Rev. Matsumoto Appeals to Vatican and Focolare for Support of Global Campaign
On December 20, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Department and special advisor to the secretary-general for youth affairs of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, visited the Roman Curia and conferred with Msgr. Andrew Thanya-anan Vissanu, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The purpose of his visit was to appeal to the Vatican for cooperation with a new Global Campaign peace project called for at the third meeting of the International Youth Committee (IYC), affiliated with Religions for Peace, held in Nairobi, Kenya, in December. Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, assistant secretary-general of Religions for Peace, was also present as an IYC representative.
During the meeting, Rev. Matsumoto expressed high esteem for the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in the promotion of interfaith dialogue and cooperation. He also spoke about the significance of peace activities promoted by religious youth across the world and explained a new project to be organized through the IYC next year. Msgr. Vissanu extolled the promotion of a peace project by religious youth and emphasized the importance of their acting on their own initiatives.
That afternoon, Rev. Matsumoto and Rev. Sugino paid a courtesy call at the headquarters of the Focolare Movement in Rocca di Papa, south of Rome, and conferred with Rev. Giancarlo Faletti, Focolare's new co-president. Ms. Christina Lee, co-responsible for interreligious dialogue in the Focolare, was also present. Rev. Matsumoto and Rev. Faletti discussed the spirit in which Founder Nikkyo Niwano and the late Chiara Lubich worked for world peace, a spirit of working in harmony and sincerity with others. Rev. Faletti also expressed support for the Global Campaign.
International Youth Committee of WCRP Holds Third Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya
During December 14-18, the International Youth Committee (IYC) of the World Conference of Religions for Peace held its third meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, under the theme "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security: World's Religious Youth Working Together." The meeting was attended by nine IYC delegates from Africa, Asia and Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North America. On behalf of Religions for Peace, Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, assistant secretary-general, and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, special advisor to the secretary-general for youth affairs and director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Department, also attended.
The IYC delegates reported on their activities conducted in 2008 to train young religious leaders in their regions and create a network that lends them support in solving the social problems inherent to their regions. They exchanged useful information to set up national IYC committees and discussed publishing a handbook to enhance their network for mutual communication and cooperation.
The delegates also deliberated on the need for future action by IYC as an international network of religious youth. They adopted a Global Campaign program pursuing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and calling for worldwide reduction of military expenditures.
The IYC invited forty guests to the meeting, including Kenyan religious leaders and representatives from the regional office of the UN and of nongovernmental organizations in Kenya. A symposium discussed the IYC's conflict-resolution programs conducted in various parts of the world. The IYC delegates visited the Soweto Youth Group in Nairobi's Kibera district, which is Africa's largest slum, dating back to World War I, and exchanged ideas on the reduction of violence and establishing shared security.
The IYC is a leading organization for the activities of the Global Youth Network, which was established at the World Youth Assembly during the eighth world assembly of Religions for Peace in Hiroshima in 2006. The IYC aims to harness the energy and commitment of religious youth globally for the promotion of world peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai International Holds Internet Education Program
On December 14, Rissho Kosei-kai International held a webcast education program in Fumon Hall at the Buddhist organization's headquarters in Tokyo as a key station. The program was webcast to eleven people: leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai's overseas Dharma centers and members of the International Buddhist Congregation in Tokyo and in the United States, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
The program followed up Rissho Kosei-kai International's First Dharma Training for Leaders in Japan from July 28 to August 10, 2008. It aimed to deepen Japanese and overseas members' knowledge of the teachings of Buddhism. The participants studied chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, "Revelation of the [Eternal] Life of the Tathagata." The Lotus Sutra is the basic scripture of all Rissho Kosei-kai members.
Shakyamuni's Attainment of Enlightenment Commemorated
On December 8 Rissho Kosei-kai commemorated Shakyamuni's attainment of enlightenment, in the Great Sacred Hall at the organization's headquarters in Tokyo and at all of Rissho Kosei-kai Dharma Centers throughout Japan. About 3,300 members gathered for the ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall.
According to Buddhist tradition, Shakyamuni attained buddhahood under the bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya in India on December 8 about 2,500 years ago. Rissho Kosei-kai members annually celebrate the event on this date so that as Buddhists they can reflect on the significance of that supreme awakening, show their gratitude for the Buddha's teachings, and renew their pledge to engage in bodhisattva practice in their daily lives.
At the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall, following a retelling of Shakyamuni's attainment of enlightenment, 58 young women students from Rissho Kosei-kai's Gakurin seminary and Hoju Vocational College made offerings at the altar before the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni. President-designate Kosho Niwano then led everyone in the sutra recitation and read out a tribute by President Nichiko Niwano to the Buddha. In his tribute, President Niwano praised the Buddha's attainment of enlightenment and, referring to President Niwano's inheritance of the Buddha's vow from Founder Nikkyo Niwano, he declared his renewed dedication to further dissemination.
Then, after Rev. Masao Arakawa, head of the Nara Dharma Center, testified to his experience of the faith, President Niwano delivered a Dharma talk. He emphasized the importance of ridding oneself of attachment to the ego and accepting everything with gratitude, as taught by Shakyamuni. He encouraged everyone to be joyfully diligent in the study of the Dharma.
Niwano Peace Foundation Celebrates 30th Anniversary
On December 5 the Niwano Peace Foundation, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, celebrated its 30th anniversary at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Tokyo. Some 50 people participated, including the board of trustees, councilors, and officials from Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters. The foundation's president, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, gave an address in which he thanked those present for their support of and cooperation with the foundation.
The foundation was chartered in December 1978 as one of the undertakings commemorating Rissho Kosei-kai's 40th anniversary to stimulate work and research for world peace in a religious spirit and involving contemporary thought, culture, science, education, and related fields to contribute to humanity's cultural elevation and the achievement of world peace. It has also awarded grants for research and work for peace. The foundation has joined with the Buddhist NGO Network of Japan to forge ties with other Buddhist nongovernmental organizations to make concrete contributions to peace.
The foundation established the Niwano Peace Prize to honor and encourage people devoted to interreligious cooperation for peace and make their achievements known to the world. The prize has been awarded to 25 individuals and groups since 1983.
In June 2007 the foundation sponsored a public symposium on the theme "Gross National Happiness and Buddhism" at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters. The term "gross national happiness" (GNH) originates from an attempt in Bhutan to assess quality of life in holistic and psychological terms rather than in terms of contribution to gross national product. The Niwano Peace Foundation has also been promoting the South Asia Program to relieve poverty in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, with funds raised through the Donate-a-Meal Movement of Rissho Kosei-kai.
President Niwano Sends Message to Thai University's Conference on Buddhism
The College of Religious Studies of Mahidol University in Thailand hosted an International Conference on Buddhism in the Age of Consumerism during December 1-3. Rev. Yasuhiro Hasegawa, head of the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation in Bangkok, took part and read out a message from President Nichiko Niwano.
The conference was held in honor of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has advocated a philosophy of "sufficiency economy" to guide the Thai people in living moderately in an age of consumerism. The conference aimed to present a value system to take the place of consumerism and thereby contribute to the happiness and well-being of all humanity, by promoting those values in such academic fields as economics, politics, pedagogy, and psychology, as well as through the teachings of religions, including Buddhism. A number of leading scholars and specialists from Thailand and other countries took part in the conference. On the king's behalf Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided at the opening ceremony. The scholars and specialists spoke at plenary sessions, and the participants divided into groups to discuss the issues presented in speeches.
In his message, President Niwano warned that a consumerist lifestyle harms the global environment, and he declared that Buddhism teaches freedom from attachment and stresses the importance of seeking the true purpose of human existence. He said a simple life based on religious norms, relinquishing the endless pursuit of material desires, is needed most to build a world of perfect harmony.
