Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

As you may have heard, we will be moving to Manhattan, New York in January 2013. Every moment of our lives in Southern California was so joyful and memorable! Our eldest daughter, Mika, will stay in Torrance to graduate high school, while Eri and Saki start their new lives in NY. We will go around a full circle by going back to our starting point of marriage, which began in Manhattan in 1994. We will continue to devote ourselves to the Seicho-No-Ie church, our community, and schools as much as possible. May the joy of the holiday season be yours, and may the New Year bring you much happiness, prosperity, peace and love.

The Kawakami Family (December 2012)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let Us Genuinely Practice Three Seicho-No-Ie Practices

The following message was my message of the July/August SCMA newsletter.


In this phenomenal life, there are many important things which are bestowed to us by God as important. If there is no life, we cannot accomplish our mission which was given to us by God. Therefore, the action to terminate life must be ceased because it is a sinful act.  However, some people think and act that money or material things are more important than life because they have their own moral reflection. But our morals should come from God. In other words, goodness is one of God’s virtues. Goodness is not only good for oneself but it is also good for many people. Goodness is not egotistical or partial—it is impartial. Seicho-No-Ie prayers have positive words, but if you only pray for your happiness and do not pay mind to others, that is not a good prayer. In the phenomenal world, sometimes “good” is interpreted into different meanings because every situation is different.
              In July, Tomas Lopez, a lifeguard in Hallandale Beach, Florida, was fi red because he saved a person who was drowning. The reason why he was fi red was because the person who was drowning was in the out of insurance coverage zone in which Tomas watched. This relates to liability insurance. A company should have liability insurance. Liability insurance means if something happens on a company’s property, they have to be legally responsible for it. However, any company cannot prevent absolutely every accident before it happens.  So insurance is needed, and insurance covers only incidents in a certain area. This applies to the beach as well. The lifeguard company of Tomas Lopez was responsible for whatever happens to their employees in their designated area.  So, they had a policy for their employees to not tend to any incidents happening outside their designated area. Tomas knew that he would be fi red if he didn’t abide by it, but he thought that saving a human life was more important than this policy.  Consequently, he was fired, and his fellow lifeguards also quit the company in protest of their decision.
              So, if you were a lifeguard, would you do the same thing as Tomas did? I think the average person would answer, “Yes.”  Many people would also probably think that this company is wrong, but what is actually wrong? I believe most people think that policies or rules, overall, should contribute to the happiness of human beings. Life is very important. The lifeguard company’s policy was to protect their business, not for saving the life of human beings.
              That was probably not too difficult to figure out. Yet, how about the next example? The following is a true story that took place in Afghanistan, revealed by Michael Sandel in his book, Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? I will summarize between pages 24 and 30:
              In June 2005, a special forces team made up of Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell and three other U.S. Navy SEALs set out on a secret mission in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, in search of a Taliban leader, a close associate of Osama bin Laden. According to intelligence reports, their target commanded 140 to 150 heavily armed fighters and was staying in a village in the forbidding mountainous region.
              Shortly after, the special forces team met two Afghan farmers with about a hundred goats. One of them was a boy about 14 years old. The Afghans were unarmed. The American soldiers trained their rifles on them, motioned for them to sit on the ground, and then debated what to do about them. On one hand, the goat herders appeared to be unarmed civilians. On the other hand, letting them go would run the risk that they would inform the Taliban of the presence of the U.S. soldiers.
              Four soldiers did not have any rope to tie up the Afghans, so their choice was either to kill the Afghan goat herders or let them go free. One of the soldiers voted to kill them and another voted to set them free. The third one had abstained. So, Petty Officer Luttrell’s vote would decide the lives of Afghan goat herders. If you were him, what would you do?
              Since we are not in the Navy SEALs and not actually in Afghanistan, it is difficult for us to decide one way or another. However, Petty Officer Luttrell was in that situation and cast the deciding vote to release them. About an hour and a half after they released the goat herders, the four soldiers found themselves surrounded by eighty to a hundred Taliban fighters armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.  In the fierce firefight that followed, all three of Luttrell’s comrades, except for Petty Officer Luttrell, were killed. The Taliban fighters also shot down a U.S. helicopter that sought to rescue the SEAL unit, killing all sixteen soldiers on board.
              The reason why I introduced this story is not because I am going to tell you that in our lives we have very difficult decisions in which we would need to sacrifice a human life. As a matter of fact, Professor Sandel wrote:

Few of us face choices as fateful as those that confronted the soldiers on the mountain. But wrestling with their dilemmas sheds light on the way moral argument can proceed, in our personal lives and in the public square.
       Life in democratic societies is rife with disagreement about right and wrong, justice and injustice. Some people favor abortion rights, and others consider abortion to be murder. Some believe fairness requires taxing the rich to help the poor, while others believe it is unfair to tax away money people have earned through their own efforts. . . .
       How, then, can we reason our way through the contested terrain of justice and injustice, equality and inequality, individual rights and the common good? This book tries to answer that question. . . . (pp. 27-28)

              Professor Sandel gave us deep insight to consider and discuss moral philosophies in this book, but as long as we discuss something from the phenomenal viewpoint, we cannot find solution because moral reflections change depending on time, place, and cultural and/or racial background.  During the Tokugawa Shogun period between 1600 and 1868 in Japan, killing the parent’s or master’s killer for revenge was allowed until it was legally prohibited in 1873. Traditionally in the Muslim culture, a man may have up to four wives if he believes he can treat them equally, while a woman may have only one husband even if she can treat men equally. In the phenomenal world there is no absolute perfection, because this world is a reflected world like a projected movie. Therefore, in Petty Officer Luttrell’s case, there is no absolute good decision.
              Then, what should we do? What is the best way to resolve our problems? First of all, in Seicho-No-Ie, we need to know the Truth because the Truth shall make us free.  We need to realize our True Image through the three important SNI practices. In the phenomenal world, we sometimes run into a stone wall and think there is no solution to our problems.  As long as we see the situation from the phenomenal viewpoint, we will not find any solution. However, when we apply the law of God’s love to our problems, we will be able to resolve them because anything is possible in the world of God. Therefore, let us genuinely continue to carry out our three important SNI practices (Shinsokan meditation, reading the Holy Sutra and Seicho-No-Ie books, and acts of gratitude).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

You Are the Master of Your Destiny!

