lives. Rev. Seicho Taniguchi quoted a story from Mr. Kenji Suzuki, a famous TV announcer in Japan, about his experience when he was young.

"The Word, 'Thank You'
"I (means Mr. Suzuki) was a high school student, just after the World War II. One day an American minister visited me and explained that many children had lost their parents during the past war. The minister said, 'Could you take care of these children?' I answered that I would cooperate with him. I just thought that I would go somewhere to volunteer. However, 68 children between three years old and thirteen years old suddenly appeared in front of me. All I received was an old shabby barracks which had been used by the Japanese military until the end of war with no beds and supplies. All windows were broken, so I even covered them with old newspaper to keep out the cold. I immediately negotiated with U.S. forces and received 70 beds for free. The situation was very severe because it was just after the war. Food, clothing and other necessities were in short supply. It was difficult to live with 68 children. It took a lot of effort. I got up at 3 o'clock in the morning and prepared breakfast, but I found that the children could not sleep because there was no heat. I did not know what to do, so I got up from my bed and lay down on the floor. All the children snuggled against my body to keep warm.
"At that time I was eighteen years old. If I had to get up at 3 o'clock in the morning, prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for the children, hunt for food, teach them and wash all the clothes, I could not have continued for more than three days. However, one of the children, about a twelve year old mentally handicapped girl, came to my rescue. Everyday she voluntarily washed all the laundry. So, I was able to take care of everything else.
"There was no washing machine, but the girl put her hands into a thick sheet of ice which had formed on the water and washed, as hard as she could. I did not even have a piece of candy or a cookie to give her in gratitude.
"All I could do was to say, 'thank you' to her. As I said thank you, she seemed to smile slightly. I wondered whether or not she understood. Other children told her thank you, she also slightly changed her face as if smiling. Saying thank you was the only thing I could do. Otherwise, I had no way to repay her.
"She did not know how to warm her hands. I held her hands to warm them. Her hands and fingers were swollen, bleeding and frostbitten. Her fingernails had peeled off. I picked her hands up and embraced them under my armpits as long as I could, like a bird hatching an egg. I could find no other alternative." (Jiko Kanseino Tameni, pages 200-202)

Can you imagine that this girl put her hands into a thick sheet of ice water and washed even though her fingernails were peeled off and her hands and fingers were swollen, bleeding and frostbitten. Mr. Suzuki picked her hands up and embraced them for warming. That was all he could do, but what a beautiful act of love he did! He gave the girl a great deal of love which was much more valuable than money or cookies. She received his love and maybe was satisfied. Getting back to his story, Mr. Suzuki wrote:

"Soon I found plenty of people to continue my volunteer work, and I could leave this institution. A week after I left, the mentally handicapped girl was hit by a reckless driver and was killed instantly. I still believe that she is in heaven washing clothes. She ended her short life at about 12 years of age. However, she spent her life with 67 other children through performing the only ability she had which was washing clothes. She shared her ability and she died. I believe that her life was very valuable. Reflecting on my life, I have not done anything. I am ashamed to compare my life with hers. i have slumbered away more than 50 years." (Ibid., p. 203)

Rev. Seicho Taniguchi comments about Mr. Suzuki's act of love and the mentally handicapped girl's act of love as follows:

"Mr. Suzuki said that he had slumbered away, but he had not slumbered at all. He gave love to many people and also to this girl. This deed of love was invisible, but he definitely gave true love, beautiful words and action. She was not blessed physically, and graduated from this world by instant death. She must have had no pain because she died instantly. Man is surely born into this world or another world in order to express his eternal life. It does not matter whether the world is here or elsewhere. In her next life, this girl must be born not as a mentally handicapped or an orphaned child but born into a happy family to grow with blessings because she accumulated 'good deeds' without asking for compensation, fame or money. She did whatever she could do without asking for anything. These good deeds or acts must become good fruit in the next life. Life is not lived only one time. You must realize this truth that life is eternal. Keeping good words and actions in your life and expressing them bring out the child of God nature and infinite potential within oneself." (Ibid., p. 204)

I order to realize our True Image, we need to practice Shinsokan and at the same time practice deeds of love. The deed of love given by the mentally handicapped girl in Mr. Suzuki's story is very powerful because love is the power to change everything. During the holiday season, let us practice this love and help others. To conclude my lecture I will again quote the same passages I quoted in the beginning from the Bible.

"Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Thank you very much!

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