Rissho Kosei-kai and Mahidol University's College of Religious Studies have had a close relationship. In November 2003, a group of 21 Mahidol students traveled to Japan to visit Rissho Kosei-kai and other member organizations of Shinshsuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan). Mr. Masatoshi Shimamura, a staff member of the Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia Division and then assistant minister of the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation, served as a guide. In 2005 another group of Mahidol students was welcomed at the homes of Rissho Kosei-kai members in the Chiba dissemination district. In June and August of 2008, Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, director of the Chuo Academic Research Institute and president of Rissho Kosei-kai's Gakurin seminary, lectured at Mahidol on the Buddha's teachings as set down in the Lotus Sutra.
Rev. Matsumoto Brings Appeal from Asian Religious Youth to Philippine Consul in Tokyo
On December 1, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Department, visited the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo on behalf of the Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace and delivered an "Urgent Appeal for Mindanao" to Consul Felipe F. Carino III. Rev. Masumoto was accompanied by Mr. Yoshinori Shinohara of Religions for Peace Japan and Ms. Yuka Mizumo, a Youth Board member.
The appeal was adopted October 10-15 by 90 religious youths from 16 Asian and Pacific countries and regions at the Asian Youth Summit in Davao City, Mindanao, the Philippines, before the seventh assembly of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP) in Manila in October. The appeal calls for an immediate ceasefire between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government. The conflict was triggered by demands for local autonomy and drove many people from their homes.
Rev. Matsumoto explained to Consul Carino the activities of the ACRP, a regional organization of Religions for Peace. He also described the Asian Youth Summit and religious youth leaders' meetings with members of the MILF and the Philippine military as well as with internally displaced persons (IDPs) to promote peace in Mindanao. Rev. Matsumoto informed the consul of Religions for Peace's continuing humanitarian assistance to IDPs.
Consul Carino thanked Rev. Matsumoto for his visit and briefing on religious youth's activities for peace in the Philippines. He said the support of many organizations and people is crucial to the resumption of negotiations between the two sides and expressed hope for further assistance from Religions for Peace.
At the opening ceremony of the seventh assembly of ACRP at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on October 17, the appeal was also handed to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and she was informed that religious youth leaders from 16 countries and regions had delivered the appeal to Philippine embassies in their own countries and to local media to gain public attention.
Interreligious Conference for Building Peace held in Sri Lanka
On November 23, the Inter-religious Council (IRC) of Sri Lanka, an interreligious coalition affiliated with the World Conference of Religions for Peace and the Sri Lanka's most representative multireligious body, hosted an international multireligious conference in Anuradhapura, in north-central Sri Lanka. The conference was organized with the partnership of Religions for Peace and the National Peace Council, a Sri Lankan nongovernmental organization, to address the current humanitarian crisis in northern Sri Lanka, where people were driven from their homes by the government's military operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The meeting's some 200 participants included leaders of Sri Lankan Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Hindu, and Muslim organizations, as well as leading members of Religions for Peace. Rev. Norio Sakai, a former board chair of Rissho Kosei-kai, was also present as an international trustee of Religions for Peace.
At the beginning of the conference, Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the International Secretariat of Religions for Peace, made an address in which he emphasized the importance of working out a multireligious initiative as a concrete action to protect people during the crisis. Rev. Sakai chaired a session on interreligious cooperation, conflict resolution, and humanitarian aid.
On November 25, a delegation from the conference comprising the leading members of Religions for Peace and local religious leaders, met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the presidential residence in Colombo. The delegation called for an end to the conflict and expressed willingness to cooperate with both sides to promote peace. That afternoon the delegation attended a national gathering of religious leaders in Colombo organized by Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena Sansadaya, the peace brigade of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, founded by Dr. Ahangamage Tudor Ariyaratne in 1958 to celebrate the foundation's fiftieth anniversary. Rev. Sakai spoke to the gathering about the long-term interaction between members of Rissho Kosei-kai and the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, thanking those who had promoted friendship between them.
On November 26, Rev Sakai visited Rissho Kosei-kai of Colombo and spoke about the conference to 60 local members and encouraged them to strive for peace through dissemination of the Buddha's teachings.
Founder of Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On November 20, Dr. Ahangamage Tudor Ariyaratne, founder and president of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka, visited the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo and conferred with President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's General Secretariat, was also present. Dr. Ariyaratne is the recipient of the 1992 Niwano Peace Prize.
Dr. Ariyaratne spoke of the significance of his movement with regard to the current situation in Sri Lanka, in which the ethnic conflict remains unresolved. He expressed hope that the movement could share with other countries, including Japan, what it had learned from years of experience in applying Buddhist values at the local level to resolve conflicts. He emphasized the importance of continued cooperation with Rissho Kosei-kai.
President Niwano said Rissho Kosei-kai would continue its support of the movement, and he expressed high esteem for Dr. Ariyaratne's achievements. He recalled his visit to Sri Lanka in 2003 at the invitation of the four Buddhist prelates of Sri Lanka. Dr. Ariyaratne described the history of the civil war in Sri Lanka's multiethnic, multireligious society, and said Sri Lankans are beginning to realize that religion is being exploited for political ends. He said greater wisdom is needed to end the conflict. The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is a self-governance movement in Sri Lanka founded in 1958 on Buddhist and Gandhian principles. It provides comprehensive rural development and conflict-resolution programs for villagers. In 2008 Sarvodaya members assisted with Rissho Kosei-kai's Little Bags of Dreams Campaign by distributing little bags of school supplies and other useful items among the country's children who are victims of the civil war. The bags are collected by Rissho Kosei-kai Dharma Centers throughout Japan in annual campaigns.
Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Department Announces Results of UNICEF Fundraising Campaign for 2008
The Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Department announced in November that between November 1, 2007, and October 31, 2008, it had raised 78,493,482 Japanese yen for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) from Rissho Kosei-kai members and other people in Japan. Rissho Kosei-kai conducts UNICEF fund-raising campaigns annually.
Members mainly of youth and primary school pupils' groups at Rissho Kosei-kai Dharma Centers throughout Japan collected donations on busy streets or by organizing bazaars, especially on Rissho Kosei-kai's annual Youth Day in May. Fundraising for UNICEF is carried out in a spirit of Buddhist compassion, prayer, and donation.
On November 7, a donation presentation ceremony was held at the UNICEF House in Tokyo. Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Department, presented a letter detailing the total contributions to Mr. Ken Hayami, managing director of the Japan Committee for UNICEF. Mr. Hayami said that although conditions for children around the world have improved, 9.2 million children under the age of five die annually. He concluded, "There are enormous tasks for people of religion for the future of children. Now we are planning future collaboration between UNICEF and the World Conference of Religions for Peace, which has been involved in the peaceful resolution of conflicts and reconciliation for a long time."
The donation will be forwarded to the UNCEF headquarters in New York and used for education programs in Nepal, Cambodia, the Philippines, and East Timor specified by the fund-raiser. In 2008, Rissho Kosei-kai also donated 15 million yen for emergency aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis and the Sichuan earthquake.
President Niwano Attends Welcoming Dinner at WFB General Conference 2008
On November 14-17, about 1,500 people attended the 24th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) at a hotel in Asakusa, Tokyo. The conference theme was "Buddhists' Contribution to Resolving Social Problems." The Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF) is the WFB's sole regional center in Japan, and this was the second WFB conference in Japan since the 12th general conference in 1978. The WFB invited Rev. Nichiko Niwano, as president of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) and a member of the board of directors of Japanese Association of Religious Organizations, to the WFB's welcoming dinner on the evening of November 14. Some 300 delegates and observers from 23 countries (from 83 WFB regional centers), as well as more than 200 Japanese delegates from JBF member organizations were present. The dinner began with congratulatory addresses by Archbishop Yukei Matsunaga, the 412th chief abbot of Kongobuji, the head temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism and president of the JBF, and Dato Khoo Leong Hum, honorary vice-president of the WFB.
The conference included a service of Prayer for World Peace at Asakusa Sensoji temple on November 16.
The WFB was founded in 1950 in Sri Lanka to promote the solidarity of communities of various Buddhist lineages around the world, as well as to contribute to world peace. It is the world's largest and most influential Buddhist organization, and its headquarters are now in Bangkok, Thailand.