The following lecture was delivered at the SNI Orange County Center's One Day Truth Realization Seminar on October 27, 2012:

We are all children of God; therefore, we are the master of our lives. We can change our lives to whatever we want. As today’s One-Day Truth Realization Seminar’s flyer states: “You are always the master. You control your own destiny. That is why you must not think that others are to blame for your misfortune. You are solely responsible for your misfortune or happiness.”

In Seicho-No-Ie, there are several important teachings that you should not miss such as “You are a child of God,” “You are the master of your destiny.” and “All environment by which you are surrounded are reflections of your mind.” You are the master of your life, but your wishes are not always realized because your fervent wish and sincere wish are different. Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi wrote:

“Your sincere wish will come true. Sincerity does not merely mean being fervent. It means your innermost truth. The innermost is the opposite of a superficial shallowness. By following fashion, satisfying one’s vanity, hastily welcoming the situation, rashly swimming with the tide, and being swayed by rumors, one wants to do something. But that something cannot be a sincere wish. Jesus fervently prayed with bloody perspiration in the garden of Gethsemane, ‘If you are willing, take this cup from me’ (Luke 22:42, NIV). However, this was not his actual sincere wish.” (Truth of Life magazine Oct. 2010, p. 25)

Jesus fervently wished to take that cup from him, but this was not actually his sincere wish. Rev. Taniguchi continued:

“Jesus’ sincere wish was that he himself be crucified on the cross for the sin-consciousness of human beings, in the same way that Moses had saved the Jewish people from the fury of God by lifting up the bronze snake and putting it up on a pole. Therefore, he prophesied that, ‘just as Moses lifted the snake up in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up’ (John 3:14, NIV). This was his subconscious sincere wish. However, his conscious fervent wish was ‘take this cup from me.’ However fervent the wish in your conscious mind, it shall not come true when you have the opposite wish in your subconscious mind.” (Ibid., p. 25)

Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi described the mind in the following manner: “The mind is like an iceberg, with the subconscious mind becoming increasingly larger as it goes deeper. The conscious mind, which appears above the surface, is only the tip of the iceberg. What appears above the surface of the water is only a small portion of the iceberg as most of its large mass is below the surface and out of sight...The subconscious mind is exactly like this. It becomes bigger as it goes deeper, and the lower portion of the subconscious mind is what is common to and interconnected with all mankind” (Prosperity and Health, p. 276).

Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi likened each person’s conscious and subconscious minds to the above diagram. The conscious mind is about 5 percent of the total individual mind. The subconscious mind is almost 95 percent of the mind. Within the subconscious mind there are several layers of consciousness. Rev. Taniguchi described the relationship between conscious and subconscious minds: “The conscious mind is merely a point that protrudes on the surface of the subconscious. It has the role of receiving or preventing unwholesome things from entering the mind. The subconscious mind, on the other hand, passively accepts whatever is impressed on it by the conscious mind, entrusting it further to the creative power of the grand Life (God) of the universe. The conscious mind is the surface mind that consciously selects whatever impressions that come” (Control Your Life By Your Mind, p. 63-64). Furthermore, Rev. Taniguchi explained the relationship between the subconscious mind and the Super-consciousness (God-consciousness) in the above-mentioned book, Prosperity and Health. I won’t quote the entire section of this, but his core point is that each individual person’s subconscious mind is directly connected to God through his or her God-consciousness. Therefore, we call every person a child of God.

Rev. Taniguchi said our subconscious minds control our lives. For example, if something embarrasses us, we suddenly blush and our heart rate goes up. How can we stop blushing and bring our heart rate back down? We cannot control these reactions with our conscious minds. When something negative happens to us, we just add another worry or concern into our minds. In other words, we have continuously accumulated negativities in our minds without cleansing them away. If we repeatedly hold old grudges, our minds are more inclined to become upset and angry, and even hateful. These emotions can cause great harm to our physical and mental health as well as our business and personal relationships. Many people do not recognize that our subconscious and conscious thinking habits are what prevent us from leading healthy and happy lives. One of the reasons is that people usually forget about their negative thoughts at the conscious level after a certain period of time has passed and assume that they feel fine. However, these negative thoughts did not disappear but have accumulated in their subconscious minds. This is like sweeping dirt and dust under a rug. It has simply been hidden from view. However, it is still there doing great harm from the deep recesses of the subconscious mind.

In order to remove these harmful thoughts from our mind, we periodically hold the Mind Purification ceremony at the centers. When we cleanse our negative emotions and thoughts from our minds and accumulate positive thoughts, our conscious and subconscious minds agree and our wish becomes sincere.

What then is a positive thought? A positive thought is enlightenment. To become enlightened we have to know the following three things:
1)      Deny the existence of phenomena. Phenomena are not true existences. They are reflections.
2)     Affirm that we are all children of God.
3)     Realize that our minds create our destinies.

We are all perfect spiritual beings and have God nature deep within ourselves. However, phenomenally we can still see imperfection through our physical eyes. Rev. Masanobu Taniguchi expounds this in his prayer, Prayer to Visualize the Non-Existence of Misfortune, in Daily Prayer (Hibino Inori). (Underline was the parts I read.)

