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).