Rissho Kosei-kai Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace Aids Earthquake Victims in Pakistan
On November 17, the executive committee of Rissho Kosei-kai's Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace announced the donation of 3 million Japanese yen in emergency relief for people affected by the strong earthquake that hit southwestern Pakistan October 29. The money was entrusted to JEN, a Japanese multiorganizational nongovernmental organization for emergency relief. By November 11 it had dispatched its local staff members to the affected districts, most of which are in a mountainous area, to aid the victims.
The first tremor of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook Pakistan's Balochistan Province, near the border with Afghanistan, early October 29. According to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of November 3 the earthquake had killed 166 people and injured 370. Many houses were completely or partially destroyed, and more than 7,000 people needed immediate shelter.
Many people taking refuge in inadequate shelters were exposed to severe winter weather, and JEN started distributing winterized family tents and essential household items to the affected families in the devastated area. The donation will be used for JEN's current aid activities in the region, as well as its new programs there to meet the victims' ongoing needs.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates Founder's Birth
On November 15, the 102nd anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth was celebrated at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and all churches throughout Japan. Some 3,000 members from 99 churches gathered in the hall, and the celebration there was relayed by satellite TV to all Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Japan.
The celebration in the Great Sacred Hall began with a hymn sung by the Kosei Choir accompanied by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra as sixteen young women members brought offerings of flowers and lighted candles to the altar before the image of the Eternal Buddha. President-designate Kosho Niwano then led chanting of the sutra and read out a tribute by President Nichiko Niwano.
In his tribute, President Niwano praised Founder Niwano for his dedication to world peace in the spirit of the One Vehicle taught in the Lotus Sutra for the salvation of humanity and affirmed Rissho Kosei-kai's goal of enshrining icons of the Eternal Buddha as focuses of devotion in all members' homes and dedication to the daily practice of Buddhism. He concluded with a pledge that all members would make the founder's wish their own and dedicate themselves to dissemination with faith in the Buddha's teaching "Make the self your light, make the Dharma your light."
After that, everyone sang a hymn in honor of the founder, and President Niwano delivered a Dharma talk. Referring to the significance of study of the Dharma, one of the basic religious practices of Rissho Kosei-kai, President Niwano explained that it means gaining a correct understanding of the Buddha's teachings, thinking about them and applying them in daily life, and making these regular practices. He added that the pleasure of studying the Dharma leads to great happiness. He emphasized the importance of cultivating the habit of showing gratitude, saying that what pleases the Buddha is not only people's awakening to the extent of their blessings but also increasing the number of people who can clasp their hands in gratitude.
He praised the founder's fortitude in times of adversity, when he never complained, became depressed, or blamed others, but accepted everything with a smile. In addition, President Niwano said that everyone needs to learn to smile as the founder did in order to attain happiness and peace of mind, and he pledged to seek spiritual advancement with members who strive to do this.
Leader of South Korean Won Buddhism Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On November 15, Rev. Kim Sang Ho, director of the department of the International Affairs of Won Buddhism in South Korea, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and met Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of trustees. He visited Japan to participate in the 24th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held November 14-17 in Tokyo.
On the 15th Rev. Kim also attended the 102nd anniversary celebration of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth, in the Great Sacred Hall.
Rev. Watanabe thanked Rev. Kim for welcoming university student members of Rissho Kosei-kai to the headquarters of Won Buddhism in Iksan, Chonbuk, South Korea, in early November and discussed with him the role of religious leaders in interreligious dialogue for world peace. Rev. Watanabe told Rev. Kim that the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace sponsored the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace in Hokkaido in July before the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit. He said the summit issued a statement to the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit's political leaders, calling for urgent action against such threats to humanity as the destruction of the environment and climate change, extreme global poverty and deteriorating food security, nuclear arms, terrorism, and violent conflict. Rev. Kim replied that Won Buddhism endeavors to influence national politics in South Korea for the sake of domestic peace as well as world peace.
Members See Results of Programs in India Supported by Donate-a-Meal Movement
Rissho Kosei-kai sent fifteen members to India for 11 days from October 31 to see the results of the organization's Donate-a-Meal Movement.
The tour was arranged in line with a policy of encouraging members to see and study projects supported by the movement and train them to help solve the world's social problems.
On this tour they learned about the South Asia Program conducted by the Niwano Peace Foundation (NPF) in cooperation with local NGOs in India. The Donate-a-Meal Found for Peace entrusted the NPF to use funds collected from Rissho Kosei-kai members as well as well-wishers in Japan to operate the South Asia Program.
On November 2, the group visited Manav Sewa Kendra, an NGO in Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, to study support activities for slum dwellers. Later they traveled to the Mayurbhanj District of southeastern state of Orissa, where they visited Antyodaya Chetana Mandal (ACM), also a local NGO, which supports the Lodha, a tribal minority that lives by hunting and gathering. The group saw the irrigation system and learned about vocational training supported financially by the Donate-a-Meal Movement.
University Student Members Visit South Korea
From October 31 to November 3 Rissho Kosei-kai held its fourth All Japan Student Seminar (Zenkoku Daigakusei Jyuku) of the year for the training of university students who are members of Rissho Kosei-kai to become leaders in various fields of Japanese society.
The first three seminars were held in Japan, and the fourth took place in South Korea. Twenty-four Japanese participants joined members of Won Buddhism and Korean Rissho Kosei-kai for the event, whose theme was "Recognizing the Importance of Interfaith Cooperation toward World Peace--Building Friendship between Japan and South Korea in the Future."
On November 1, the Japanese participants and university student members of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai, a sister organization of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan, visited the headquarters of Won Buddhism in the city of Iksan and met students of Wonkwang University, affiliated with Won Buddhism. At the Peacemaking Meeting, under the theme "Building Friendship between Japan and South Korea," representatives of each religious community offered their proposals for promoting world peace. The participants then divided into small groups to discuss the theme.
On November 2 the Japanese group met Rev. Jang Eung-chul, the head Dharma master of Won Buddhism. He explained an important teaching of Won Buddhism, which is that the Buddha constantly dwells in the mind of every individual.
On November 3, the Japanese group visited Korean Rissho Kosei-kai in Seoul to hold a seminar at which three of them spoke on the Buddha's enlightenment. At the seminar's closing ceremony, Rev. Kim Dea-seon, director of department of cultural and social affairs of Won Buddhism, addressed and encouraged the youth members.
English Exposition 2008 Held in Tokyo
On November 3, the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai held the English Exposition 2008 in the Serenity Hall at Hoju Vocational College in Tokyo. It was attended by some 250 people, including members of Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo District and students from Rissho Kosei-kai's Gakurin seminary and the college.
The exposition was designed to give young Rissho Kosei-kai members an opportunity to perform short plays or give talks in English about their experiences of studying the Lotus Sutra. A similar program called Presentation in English was held last year. IBC aims to encourage the participants' interest in studying the Buddhist teachings in English and to train the young in dissemination of Buddhism among foreign residents in Japan.
Twenty groups comprising 104 people enthusiastically demonstrated what they had learned from the Lotus Sutra by giving individual affirmations and acting in short plays. Members from the Sumida and Minato churches in Tokyo reported on their efforts to disseminate the teachings among foreign residents in their communities.
New Chairman of Shinshuren Inaugurated
On October 31, the board of directors and the board of trustees of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) held successive general meetings at a hotel in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture. With the expiry of Rev. Nichiko Niwano's term as the federation's fifth chairman, Rev. Seiho Okano, president of Gedatsu-kai, was unanimously elected the sixth chairman. The boards appointed Rev. Niwano as a special advisor to Shinshuren.
Rev. Okano, born in 1939, became the president of Gedatsu-kai in 1953. In 1998 he became a director of the executive board of Shinshuren, and in 2004 he was elected its vice chairman. He also served as a councilor of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations (JAORO) and a member of the Council for Religious Juridical Persons, an advisory body to Japan's minister of education, culture, sports, science, and technology.
In his inaugural address Rev. Okano expressed appreciation for the wisdom that his predecessors had shared with him through the activities of Shinshuren. He pledged to firmly uphold the spirit of Shinshuren and raise high its ideal in today's turbulent world.