Prayer to Visualize the Non-Existence of Unhappiness
  The world created by God is perfect.  All is sufficient, give to one another, support one another, and are in harmony.  There is no lack or deficiency, taking or stealing from one another, and there is no conflict.  All ideas, beauty, and goodness fill and permeate throughout, and are given order through various laws. That is what is being referenced when it is written in “Genesis,” “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good….”  I believe in God from the bottom of my heart, and because I have great confidence in Him, I believe in this, and declare, just as God did, “All things created by God are exceedingly beautiful, exceedingly good, and perfect and harmonious.
   This is the Truth, the True Image, and the true form of the world of the world of God, the Buddha Land, the Pure Land.  It is not possible for me to see it with my physical eyes, hear it with my physical ears, smell it with my physical nose, or taste it with my physical mouth, nor can my skin feel it.  As a child of God, I can simply visualize it directly with my mind.
   Because I deeply visualize the True Image that exists, I know that the “unhappiness” I see is not real.  I know that the “unhappiness” I hear with my ears is not reality.  I know that that which I smell with my nose is not real.  I know that that which I taste with my mouth is not the essence of things.  I know that that which I feel with my sense of touch is not the True Image.  The world I know through my five senses is not the true world created by God.  It is a “reflection of my mind” in two ways. The first is because our senses do not sense everything of all existence, but only what is necessary to maintain the survival of the entire body. The second is because I do not know the feeling itself but reinforce what I am trying to know with my senses.  In other words, I select from my senses only it is that I “want to know.”  That is why, when I feel that “there is happiness before me,” I am reflecting that “unhappiness.”  It is not God’s creation, and because it is not God’s creation, though it may be sensed as phenomena, it is not reality so is non-existent, false, a temporary reflection, and is something that shall eventually crumble.
   Although I may feel that unhappiness stands solemnly before me, it is not God’s “anger,” “punishment” or “trial.”  God does not create “unhappiness.”  He has created only the perfect and harmonious world of Grand Harmony. Hold fast to this faith.  Grasp tightly on to your trust in God.  That which “angers” is our own mind, that which “punishes” is our own mind, and that which seeks “trials” is our own mind.  That which our mind seeks manifests before us as phenomena.  That which appears to be “unhappiness” is a reflection of my mind. When my mind limits or restricts “happiness” to suit itself, any phenomena other than that manifests as “unhappiness.”  Although I may be happy, I am feeling unhappiness of my own volition.  Do not hold God responsible for whether or not you are happy.  He does not create phenomena.  He creates only the True Image and reality.  He creates only the world of God and the Pure Land of Buddha.  In the world of God, all people are happy from the beginning.  In the Pure Land, all living things are filled with infinite happiness from the beginning. 
   Now, as I deeply contemplate and visualize the True Image of existence, I truly know and feel that all things that truly exist are perfect and harmonious and filled with infinite happiness.  My existing is happiness.  My being able to use the tool that is my physical body is happiness.  My having parents who gave me that physical body is happiness.  My having a life that was “marked” by my parents and ancestors is happiness.  Being able to share cultures is happiness.  Being able to have relationships with animals is happiness.  Being able to love the flowers and fruits of plants is happiness.  Being able to feel and sense the sky, oceans, wind, and clouds is happiness.  That is not saying that the breeze, sudden showers, or the sounds of breaking waves, the voice of the thunder, lightning, the cries of the birds, insect sounds, the babbling brook, the sound of the waterfall, or the sound of the surf—the phenomenon itself that we know through our senses—is not in itself happiness.  The greatest and most certain fact behind those infinite number of things—there is a Creator that transcends all of this abundant and diverse phenomena, and there is, here, a perfect and harmonious world created by that God.  That is why, phenomena appearing as that “reflection”—this is the source of happiness. Because, as a “reflection” the phenomenal world is sufficiently magnificent, beautiful, filled with goodness and ideas, think of how the world of God, the True-Image world that is the “source,” must be. Contemplate this.  Meditate on it.  The True Image lies behind the senses.  I am in the center of the perfect and harmonious world of God, and if I visualize and feel only this, happiness is there.
    God is the source of my happiness.  God does not create unhappiness.  “Unhappiness” is merely the house of cards given birth to by the delusion that the physical being is the self.  I offer my heartfelt appreciation to God for teaching me this Truth.

I read Rev. Masanobu Taniguchi’s Daily Prayers every morning and they help me to enlighten my day. I will occasionally introduce his prayers. The next thing we should do is to affirm that we are all children of God. We have to practice Three Important Practices which are Shinsokan Meditation, reading the Holy Sutras and SNI books and perform deeds of love daily. Some may say that we can practice the first two but that the “deeds of love” is not easy to perform every day. You have to change your perceptions. “Deeds of love” in SNI is not only to subscribe to Truth of Live magazines and share them with other people. To be kind to your family members and neighbors, to clean up the streets, to give encouragement, to give a smile and bring joy to other people, or even to pick up trash are all deeds of love. You cannot say that you won’t be able to such things.

The third thing is to realize that our minds create our destinies. I’d like to share a recent book which I read. This book explains how to organize and clean your room. By reading this, I realized that to clean and organize our rooms depends on our minds. I also realized that keeping material things for a long time and cherishing and caring for them are completely different.

In my house there were many material things and I didn’t know how to organize them. However, by reading this book I understood why. The author, Mari Kondo, is an expert in teaching how to clean and organize rooms and offices. Under her guidance, every customer can clean and organize his/her room. In business, repeaters are important, but she has no repeat customer because everyone can do a better job after her guidance.