Rev. Niwano was chairman of Shinshuren for two two-year terms beginning in 2004, succeeding Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, the patriarch of Enno-kyo. In October 2005 he led the Peace Pilgrimage to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Okinawa, as part of the federation's commemorative events marking the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II. In February and October 2007, under his chairmanship, the federation held symposiums in Osaka to commemorate its 55th anniversary, under the theme "Reviving Religion--Searching for a New Role in Society." He guided activities for environmental preservation and the prevention of suicide, and was chairman of JAORO in 2004. He expressed his thanks for the support he had received from members of Shinshuren and promised continued study and cooperation with his colleagues in the federation.
Deputy Director of Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Department Attends BCY Foundation's General Conference
On October 27, the Bataan Christian Youth Foundation (BCY Foundation), administered by the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC), held its annual general conference in Balanga, the capital of Bataan province in the Philippines. It was attended by seventeen people, including Ms. Anna Ma. B. Tuazon, chairperson of the BCY Foundation; some directors of the foundation's board; Rev. Toshimasa Arai, and as special guests, deputy director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Department; Ms. Kumiko Kawamoto, general secretary of Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace, and Ms. Rika Okayasu, a staff member of the Youth Department.
At the meeting, the BCY Foundation reported on the academic progress of scholarship recipients. Rissho Kosei-kai and BYC Foundation members reviewed the results of this year's homestay program and discussed future plans for collaboration.
Rissho Kosei-kai and its Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace have been supporting both the BCYCC and BCY Foundation for a long time.
Niwano Peace Foundation Announces Activity Grants in Second Half of Fiscal 2008
In October the Niwano Peace Foundation announced that it had allocated 4.97 million Japanese yen in activity grants to seven organizations for the second half of fiscal 2008. The goal of the grants program is, while promoting mutual understanding and cooperation among different religions, to encourage people to build social harmony and solidarity in the light of religious faith.
The recipients were primarily selected not for the duration of their activities but for concrete activities having a ripple effect and for their plans for long-term contributions to world peace. This time, all the recipients are organizations that are promoting negotiations for the settlement of conflicts in Asian countries and Japan as well as for peace and disarmament, and programs promoting human harmony beyond the differences of religion and ethnicity.
During the application period, July 1 to August 13, the foundation received 65 applications from organizations in Japan and other countries. The Rissho Kosei-kai Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace entrusted the foundation with the administration of its grant aid activities. The recipients and grants are as follows:
1. Burmese Relief Center-Japan: 470,000 Japanese yen to set up a database of affairs in Myanmar
2. The executive committee of the Multi-Ethnic Education Forum 2008 in Osaka: 600,000 Japanese yen to organize an education network to guarantee the right of education for children belonging to foreign and ethnic minorities in Japan, and support for their schools
3. Shapla Neer, Citizens' Committee in Japan for Overseas Support: 550,000 Japanese yen to educate girls and support the aged in Bangladesh
4. Christian Coalition for Refugee and Migrant Workers: 700,000 Japanese yen to continue the management of a national network conducting interviews of refugees and prisoners at immigration centers in Japan and for Japanese-language schools for refugees in Japan
5. Asian Health Institute: 650,000 Japanese yen to support Muslims in Mindanao, the Philippines, through the improvement of their health conditions
6. Peace Depot: 1 million Japanese yen to support the building of a security system that does not rely on military power, nuclear weapons in particular, in Northeast Asia
7. Intercommunication Center for Asia and Nippon: 1 million Japanese yen for the care of children who are victims of the conflicts in Mindanao, the Philippines
Week of Prayer for World Peace Observed
A Week of Prayer for World Peace (WPWP) was observed worldwide October 19-26. Forty one religious organizations, including Rissho Kosei-kai, affiliated with Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and other religions, took part. Their leaders and members offered prayers for world peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai members, in the Great Sacred Hall at the headquarters in Tokyo and at local churches and at home during daily devotions, recited a Prayer for World Peace with a different theme for each day of the week. Members each looked into their hearts and minds and renewed their commitment to concrete actions for peace at home and in the community according to the prayer of the day.
Members of many churches also held joint prayer services with people of other religions, as a grass-roots peace activity in the spirit of interreligious cooperation. In addition, on each day many churches held a hoza session on the day's theme in the Prayer for World Peace. Through these events and activities, members increased their awareness of worldwide efforts for peace.
ACRP Holds Seventh Assembly in Manila
Under the main theme "Peacemaking in Asia," the seventh Assembly of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP) was held in Manila, the Philippines, October 17-20, hosted by the University of Santo Tomas in Manila and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. Some 400 people from 20 countries in Asia and the Pacific region representing Asia's principal religions--Buddhism, Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Islam, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and others--took part.
The participants addressed the problems facing Asia, including armed conflicts, poverty, discrimination, human rights violations, and environmental destruction, and discussed practical ways to make peace.
The approximately 50 participants included, on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, President-designate Kosho Niwano and five headquarters officers as official delegates.
The opening ceremony at the University of Santo Tomas was attended by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines. Following multireligious prayers by the representatives of 13 religions and a welcoming address by Rev. Rolando de la Rosa, rector of the university, Mr. Mir Nawaz Khan Marwat, moderator of the ACRP, declared the assembly open. Then Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, and Hadja Lourdes Salma Mastura, president of ACRP Philippines, delivered speeches. Following a congratulatory video message from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Mr. Yasushi Akashi, representative of the Government of Japan on Peace Building, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction of Sri Lanka, and Archbishop Felix Anthony Machado of the Diocese of Nashik, India, delivered keynote speeches. Mr. Akashi emphasized the need to pursue common interests in today's global society in which the interests of nations, local communities, and individuals are intricately intertwined. Archbishop Machado declared that "the theme of peace is central to all religions" and that "the theme of peace must be seen in the wider context of the problems of our world: the dehumanizing poverty, exploitation of children and women, . . . ecological disaster, discrimination on the basis of religious affinity, oppression of minorities, problems of disillusioned youth, unequal distribution of world's resources, etc."
During one of the plenary sessions in a Manila hotel, religious leaders from China, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Indonesia reported on their present peace-building activities. The participants also took part in five commissions focusing on the subthemes "Peacemaking through Shared Security and Conflict Transformation," "Human-Rights and Peace Education," "Common Values and Community Building," "Sustainable Development and Social Justice," and "Healing the Past and Building the Future." The commissions met three times, and at a plenary session their rapporteurs reported on their discussions.
On the last day, the participants adopted a declaration emphasizing the importance of dialogue. The declaration includes 14 recommendations as part of an action plan for the next five years. One of them recommends national chapters to establish centers for dialogue at universities or other educational institutions and urge their national governments to strengthen their commitment to nuclear disarmament.
The participants also agreed that as part of the post-congress projects, the ACRP will establish centers for interreligious dialogue in the Philippines, including Mindanao, where armed strife continues even now.
During the Closing Ceremony on October 17 at the University of Santo Tomas, Dr. Kim Sunggon, secretary-general of the ACRP, introduced President-designate Kosho Niwano. She read out a message from President Nichiko Niwano, president of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace and a copresident of the ACRP, expressing hope for further interreligious cooperation for peace, saying that the ACRP has a very important mission of making Asia a place from which the light of peace will shine forth to bring the world together.
Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America Holds First Symposium in United States
On October 18, Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America (RKINA) organized a symposium in the Doheny Beach Room in the Student Center at the University of California, Irvine. To commemorate the publication of the English translation of Cultivating the Buddhist Heart by Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, the symposium was held under the title "Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Changing World." It was cosponsored by UC Irvine's Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and the Buddhist Association at UC Irvine. Some 107 people attended, including UC Irvine students, ordinary citizens, and American members of Rissho Kosei-kai.
The event was chaired by Dr. Gene Reeves, a visiting professor at Peking University, Beijing. Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, president of Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin seminary, Tokyo; Dr. Miriam Levering, professor of religious studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and Dr. Ruben L. F. Habito, professor of world religions and spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas gave speeches and participated in the subsequent question-and-answer sessions.
Then Dr. Shinozaki gave a speech titled "Buddhist Visions of Peace in Today's World: Rev. Nikkyo Niwano's Vision for Peace." He pointed out two ideals that Founder Nikkyo Niwano found in chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra: the Bodhisattva Never Disrespectful's reverence for the buddha-nature in all people; and the One Vehicle, or the belief that everyone can attain buddahood. Dr. Shinozaki explained that these Buddhist ideals inspired Founder Niwano's lifelong promotion of world peace through interreligious and secular cooperation through organizations such as the International Association of Religious Freedom and the World Conference of Religions for Peace.
In her speech titled "Impermanence is Everyday: the Thought and Guidance of Nichiko Niwano," Dr. Levering referred to President Niwano's latest book, saying, "According to the law of transience, everything changes and is transient. The fact and the concept of transience are the key to overcoming suffering and turning it into joy." She emphasized that "once firmly recognized, this concept enables us to find the fundamental solution to all the kinds of sufferings we may encounter. Without losing the sight of ourselves, we have to firmly recognize, not intellectually alone, but in a deep way, the Buddhist answer to suffering."
Dr. Habito's speech was titled "Inner Peace and Global Peace: Cultivating Compassion in a Wounded World." He pointed out three major problems faced by the world today: "increasing military violence," "the increasing gap between rich and poor," and "the ecological crisis." He asked, "How can Buddhist practice make a difference in this wounded world around us?" and "First of all, how do we understand and look at our troubled world?" He explained a factor common to the three Buddhist practices of meditation, chanting the name of Amida Buddha (in the Pure Land Buddhist tradition), and chanting the o-daimoku (the title of the Lotus Sutra), saying that "we find ourselves in the circle of interconnection so that this practice of the meditation in stillness can open our eyes to the fact of the interconnectedness." He emphasized the importance of bodhisattva practice, by which all Buddhists aspire not only to their own happiness but the happiness of all.
Annual Little Bags of Dream Campaign Ends
From June 1 to August 31, the annual Little Bags of Dream Campaign was held by Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan. The Buddhist organization announced that some 40,000 little bags were made and donated by elementary and junior high school student members with the help of their parents as well as fellow members in their churches for the campaign.
This year marks the campaign's tenth anniversary. It has sent little handmade bags of toys and stationery items to children living in areas of conflict to heal their spirits. This campaign and the Donate-a-Meal Movement share the same goal of teaching members compassion, to pray for peace and to practice charity. The 40,000 bags are now in a warehouse awaiting shipment at the end of the year to countries including Azerbaijan, Lebanon and the Philippines. They will be distributed to children in these countries by members of local nongovernmental organizations and U.N.-related regional offices.
Rissho Kosei- kai also will dispatch parent-and-child volunteer groups to these countries in March to hand out the bags personally to children.
727th Anniversary of Nichiren's Death Commemorated
On October 13, at the training hall in the grounds of Rissho Kosei-kai's birthplace, Rissho Kosei-kai commemorated Nichiren on the 727th anniversary of his death. Nichiren was a Japanese Buddhist priest who dedicated his life to the spread of the Lotus Sutra in the face of severe persecution in the thirteenth century. Present in the hall were about 40 officers of Rissho Kosei-kai and its affiliates, including President Nichiko Niwano, President-designate Kosho Niwano, and Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of trustees. They recognized the beneficial influence of Nichiren's virtues and renewed their determination to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra throughout the world.
At the commemoration, Rev. Kosho Niwano led the sutra chanting and then read out President Niwano's tribute to Nichiren. After that, President Niwano delivered a Dharma talk, referring to the fact that Nichiren made his vow at the age of 32 to spread the Lotus Sutra. Quoting from one of Nichiren's writings, "Shijo Kingo Nyobo Gosho" (Letter to Shijo Kingo's Wife), President Niwano explained the ideal described in the Lotus Sutra and expressed his wish that members would greatly expand their religious work, keeping the ideal of the Lotus Sutra follower Nichiren firmly in mind.
Further, from Nichiren's Rissho Ankoku Ron (Treatise on the Establishment of the True Dharma and the Peace of the Nation), he cited this passage: "You must discard your false faith and take refuge immediately in the true vehicle, the sole good teaching of the Lotus Sutra." He said people of faith should not pray for the fulfillment of their own desires but be thankful for what they already possess: the gift of life. He added that one can make a fresh beginning in life by never complaining or blaming others but by accepting with gratitude whatever happens. Thus he emphasized the importance of looking carefully at the reality of all things and accepting them positively.
South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhist Leaders Hold Eleventh Conference on Jeju Island
The eleventh South Korea-China-Japan Buddhist Friendly Interaction Conference was held October 9-11 at a hotel and temples in Jeju Province, an island off the south coast of the Korean peninsula. Some 440 Buddhist priests, representing various schools, and lay followers from the three countries took part. Supervised by the Association of Korean Buddhist Orders, the tripartite Buddhist conference was held under the theme "The Role and Responsibility of Buddhists in Environmental Preservation." Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai, and Rev. Ken'ichiro Nakamura, head of the Kyoto Church.
After the representatives' meeting at a hotel Oct. 9, at which they decided to hold the twelfth meeting in Japan next year, they attended the eighth Korean Buddhist Art Festival at Yakchunsa Temple, in the south of the province. On the morning of October 10, three Buddhist priests from the three countries led 3,000 believers in prayers for world peace at a joint service at Kwanumsa Temple on Mount Halla. The service began with the consecration of a 12-meter-tall Buddha statue conducted by the three priests: Ven. Jikwan, president of the Association of Korean Buddhist Orders; Ven. Cheng Xue, vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China; and Rev. Ryusho Kobayashi, chairman of the South Korea-China-Japan International Buddhist Exchange Council. Then representatives of each country offered a prayer for peace. From Japan Rev. Keisho Nishimura, head priest of the Tendai Shinsei sect led the Japanese representatives, including Rev. Yamanoi, in recitation of verses from the Heart Sutra. Then Ven. Jikwan, Ven. Cheng, and Rev. Kobayashi read out their collective prayer for world peace.
In the afternoon, an international academic symposium on the conference theme was held at a hotel.
BCYCC Members Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
Seventeen members of a goodwill mission from the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC), based in Bataan Province, the Philippines, visited Japan October 6-13. The BCYCC was founded in 1978 by young Filipinos in Bataan, and it has promoted friendly exchanges at the grass-roots level with Rissho Kosei-kai youth members since the latter first visited Bataan in 1973. This year marks BCYCC's thirtieth anniversary, and some of the BCYCC's founding members also joined the mission to Japan.
On October 7 the visitors met President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall in Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters complex. He congratulated them on BCYCC's anniversary and spoke of his visit in 1975 to commemorate the building of the Friendship Tower and toll its Peace Bell. The tower was the idea of young members of Rissho Kosei-kai, as an expression of repentance for the war and a symbol of their desire for peace, and they built it in 1975 with the help of young Filipinos. Ms. Josanna Banzon Leon, the BCYCC's first president, recalled the difficult relations between two countries during World War II, reviewed the history of interaction between the BCYCC and Rissho Kosei-kai, and spoke of the importance of reconciliation through the promotion of mutual understanding and friendship between the two nations.
That afternoon six members of the BCYCC mission, including Ms. Banzon, conferred with Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai, and four senior leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai in the administration building. They shared reminiscences of the building of the tower. The discussion also included various aspects of the two organizations' interaction since BCYCC's founding.
That evening in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall, Rissho Kosei-kai gave a dinner party in celebration of the BCYCC's thirtieth anniversary. From Rissho Kosei-kai, in addition to Rev. Kinjiro Niwano and Rev. Hiroshi Niwano, members who had helped promote trust and friendship between the two organizations were also present. Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of trustees, made an address in which he said that Founder Nikkyo Niwano described the relationship between the two organizations as a miraculous transcendence of the bitter legacy of war. Rev. Watanabe expressed hope that members of both Rissho Kosei-kai and the BCYCC would strive to walk together for the realization of world peace through the further deepening of their friendship. After that, singing and dancing by members of the BCYCC mission drew enthusiastic applause.