According to Ms. Kondo, with regard to organization problems, out of 100 percent 90 percent of the cause is related to one’s mind. She said, “There is no way to mess the room without involving you. In other words, you are the one who makes a mess in your room and it is the reflection of your mind.” She also said that she almost never cleans her room because her room is always clean and organized. She said probably once a year she cleans her room for about an hour.

Then, how do you start organizing your room? She gives us the following advice:
1)      What kind of room do you want to live in? Visualize the ideal room. If you cannot visualize the room, find an ideal room from magazines and put that model room or ideal room on the wall.
2)     Repeatedly ask yourself at least 5 times; Why do you want to live in that room/have that kind of lifestyle?
3)     Organization is not to rearrange things in your room or discard things that you dont need. Organization is to keep what you use and what you need.
4)     Organization is a process to select what you want to keep not what you want to discard. In order to do this, you have to set a standard of your things and decide what you want to keep by touching each item with your hands.
5)     Do not clean by room but clean by categories. Collect the same items in one room and start organizing and/or sorting.
6)     Start organizing things which are easy to sort such as clothes. Recommendation: clothes-> books-> documents-> small things (DVD, accessories, stationery, cosmetics, medicine, kitchen things, daily necessities, food, etc.)-> things rich in memories such as photos and letters.
7)     Sorting order of clothes: tops (shirt, sweater)-> bottoms (pants, skirts)-> hanging clothes (jackets, suits, coat)-> socks-> underwears-> bags-> small things (scarves, belts, hats, shoes)-> event clothes (Halloween, bathing suit, party dress)-> bags
8)    When you get rid of your personal stuff, do not give them to your family members and proceed disposing without letting them know. You will always be interrupted.

When I read this book, I thought the author did not think of material things as materials. She said, “A gift is to convey a person’s feeling. Recall the touching moment when you received it and be grateful and then discard it.” “To organize is to clean up the past.” “Please dispose all the letters from someone whom you associated with. The purpose of love letters belongs to the moment to receive and read it. Generally speaking, those who have sent a letter do not remember what he wrote or even remember the fact that he had sent it. Regarding accessories and jewelry, you should keep them if they are precious to you. Otherwise, get rid of them, or you may miss a new encounter.”

When I read this book, I realized that I did not fully utilize things that I kept at home. They accumulated in the closet, on the shelves, under the bed and in the garage, and I haven’t seen some of them for over 3 years, 5 years and even over 7 years. How can I say that I care for my personal things? It means I don’t care for them. So, I cleaned my room and separated what I really want to use and what I do not need and prayed in my Shinsokan meditation, “O God, I have many things that I haven’t used for years such as clothes, bags and personal belongings. I am sincerely grateful to them which brought me joy and surprise. Please send these things to those who most need them. O God, thank you very much for granting my sincere wishes.” I had a garage sale. I gave some of them to my friends and took some of them to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Through this experience I was able to refresh my feelings towards my personal belongings and again be grateful to them. These material things are not things that I need or do not need but are the manifestation of God’s life. I am grateful to my experience that I could cherish my life again and feel passion toward the material things that I have. They are not matter but manifestations of the life of God.

We are all children of God; therefore, we are the master of our lives. We can change our lives to whatever we want. To do this, we need to realize the three things which are:
-         Deny the existence of phenomena. Phenomena are not true existences. They are reflections.
-         Affirm that we are all children of God.
-         Realize that our minds create our destinies.
We also practice Three Important Practices which are Shinsokan Meditation, reading the Holy Sutras and SNI books and perform deeds of love daily. Then even our rooms will be able to reflect on our minds and become organized. Thank you very much.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I realized that there was a friendship bond, family bond.

This is a translation of my short Japanese lecture into English which I gave at the White Dove Public Lecture on May 20, 2012:

There was a question on the flyer introducing that day’s lecture event. “What is bonding with another? How is this achieved?” The origin of the word Kizuna comes from tying a leash to a dog or horse and from there it became to mean the loving bond between people. 

Even if there is a lonely person without a family, that person is still bonded with animals, plants and nature. This bonding is important and in Seicho-No-Ie, we are taught many ways to keep this loving bond.

For example, in order to create a loving family what things need to be done? In the Truth of Life volumes there are many things written regarding this topic:

  Use loving words in the home. There is no such thing as using too many loving words. (Vol. 7)
  Even when you are alone with your spouse, always think that you have a guest called “God.” (Vol. 12)
  Don’t measure life by a ruler. It will bend, shrink, and become small. (Vol. 14)
  At the very least when we are with family, let’s make it a living paradise. That is to have laughter. (Vol. 15)
  It is very important to know how to take care of your spouse. To be able to relax at home is happiness beyond words. It is because you cannot relax in the work environment.
  If you have a bad relationship with your spouse, it means that loving words of praise is mutually lacking. You both must give abundant words of praise. (Vol. 25)
  The origin of the word for husband and wife in Japanese derives from the meaning “complete bonding.” (Vol. 29)
  Abandon the words, “I am the only one supporting the family.” (Vol. 29)
  The secret to bring happiness to the family is by your facial expression alone. (Vol. 29)
  Marriage is living life. It is not a romance. (Vol. 29)

There are many many more, however, in the end, in order to have a loving bond within your family, it is necessary to do the above written things. Everyone, do you laugh with your family? If your family does not laugh much together then immediately increase the laughter in your home. Some time ago, I used to tell jokes to my family. And if everyone laughed, it made me happy. Because of the happiness I felt, I would try to find new jokes that I could share with my family. 

To praise one another is not only for husbands and wives but also important for children. When a parent sees a bad or negative point of the child, the parent wants to point that out. However, before doing so you must find several good or positive points to address first.

Even between husband and wife, if one wants to caution the other, you must praise the person twice over before addressing the negative.  This is the bases of a loving and peace filled family. The facial expression of the husband and wife will influence one another, and the facial expression of the parent will influence the children. This is not only for children but your pets also will be influenced in the same manner. Facial expressions are important. Facial expressions are not spoken words; however it is one important method of communication.

When my children were young and upon my return home, they would come running to greet me with a hug. As you can imagine, this made me very happy. These days, they say in a loud voice, Okaerinasai or welcome home without leaving their rooms. I’m still glad that they say something to me. I can understand why everyone would want to have a dog. A dog always comes running to greet its master when he arrives home, wagging its tail, showing how happy he is. 

You must take care of these small things, if not, you will not create a happy, loving family. I’d like to read you a quote about Marriage not being a romance:

“During the honeymoon period of marriage, one is drunken with happiness, however, in time you will become sober and realize that marriage is not a honeymoon. You settle into the reality of marriage and find that it is ordinary and not poetic any longer. You now must find the joy of marriage in your ordinary life. You must work on expressing your love every day in a quiet ordinary way.” (Truth of Life Vol. 29, page 72)

This is the same for anyone who has a job. Our daily work day is not filled with adventure, happiness, new excitement or romance. Our daily job consists of simple tasks done over and over again. If you want to find happiness and bonding in the workplace, you must do the same as with your family, then your workplace will change. Already all of you have bonded with another. You have bonding relationships with your family, with your co-workers, and even your pets, animals as well as with mother nature. You already have wonderful bonds. In order to make your relationships filled with love and happiness, please practice the several points from the Seicho-No-Ie teachings explained today. Thank you very much.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Positive Attitude Creates Positive Life

The following lecture was given at the 55th ISTS in Connecticut in June, 2012: 

Thank you very much. In Seicho-No-Ie we often talk about how important it is to have a positive attitude and encourage people to practice the use of positive words such as “I am a child of God. I am happy, healthy and wealthy. Only good things come my way.” You have to know that positive words have power to create and shape our positive destinies. Positive words include our thoughts, utterances, actions and expressions. Why can positive words create and shape a positive destiny? It is because the law of the mind permeates in the universe. One of the very important laws of the mind is that what you recognize appears. Therefore, by learning this law of the mind and applying the power of the word we will be able to realize what we recognize in our minds.

In March my mother visited my family. While she was with us, she said, “I am happy to be here. So, when I return to Japan, I may die (drop dead) any time.” I told her don’t say that and encouraged her to enjoy her longevity. I suggested to her to use more fingers to give a stimulus in her brain or do more exercise. She used to play the piano but quit, so I suggested she resume it again. Then she said, “I want to, but I cannot read the music notes. My eyes become blurry. I want to walk more, but once I sit down then my body doesn’t move as I wish.” What she said was that she wanted something, but her brain denied what she wanted. In other words, something that we want to do is denied by our brain. According to a brain scientist, our body limitation and our brain limitation are different. The brain limitation comes earlier than our physical body limitation. Therefore, although our physical bodies want to do something, our brains stop it. However, In Seicho-No we learn this in the Holy Sutra, Song of Angel as follows: “When we forget our physical body and are in a state of selflessness,/ Our body will function most perfectly.” (p. 19)

We have to know that no one can change or restrict our destiny. The person who can do this is only you. It is obvious that my mother’s physical eyes cannot allow her to read musical notes due to her physical condition. However, the restriction to practice piano because of her eyes is not the true reason. If this is the reason, why do many mothers try their younger child of age 2 or 3 years old to play piano? A 2-year-old child cannot read a music sheet, but he or she can learn from another way. My mom may play the piano not from reading a musical sheet but another way. But, she doesn’t try it because not her eyes but her brain limits her action.

On the contrary, my mother told that she read one Seicho-No-Ie book at least once a month. She loved reading when she was young. According to my mon, when she was a teenage student, she enjoyed reading Anna Karenina and War and Peace by Tolstoy. But recently she can only read a book once a month not because of her eyes but of her ability to understand the content. She said she reads the same paragraph 4 or 5 times to understand. Before she understood almost everything just by reading once, but recently she cannot understand the difficult sentences by reading just one or two times. She still reads every day. For me if her eyes are blurry, I think she cannot read both a musical sheet and a book. But she reads books by using a magnifying glass. It is obvious that her mind or brain confines her action. In order to free our brain’s restriction we need to relax our brain. The state of that situation is called the “state of flow.” Dr. Kenichiro Mogi, brain scientist wrote: “From the viewpoint of brain science we can maximize our potential while our brain is in a state that is relaxed but focused. When our mind and body are relaxed and happily concentrating on something, we will be able to do our best performance.” (The Way of Thinking of the Brain, p. 105)

Then, how are we able to become such a frame of mind? Dr. Mogi said that we need to prepare in order for our brain to be in a relaxed and focused state. To reach this state we have to experience difficult situations. So, he suggested to the readers to have confidence even without a reason, but we should have confidence that we can do it. In other words, we have to become optimistic.

In Seicho-No-Ie we learn how to be positive and optimistic. We have to know that we are all children of God and that we can do anything. We also practice three important Seicho-No-Ie practices which are Shinsokan Meditation, reading Holy Sutras and holy books and performing deeds of love.