On October 8-10, the BCYCC members visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Nagoya Church and interacted with members of the Chubu area, where Nagoya Church members live. The visitors experienced a Japanese lifestyle during two-day homestays at Rissho Kosei-kai members' homes. On October 11-13 they visited Suganuma, the founder's birthplace in Tokamachi City, Niigata Prefecture, and toured a replica of the house where he was born and the Founder's Birthplace Center. They also attended the Seitanchi Matsuri (Founder's Birthplace Festival), sponsored by the Tokamachi Tourist Association and Rissho Kosei-kai and held annually in veneration of the founder.
President's Book Published in Paperback
Shinden o Tagayasu (Cultivating the Field of the Heart and Mind), a book by President Nichiko Niwano, which was originally published in Japanese in 1998, was recently republished in compact paperback editions in Japanese and an English translation, Cultivating the Buddhist Heart: How to Find Peace and Fulfillment in a Changing World.
Since its first publication by Kosei Publishing Company in 1998, the book has been read by many Rissho Kosei-kai members in Japan for its explanations in plain language of the essence of the Buddha's teachings. It collects Dharma talks President Niwano gave at the Great Sacred Hall and local churches after he inherited the Lamp of the Dharma from Founder Nikkyo Niwano in 1991. President Niwano revised and expanded the texts of his talks for publication. The book has been used by Japanese members as a handbook at hoza sessions and seminars at the headquarters and local churches for everyday practice of faith. The two paperback editions were published at the urging of many members who hoped for a wider readership.
The English translation was first published in Dharma World in installments over four years, beginning in 1999. Rissho Kosei-kai made international dissemination one of its pivotal plans for 2008, commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the organization's founding. The English translation was published to share with many English-speaking people the teachings of the Buddha as interpreted by President Niwano and is now on sale mainly in North America.
2008 Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival Held
With the theme "Each Person's One Vehicle, Big-heartedness, and Grand Dream," the 2008 Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival was held October 5 in the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex and the neighboring area in Tokyo.
Rissho Kosei-kai annually commemorates the anniversaries of the deaths of the thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren, who dedicated his life to the spread of the Lotus Sutra in the face of severe persecution, and Founder Nikkyo Niwano, who devoted his life to social reform by saving people in the spirit of the One Vehicle (Ichijo) taught in the sutra.
Through the event Rissho Kosei-kai members praised the virtuous deeds of Nichiren and deepened their veneration of Founder Niwano, renewing their pledge to practice the bodhisattva way in a spirit that enables them to reciprocate the compassion of the two great teachers and express gratitude to them.
Some 7,000 members in 44 contingents from throughout Japan and overseas took part in the One Vehicle Parade along the street leading from the starting point before the religious training hall in the grounds of Rissho Kosei-kai's birthplace to the parking lot in front of the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Some 25,000 spectators lined the street and cheered the marchers.
That morning in the Great Sacred Hall at the opening ceremony before the parade, President-designate Kosho Niwano led the sutra recitation with the parade participants to pray for their safety and the event's success. In her greeting after chanting the sutra, the president-designate spoke words of encouragement to them.
In the afternoon, the starting ceremony for the One Vehicle Parade was held before Rissho Kosei-kai's birthplace. Then the march began, with the 44 contingents headed by a group of 24 representatives from the headquarters and 23 churches in Tokyo, carrying banners bearing three phrases that signify the universal truth of the Lotus Sutra.
In the evening, at the closing ceremony in the parking lot before the Horin-kaku Guest Hall, President Nichiko Niwano summed up his impressions of the parade, saying the churches had made a great show of solidarity transcending each one's uniqueness. Finally, he referred to the spiritual interaction between the marchers and spectators, through the marchers' performance and spectators' cheering, thus emphasizing the importance of interdependent support.
Rissho Kosei-kai Commemorates Founder Nikkyo Niwano's Entrance into Nirvana
On October 4, in the Great Sacred Hall at the Tokyo headquarters as well as churches throughout Japan, Rissho Kosei-kai observed the ninth anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's death and his entrance into nirvana. Some 3,500 members from Japan and overseas participated in the ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall. They cherished the memory of Founder Niwano's virtues and renewed their dedication to bodhisattva practice in gratitude for his legacy of teachings. The ceremony was broadcast by satellite television to all Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Japan.
Before the ceremony, at the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, which houses the founder's relics, the ritual of opening the door of the stupa was held. President Nichiko Niwano opened the door as many members prayed nearby. Then President and Mrs. Niwano, President-designate Kosho Niwano, and Board of Trustees Chair Yasutaka Watanabe offered flowers at the altar before the stupa.
President Nichiko Niwano opened the door as many members prayed nearby. Then President and Mrs. Niwano, President-designate Kosho Niwano, and Board of Trustees Chair Yasutaka Watanabe offered flowers at the altar before the stupa.
In the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall, to the accompaniment of a lullaby from the Niigata area, sixteen young women members wearing hakama trousers placed offerings of products from their areas on the altar before the image of the Eternal Buddha. The hall was then darkened, and the solemn sounds of Sanukit stone percussion reverberated throughout. During that special moment of silent communion with the spirit of the founder, members were filled with appreciation for their encounter with the Dharma through the founder's efforts and renewed their dedication to the practice of its teachings.
The president-designate then led the assembly in chanting the Lotus Sutra and read out a tribute to the founder written by President Nichiko Niwano. The tribute recalled Founder Niwano's virtuous deeds in the time of Rissho Kosei-kai's establishment seventy years ago, and his perseverance in meeting challenges as opportunities and building harmony among members. The tribute concluded, "We, all members of Rissho Kosei-kai, as well as all living beings, should pray for each other as manifestations of the life of the Buddha and further deepen our realization that all living things share just one life source." It added, "We must disseminate Buddhism in the spirit of 'putting others first' and 'cultivating a sense of revering others by clasping our hands in prayer.'"
Rev. Masataka Uchida, former chair of the board of trustees, gave a speech on Founder Niwano's character, recalling episodes in his life. Explaining Founder Niwano's encounter with the Lotus Sutra through his religious mentor Sukenobu Arai and the establishment of his firm belief in the sutra, he said, "The true essence of religion exists in soul-stirring experience in meeting the person who awakens our emotions from the bottom of our hearts." Then he quoted Mahatma Gandhi's famous saying, "My life is my message," and said, "Founder Niwano's way of life must exemplify the teachings of the gods and the Buddha." In conclusion, he pledged to devote himself to seeking the true Way.
After that, President Niwano offered incense at the altar and explained the significance of one of Rissho Kosei-kai's new guiding principles, which is the installation of an icon of the Eternal Buddha and the Dharma titles of the founder and the cofounder at the home altar of each member. He put great stress on our attitude toward the Buddha as true believers in studying the Dharma and applying it in daily life.
Niwano Peace Prize Committee's Second Symposium Discusses Challenges and Opportunities for Religion
On September 18, the Niwano Peace Prize Committee held its second peace symposium at the International House of Japan in Roppongi, Tokyo. Some 70 people participated, as individuals as well as members of Japanese nongovernmental organizations and religious organizations.
The symposium was paneled by the current members of the Niwano Peace Prize Committee, which is the selection board for the annual Niwano Peace Prize and was established in 2003 to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the prize. The committee is constituted multireligiously, of members of various nationalities who are themselves personally deeply devoted to peace based on their religious spirit. In 2007 the committee held its first peace symposium, on the theme "Religions for Peace?" Remarks by the panelists and discussions among the other participants revealed the various challenges faced, and the hopes cherished, by today's religious communities. After considering the issues that emerged in the first peace symposium, the committee chose for the theme of its second symposium "Religion Today: Challenges and Opportunities."
In his welcoming address, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of the Niwano Peace Foundation, pointed out that people of religion would become as one when they truly take refuge in the universal truths common to all religions. He also emphasized that the role of people of religion is to spread recognition of those universal truths through love and compassion.
Mr. Doudou Diene (Muslim, Senegal), United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia and other kinds of intolerance, made an opening presentation explaining the second peace symposium's aims.
According to guidelines proposed by Mr. Diene---that the presentations should recognize that religion itself can cause problems as well as solve them---the panelists discussed the role of religious people in working to overcome divisions caused by intrareligious conflicts, in promoting awareness through self-examination, and seeking ways to inspire secular societies.
The panelists included eight Niwano Peace Prize Committee members: Mr. Diene; Rev. Dr. Phramaha Boonchuay Doojay (Buddhist, Thailand), lecturer and vice rector at Mahachulalongkornrayavidyalaya University in Chiang Mai; Dr. Irfan Ahmad Kharn (Muslim, the United States), president of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations; Ms. Christina Lee (Christian, Italy), vice-director at the International Headquarters of the Focolare Movement; Ms. Roza Otunbayeva (Muslim, Kyrgyz), co-leader of the political party Asaba in the Kyrgyz Republic; Ms. Katherine Marshall (Christian, the United States), senior fellow and visiting professor at Georgetown University; and Dr. Oh Jae-shik (Christian, South Korea), director of the Asian Institute. They were joined by Rev. Kakujo Tamagawa, chief priest of Ankokuji temple, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and chairman of the Buddhist NGO Network of Japan (BNN). The panel discussion was coordinated by Ms. Yasmin Sooka (Hindu, South Africa), executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights.
Mongol Hoza Youth Group Holds First Special Training Session
On September 13-14, the Mongol Hoza Youth Group held a special training session at Camp Mirage in Terelj, about 70 kilometers east of the capital, Ulaanbaatar. The session was attended by 35 people, including members of Rissho Kosei-kai of Mongolia and their friends. From the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo, Ms. Shiho Matsuoka, a staff member of Rissho Kosei-kai International, and Mr. Masatoshi Shimamura and Mr. Takashi Daidoji, staff members of Youth Department, joined them to give their support.
During the session, participants had the experience of staying in a Mongolian yurt, a traditional, circular tent. They heard lectures by Japanese headquarters staff members on "a general view of Rissho Kosei-kai," "romantic relationships from the viewpoint of the Buddhist spirit," "the necessity of religion in contemporary society," and "a brief summary of the Lotus Sutra." They also attended an open-air ceremony of chanting verses from the Lotus Sutra, and a hoza session.
After the training session one participant said, "The lecture on the Lotus Sutra and the open-air religious service were great." He added, "Since Mongolia is a vast country, it is not easy to frequently meet other [Rissho Kosei-kai] members in our country. . . . However, I hope that we can have an opportunity like this at least once a year."
Fifty-first Anniversary of Cofounder Naganuma's Death Commemorated
On September 10, Rissho Kosei-kai commemorated the fifty-first anniversary of the death of Cofounder Myoko Naganuma, revered by members as a "compassionate mother," who established the Buddhist organization with Founder Nikkyo Niwano in 1938. To carry on her spirit and offer thanks for her teachings, members held memorial services in the Great Sacred Hall in Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and all churches throughout Japan.
At the Great Sacred Hall, about 3,000 members gathered from throughout Japan. The memorial service began with sixteen young women members bringing offerings to the altar before the statue of the Eternal Buddha, and a recording was played of a talk by the cofounder. President-designate Kosho Niwano then led the members in sutra chanting and read out President Nichiko Niwano's tribute to the cofounder.
Then Rev. Kyozo Ishiyama, head of the Mutsu Church, testified to his experience of the faith. He said he had been on bad terms with his father, but his wife's support and his parents' unswerving seeking of the Way had enabled him to find joy in the Buddha's teachings and be thankful for his family. He concluded that he, as the head of a church, was aware of the importance of revealing his own buddha-nature through association with his church's members.
In his subsequent Dharma talk on Cofounder Naganuma as a "compassionate mother," President Niwano mentioned two goals for an ideal mother: winning the lifelong adoration of her children and gaining the admiration of daughters-in-law. He said achieving these goals is a way for women members to show gratitude for the cofounder's legacy of teachings.
Further, he said no one is more honored than the mother who sacrifices her own happiness for that of her children. He said that the more mothers there are like that, the more children there will be who grow into worthy adults working to benefit the community. Thus President Niwano emphasized the importance of making every home a place of harmony and love.
WCRP/Japan Holds pre-ACRP VII Seminar for Religious Leaders
On the afternoon of September 9, after the joint meeting of the board of directors and councilors, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace held its 35th national interreligious consultation for peace at Ikuta Jinja Shrine in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture. Some 250 people of faith including board members as well as representatives of member organization of Religions for Peace Japan took part. Under the title "Peace Creation in Asia," the consultation was designed as a preparatory study session for the seventh assembly of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP VII) to be held this month in Manila, the Philippines. After an opening address by Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, a director of Religions for Peace Japan, Secretary-General Keishi Miyamoto introduced the official delegates from Japan to ACRP VII and outlined its agenda.
In his subsequent keynote address, Mr. Michio Ito of the Asia Community Center 21 said that despite Asia's rising prosperity, based partly on tourism, the problems of slums, street children, child labor, human trafficking, and landless tenants persist. He blamed these problems on greed putting economic growth above all. He urged people of faith to unite in a spirit of love and compassion to tackle those problems.
There followed a panel discussion on how to mitigate economic disparities with mid- and long-term support programs to help the poor become self-reliant. The panelists, chaired by Prof. Yoshiaki Sanada, director of the Peace Research Institute of Religions for Peace Japan, were Prof. Munetoshi Maejima of the United Church of Christ in Japan; Rev. Tokumasu Kimiaki, president of the Japan Muslim Association; and Rev. Kariura Masayoshi of Tomo no Kai.
After the panel discussion, Rev. Mitsuo Miyake, executive director of Religions for Peace Japan, delivered closing remarks.
WCRP/Japan Holds Joint Meeting of Boards of Directors and Councilors in Kobe
On September 9, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace held the 102nd meeting of its board of directors as well as the 98th meeting of its board of councilors, at Ikuta Jinja Shrine in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture. Fifty-one directors and councilors took part. From Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano attended in his capacity as president of Religions for Peace Japan. Other committee members present from Rissho Kosei-kai were Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of trustees; Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Department; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department; Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, a former trustee; and Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the General Secretariat.
Before the meeting, the board members paid their respects in the shrine's hall of worship. They then joined in a prayer for peace and were greeted by Rev. Takahisa Kato, the shrine's head priest, and heard the opening address by Rev. Nichiko Niwano.
During the meeting, board members discussed and approved an activities plan and a budget draft for fiscal 2009. They were informed that Ven. Kakucho Take, chairman of Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei, had been installed as a director succeeding Ven. Eko Kiyohara, a former chairman, and that Rev. Yukihiko Matsuda, chief director of Oomoto Kyodan headquarters, took up the post of councilor succeeding Rev. Kunihiko Shimamoto, also a former chairman. The board members heard an outline of plans for the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace to be held this month in Manila, the Philippines. They also heard the reports on the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace in Sapporo held before the summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations (G8) near Lake Toya in Hokkaido and detailed reports on fiscal 2008 activities from the subsidiary committees of Religions for Peace Japan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace Aids Georgian Refugees in South Ossetia
On September 5, the executive committee of Rissho Kosei-kai's Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace, headed by Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department, announced the donation of 3 million Japanese yen in emergency relief for people displaced within or outside Georgia by the conflict between Russia and Georgia in August over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
The money was entrusted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is providing relief there.
According to the UNHCR's reports, some 190,000 people fled their homes. Hygienic conditions in shelters are reported bad. Medicine and daily necessities are also reported to be running short. The UNHCR will use some of the funds to provide refugees with tents and blankets.
President of Japan Committee for UNICEF Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On September 3, Ms. Ryoko Akamatsu, who recently became president of the Japan Committee for UNICEF, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Horin-kaku Guest Hall in Tokyo and talked with President Nichiko Niwano. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Ken Hayami, managing director of the committee; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department; and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Department.