I would like to introduce Mr. Tadashi Asoma who, in the beginning, didn’t have any confidence but had great teachers and achieved wonderful art works in his life. He was born in 1923 in a very old farming family which has continued over 200 years and he was expected to succeed in the house. When he was very young, he loved painting, but his father didn’t allow him to be an artist. However, after World War II his father passed away, his mother let him paint. At that time he was an art teacher at a middle school. He really wanted to become an artist when he was 35 years old, but he didn’t have confidence that he could become one. In order to have strong confidence, he thought that he would go to Paris. He asked his art teacher, “Sensei, I didn’t have a formal art study, so I think it is a good idea to go to Paris to study. What do you think?” His art teacher, Prof. Manjiro Terauchi, said, “Then, tomorrow at the teachers’ briefing in the morning, say to everyone that you will go to Paris.”
“Is it okay to say that?” replied Mr. Asoma.
“Yes, that is the best way. Proclaim to everyone at the briefing that you will go to Paris. I will explain you the rest tomorrow.”

Mr. Asoma did what Professor Terauchi said. Then, he was called to the principle’s office and told, “It’s trouble. Although you said that, we cannot help you at all, okay?” That day Mr. Asoma went to his art teacher and asked what he should do next. Then, Prof. Terauchi said, “Wake up at 5 am.” “What?” “You want to go to Paris, don’t you? You need to speak French.” “I see.” “Wake up at 5 and listen to the radio broadcast of the French class.”

In this way Mr. Asoma started learning French when he was 35 years old. When he finished his work at school, he started attending French language school in the evening. In order to go to Paris at that time he needed to receive a scholarship from the government and pass the exam. The first time he took the exam, he was so intimidated by the atmosphere because all the people who wanted to go to Paris were young people who had students of art colleges or who were just graduated from the college. He is the only one who was middle one’s thirty. He failed his first exam. At his second exam he passed the first-stage exam but failed the second one because the second exam was an oral exam. The interviewer was a French teacher and he asked Mr. Asoma if he could speak French. He said he could. Then the interviewer asked many questions in his native speed. Mr. Asoma was not able to reply to anything.

He failed the third, fourth and fifth exams. After the 5th exam an examiner called out and stopped Mr. Asoma and said, “You are a school teacher, so isn’t it enough? You don’t have to quit your job. You should not go to Paris.” Mr. Asoma replied, “But I declared to everyone that I would go to Paris. All students and their parents know about this. They ask me when I will go to Paris. I cannot withdraw it anymore.” “But you are the only one who took the exam 5 times.”

When Mr. Asoma failed his 6th exam, while the examiner was repeating “Trouble, trouble,” he asked Mr. Asoma, “Please stop taking exams.” At his 7th exam he was finally able to pass the exam. Before going to Paris his art teacher, Prof. Terauchi, showed his favorite book which was the Truth of Life. After finishing one year study in Paris Mr. Asoma decided not to go back to Japan but continue his study in New York. After he moved to New York, he notified of his school his decision. He attended the art school in New York during the day and worked during the night because he needed to send money to his wife and three children. It is a big decision to follow his dream although the fact that he has his responsibility to raise his family in Japan. That was 1959 and he studied in New York for 2 years. Then he returned to his old school in Japan and worked for 1 year and returned to New York to continue his study.

Mr. Asoma studied very hard to improve his art skills at the college and worked during the night at the restaurant as a bus boy to send money to his family in Japan. After 5 years he was finally able to call his family to New York. However, his oldest son who was a freshman at college was not able to call him “father” because of a lack of bonding. His wife also had problems adjusting to life in New York. At that time he saw an ad in a Japanese newspaper about the Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture conducted by Dr. Katsumi Tokuhisa. He and his family attended this seminar and he learned how important it was to maintain a positive attitude and bright countenance. Dr. Tokuhisa had a chance to see Mr. Asoma’s paintings and commented that his paintings were very beautiful but had a lack of brightness. In order to become positive and bright, Dr. Tokuhisa taught the following words to recite anywhere. “I am bright. I am going to improve more and more. I am the best painter in the world. My family members are all wonderful and I am so happy. I am very rich.”

In Manhattan no one cared what Mr. Asoma was reciting. People might think that this guy was talking to himself loudly. So, he continued saying these words over and over again anywhere for many months. These words are a kind of prayer. Without knowing it he was able to restore the harmony between family members and his family became bright and cheerful. Meanwhile his paintings improved and sold more. These pictures are some of his paintings. He moved back to Japan when he was 73 which was in 1996. He succeeded his family line and opened his art studio. His has continued painting up until now and is very successful. I have his risograph and it is very expensive. Even his poster is over $50 or $60. When he came back to Japan, he was able to open up a new field and started painting cherry blossoms.

Mr. Asoma followed the idea to be harmonious with nature which is the teachings of Seicho-No-Ie and put solar panel on his house and studio. The owner of the solar panel company talked about Mr. Asoma’s painting to his friend who was the owner of an art gallery in Ginza, Japan. As soon as he saw Mr. Asoma’s art, he wanted to exhibit his paintings in his gallery. Mr. Asoma said okay, but he didn’t expect a lot because his real paintings were very expensive. However, within a week three of them were sold. He will become 90 next year, but he is still active. He had exhibitions in Tokyo, New York and Florida last few years. He is a Seicho-No-Ie Regional Lecturer and occasionally gives a lecture. He was able to achieve many things including becoming an artist, being prosperous and realizing harmony in his family because he practices the Seicho-No-Ie Sundial Way of Life. I hope those who attend today will practice the sundial way of life which emphasizes a positive life in our daily lives. Thank you very much.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Law of the Mind

The following lecture was given at the 54th ISTS in California.

Thank you very much for attending the 54th International Training Seminar. I will discuss “The Law of the Mind and the Power of the Word.” When I looked at the list of the attendees, I saw many familiar names from the Southern California Missionary Area, and I saw names for the first time. So, before starting this session, I will ask you about your philosophy of your life. I will distribute to two different sheets of paper. First one is a copy of a page from Sundial Dairy. I call the second one a gratitude note. On the opposite side of the paper there are 3 lines on the top. So, in 25 words or less, please write down your philosophy of life in two minutes.

“I always see the bright side of people and things and never their dark side because God’s created world is already perfect and harmonious.”

Some of you may have finished writing and some cannot write your philosophy of life in 2 minutes. It is okay. The reason why I asked you to write is because by writing it will give you a chance to think of your life philosophy. Now, I will explain what kind of philosophy of life a Seicho-No-Ie member should have. When the Seicho-No-Ie Founder Masaharu Taniguchi published the very first issue of the Seicho-No-Ie magazine in March 1930, he wrote the article, The Seicho-No-Ie Way of Life, and introduced three ways of life. They are: In Seicho-No-Ie we live laughing merrily, The way of life of the sundial principle, and Seicho-No-Ie is a way of life based on the worship principle.

The situation at the time when Seicho-No-Ie started is similar to the recent year in the United States. Since September 2008 when Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the US economy has deteriorated. The average unemployment rate in 2011 was a little over 9%. Before starting SNI, the situation was very similar. In 1930, Japan fell into total economic chaos. The most important industry at that time was the silk industry. The price of raw silk fell 55% between 1930-1931. Related to this was the 52% decline in price of cotton thread. Rice fell 50% to half price. Exports fell off by 43.2%--about half—and imports fell by 40%. In 1930, the number of unemployed was 2.37 million; in 1931, it was 2.5 million, and in 1932, it was 2.37 million.

In that situation Founder Masaharu Taniguchi published the Seicho-No-Ie magazine and wrote the Seicho-No-Ie way of life. This way of life is expounded in the Truth of Life Volume 7. When you open the contents of the Truth of Life Volume 7, you will be able to see many ways of life. They are:

1. Make the Most of the Early Morning

2. Live Laughing

3. The Sundial Way of Life

4. Revere the True Image of the Life Dwelling in Others

5. Leap Right Into the Realization That You Are a Child of God

6. Burn Your Bridges Behind You

7. Rule the Kingdom of Your Mind

8. Always Entertain Good Thoughts

9. Let the Future Take Care of Itself

10. Be Decisive, Determined, and Courageous in Carrying Out Your Plans

11. He Who Staunchly Refuses to Anticipate Defeat Eventually Wins

12. Bring Light Into Your Home

These ways of life is to only focus ourselves on the positive side. For example, in the section of The Sundial Way of Life, it is stated as follows:

“Let us become as sundials which record only the hours of sunshine. What is there to gain by keeping sadness forever in our minds? What profit is there in recalling our losses forever? No one receives any benefit if we keep regretting our mistakes and become despondent. These are only the dregs among the events in our lives. Do not be bothered forever by the dregs. Throw them out. Cast them out of your mind in the same way that you would throw out a thief. We must know that our minds are worth much more than these dregs.” (p. 35)

“If you wish spiritual growth, do not be seized by your emotions. Do not allow yourself to be controlled by violent emotions. Do not become a slave. He who is seized or controlled is a slave. Make your emotions do as you bid. Control violent emotions. Become sovereign over your own mind.” (p. 123)

We should know how our destinies are created. They are created by our words which are thoughts, words and actions. The following message by Rev. Taniguchi shows an important truth:

Bright and Cheerful Thoughts

We human beings, who are children of God, are bestowed not only with a free will and the right to select and determine our own fate, but also with a tool whereby to materialize what we choose. This apparatus is nothing but our own thoughts, words and actions. In other words, if we exploit thoughts, words and actions which are positive and constructive, we create a good, fortunate destiny, whereas with those of a pessimistic and destructive nature, we forge an unfortunate, ill fate.

If we wish to generate good thoughts, we must not turn our minds to the evil portents in our actual life, such as misfortunes and illnesses. First we must focus our being upon God, impress all the attributes of God deeply upon our minds, and then exalt them and inundate ourselves with gratitude for them.” (365 Golden Keys to the Summit of Fulfillment, pages 14-15)

When we use and think positive words and thoughts, our lives will definitely change. However, how can we focus on only the positive side when we are sick or have pain? How can we not think of our failures or mistakes which caused a great damage in our lives? Unfortunately, if we repeatedly recall our failures and mistakes in our minds, we will only reproduce similar situations in the future. Therefore, we have to practice positive, bright thoughts, words and actions. Practice is important.

It is easy to worry about your job if you lose your job. It is natural to have fear if your family member suffers from an illness. What should do is the opposite thing. When we are sad, let us laugh out loud. When suffering a difficult situation, be joyful. When in fear, be brave. When depressed, be bright and cheerful. These are practices.

Last week I read a book, Flourish, by Dr. Martin Seligman who started Positive Psychology in 2005 and Positive Psychology is currently being used as a recovery program of post traumatic stress disorder in US Army and many different places. One of the reasons why he started Positive Psychology was that he really wanted to help his patients. He wrote: “As a therapist, once in a while I would help a patient get rid of all of his anger and anxiety and sadness. I thought I would then get a happy patient. But I never did. I got an empty patient. And that is because the skills of flourishing—of having positive emotion, meaning, good work, and positive relationships—are something over and above the skills of minimizing suffering.” (p. 54)

The positive thoughts have power. Dr. Seligman utilizes the power of positive thinking. In his book it is written as follows:

“Having established that positive emotions can be very useful, it is critical to pause and draw attention to the fact that people often do not know that they have such power within them. You have the power within you to figure out what inspires you, what makes you laugh, or what gives you hope, and to cultivate those emotions…This can help you optimize your life by setting up moments of genuine positivity for yourself. Do not underestimate the benefits of doing this.” (p. 141)

I have not yet visited his website and tried his program, so I don’t know the whole procedure of his well-being program, but he mentioned here and there what he does. For example, Dr. Seligman suggested to write down three things that went well today and why they went well. In Seicho-No-Ie Readers Meeting program, we share good things that happened since the last meeting. Sharing the positive happenings with participants, we are able to enhance our feeling of joy more. We also suggest to members to write things daily that go well. We have the Sundial Dairy. You have received a copy of the today’s page. So, you can write down your positive thoughts in it later.

Dr. Seligman also suggests for readers to write gratitude letters. He said, “Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.” (p. 30) Therefore, it is important to express your gratitude. The Divine Message of Grand Harmony clearly states, “Be reconciled with the whole universe. When you are so reconciled the whole universe is your friend. When the whole universe is your friend nothing whatever can harm you…True reconciliation cannot be achieved by patience or forbearance with one another. To be patient or forbearing is not to be reconciled from the bottom of your heart. When you are grateful to one another, true reconciliation is achieved…Be grateful to the blessings from your country. Be grateful to your parents. Be grateful to your husband or wife. Be grateful to your children. Be grateful to those who serve you. Be grateful to all people. Be grateful to everything in the universe. Within those thoughts of gratitude you will find me and receive my salvation.” In Seicho-No-Ie we have Gratitude Practice. Some members practice thank you very much recitation ten thousand times a day. When we practice, practice makes us perfect. Dr. Seligman said, “World-class piano soloists log 10,000 hours of solo practice by age twenty, in contrast to 5,000 hours for the next level of pianist, and in contrast to 2,000 hours for a merely serious amateur pianist…The advice that follows is straight-forward: if you want to become world class at anything, you must spend 60 hours a week on it for ten years.” (p. 115)

In Seicho-No-Ie we do not recommend extremes. To apply the positive way of life we optimize our words, thoughts and actions. Please write your positive things in the Sundial Diary. I would like to suggest to not only write things that went well but also write why. This is an example: “My husband gave me a bouquet of flowers for our anniversary. He remembered our anniversary and showed his love for me. I am delighted.”


So far I explained how important it is to think positively when we encounter negative things. But, the question of how to deal with a negative situation in a positive mind still remains. To solve this, first we have to think clearly about our problem or adversity. We should know Albert Ellis’s ABCDE model pointed by Dr. Seligman: “C (the emotional consequences) do not stem directly from A (the adversity) but from B (your beliefs about the adversity). This simple fact comes as a surprise to many of the sergeants, dispelling the common belief that adversity sets off emotion directly.” (p. 167) When we are fearful or angry at something due to suffering an adversity, consequences appear because of our feeling of resentment or terror. When we can change our feeling of resentment or terror by the power of the positive words, we will be able to change our adversity to a chance to become better. In the Truth of Life Volume 7 it is stated as follows:

“For us human beings, who are light and also life, there is no real darkness, nothing that we can call a real obstacle. Darkness serves only to sharpen the brilliance of light as the latter advances. Obstacles serve only accentuate the hidden freedom that lies in life. Because there is resistance in the path of electrical flow, electricity becomes light and heat. Electricity without resistance and water without an obstacle are not really free, for they are not faced with adversity.

Indeed, is adversity not something that gives greater freedom to our lives? Is the aircraft not able to fly because there is the resistance of air? Is the automobile not able to run on the ground because there is friction between the tires and the ground? A world without obstacles, a world without resistance, a world without friction, may appear to be free, but its freedom is never to be displayed. As such, does it not remain forever a world of seeming possibility?

Therefore, an obstacle is what makes our lives shed light. Resistance is what makes our lives leap upwards and rise to the highest world. Hardship is what actualizes the freedom that our lives possess.

If so, regardless of what hardship we might face, we do not need to look at its dark side.” (pages 224-225)

Let us practice focusing ourselves on only positive side. Thank you very much.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year's Message

Happy New Year!

There were many incidents which occurred last year. According to the TV news, the most memorable news for New Yorkers was the death of Osama Bin Ladin who was killed by the American military. I believe New Yorkers were so hurt by the terrorist attack on September 11. It is obvious that I believe many Japanese would pick up the news of the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake. The Thai people would pick up the news of floods.

The hearts of human beings would be moved by things or incidents which relate to them. On New Year’s Day there was a magnitude 7 earthquake under 230 miles of sea level near Torishima island which is 370 miles from Tokyo. My sister-in-law’s house which is on the third floor was shaking pretty much according to my mother-in-law. My wife and I were very concerned about it. Fortunately, there was no damage. On the other hand, people do not pay much their attention if things or incidents do not relate to them. Many people who work in the financial sector, especially receive influence by the credit crunch of Greece or Italy of Euro, and are seriously concerned about the problem; however, those who are not influenced by this might not care much about it. For example, on July 9th, 2011, the 54th independent nation in Africa (Southern Sudan) was born, but I don’t think many people gathered here today are interested in this news.

However, it is the time for us to turn our consideration towards not only the immediate events related our daily lives but also global events. It is because the world has become closer due to the development of science, and at the same time the destruction of world environment by humans’ activities is increasing. Environmental issues are directly connected to human beings, animals and plants and it will be possible that environmental issues would be a worse threat than Osama bin Ladin. However, nature is not a threat but a part of God’s life like us. In Seicho-No-Ie, we practice from the time it was founded as a way of life “to be reconciled with everything in the universe.” This year, in order for people in many countries to practice this way of life, we who are members of Seicho-No-Ie should perform this life as an example to seriously live in harmony with nature. Let us continuously practice God’s Love and the Four Immeasurable Minds of the Buddha and the life of grand harmony with nature. Furthermore, let us be united as one through the teaching given by the President, Rev. Masanobu Taniguchi, follow the guidance of the Bishop, Rev. Yoshiko Teshigawara and promote our movement with joy. Thank you very much.