President Niwano congratulated Ms. Akamatsu on her becoming the committee president, and she thanked Rissho Kosei-kai for its support of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) activities since 1979. They exchanged views about the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace, which was sponsored by the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, and the Junior Eight (J8) Summit 2008, co-hosted by UNICEF and Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both events were held in July on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Rev. Niwano and Ms. Akamatsu affirmed their commitment to future cooperation between the Japan Committee for UNICEF and Rissho Kosei-kai.
Ms. Akamatsu joined Japan's Ministry of Labor in 1953. She has held various important posts in the ministry as well as other branches of the Japanese government. She worked for passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1985. She served as the minister of education, science and culture on the Hosokawa and Hata cabinets in 1993-94. She became the first woman president of the Japan Committee for UNICEF in June 2008.
Youth Seminar on Human Rights and Religious Freedom Held in Jordan
During August 19-26, the 2008 International Youth Seminar on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion and Beliefs was held in Amman, Jordan, under the auspices of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), the Euro-Med Youth Program of the European Commission, and the Youth Spirit Center, a Jordanian nongovernmental organization (NGO). About 40 people participated, including young leaders of faith communities, young scholars of religious studies, and members of NGOs, from 21 countries, mainly in Europe and the Middle East. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata and Ms. Akie Takahashi of the External Affairs Department and two Gakurin seminarians.
The seminar aimed to give young people a better understanding of one another's cultures and widen their recognition of a common heritage, while fully respecting cultural diversity beyond the differences of nation, ethnicity, and religion. It aimed also to deepen their sense of the need to protect the human dignity of all individuals and the right to religious freedom as a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In one of the workshops, Mr. Morse Flores, an IARF International Council member and president of its Religious Freedom Young Adult Network (RFYN), delivered a lecture on such subjects as international laws and regulations for the protection of human rights, the role of UN agencies in upholding them, and policies on national and international levels against the violation of human rights.
After the seminar, the four participants from Rissho Kosei-kai toured Jordan's Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds World Youth Meeting 2008
On August 24, Rissho Kosei-kai International and Youth Department of Rissho Kosei-kai jointly held a webcast meeting titled the "World Youth Meeting 2008" at Fumon Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo as a key station. Via the Internet, 173 youth members took part in the United States (Hawaii and New York), Brazil, Bangladesh, Mongolia and India (Kolkata). The participants also included members of the International Buddhist Congregation and Rissho Kosei-kai's Gakurin seminary in Tokyo as well as of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai, a sister organization in South Korea.
During the opening ceremony, a video message from Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of trustees, was broadcast. In his message, Rev. Watanabe encouraged the participants, saying, "It is our great hope that youth members around the world who have learned about the spirit of the Lotus Sutra will discuss their dreams." He explained the significance of enshrining an icon of the Eternal Buddha at the home altar of every member, saying, "The installation should serve as an opportunity for each and every Rissho Kosei-kai member to come closer to fulfillment as true Buddhists, and every member's house should serve as a base for neighborhood dissemination of the Buddha's teachings."
Rev. Toshimasa Arai, deputy director of the Youth Department, explained the importance of sharing the aspiration to save all living beings, which Rissho Kosei-kai promotes as a guiding principle for its youth members. The youth members then divided into several groups according to their regions, such as the Americas and Asia. Following an agenda set by preparatory meetings in May, representatives of each region reported on the results of the implementation of their action plans, which were drawn up at last year's meeting in Hawaii.
The Hawaii Church members said they held a seminar on the role of Buddhists in efforts for world peace according to principles in books by Founder Nikkyo Niwano. They said they affirmed that living in harmony with others is the first step in building world peace. The Bangkok Church members said they emphasized participation in Rissho Kosei-kai's Donate-a-Meal Movement and that they hoped to participate in the movement as a religious practice with the deepest understanding of the movement's purpose.
After that, the participants heard a lecture on the theme "Learning from the Eternal Buddha" by Mr. Masatoshi Shimamura, an assistant minister of the Youth Department, and attended a hoza session led by Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of Rissho Kosei-kai International.
One participant said of the meeting, "I was really impressed by the speeches of church members from other regions and countries." Another said, "I had a wonderful time because of the lectures and hoza sessions during the meeting."
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds 63rd Annual Memorial Service for War Dead
On August 15, the 63rd anniversary of the end of World War II, Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and the organization's churches throughout Japan held annual ceremonies for the Day of Repose for the Spirits of the War Dead and Prayers for Peace. Some 2,000 members from the Tokyo District gathered in the Great Sacred Hall at the organization's headquarters in Tokyo to mourn and pray for the victims of World War II and all other wars. They prayed also for an end to all current wars and conflicts throughout the world and for lasting peace.
The ceremony began with an offering of lighted candles before the image of the Eternal Buddha as the Kosei Choir sang a Japanese version of "I Am a Thousand Winds," a song of bereavement. The subsequent sutra chanting was led by President-designate Kosho Niwano. She then recited a prayer for merit transfer, and at the Buddhist altar she offered a paper crane, a symbol of peace in Japan.
President Nichiko Niwano then gave a Dharma talk, in which he pointed out that, while Japan has been free of war for the 63 years since the end of World War II, some aspects of today's Japan prevent it from being a nation at peace. He underlined the importance of kindness, which he said can help everyone find happiness even in adversity. He also stressed the importance of promoting harmony in the family, since only harmonious families can rear children who will work for world peace.
President Niwano Attends Government-Sponsored Memorial Service for War Dead
On August 15, the 63rd anniversary of the end of World War II, President Nichiko Niwano attended the government-sponsored ceremony for the Day to Commemorate the War Dead and Pray for Peace, which was held in Nippon Budokan Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. He attended as the representative of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations (JAORO). The gathering of some 6,000 people included Japan's emperor and empress and bereaved family members of the war dead and other representatives of various sectors of society. They prayed for the repose of the spirits of all the dead of World War II and renewed their pledge to work for lasting peace.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda gave an address at the start of the ceremony, which began shortly before noon. As the clock struck 12, all the participants prayed in silence for one minute. Then followed addresses by the emperor, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the president of the House of Councilors, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and a representative of bereaved family members. Representatives of different sectors of society then proceeded to the stage and offered chrysanthemums. President Niwano offered a chrysanthemum on behalf of JAORO for Rev. Masami Yatabe, chairman of its Board of Directors, who was unable to attend.
Shinshuren Holds Memorial Service for War Dead in Tokyo
On August 14, the 43rd Annual Memorial Service for the War Dead of All Nations and Prayers for Peace was held by Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) and its Youth League in Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery. Some 3,700 people from Shinshuren's member organizations, including Rissho Kosei-kai, participated.
The ceremony opened with an offering of lighted candles by young women members of Shinshuren at the altar in the hexagonal building where the remains of Japan's war dead---not only servicemen and military support personnel but ordinary civilians as well---are enshrined. Following an offering by leaders of the Youth League of a thousand paper cranes (which are a symbol of peace in Japan)strung together, representatives of religious organizations proceeded to the altar by turns and led prayers according to their own rites.
Rev. Nichiko Niwano, Shinshuren's chairman, delivered an address in which he spoke of the importance religious youth across the country knowing the truth about the wars waged by Japan in Asia and the Pacific and continuing to organize, in a spirit of interreligious cooperation, annual observances mourning the dead of all wars and calling for a total renunciation of war. He expressed the hope that they also would promote global harmony as individuals. He also spoke of the necessity of overcoming hatred in oneself, and emphasized that the only way to realize true harmony lies in cultivating consideration and compassion for others by pointing out that overcoming hatred is religion's key role.
Rev. Yukihiro Hozumi, president-designate of Taiwa Kyodan and chairman of Shinshuren's Youth League, then delivered a message for peace in which he emphasized the importance of realizing that world peace can be attained only if all young people of faith work for it together. He called on them to join in praying for that purpose and to strive together for the realization of a world where all life is held sacred and humankind forever renounces war.
Shinshuren Presents Statement to Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Yasukuni Shrine
On August 12, the chairman of Shinshuren's Committee on Freedom of Faith, Rev. Masaru Miki, delivered a statement to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda through the Liberal Democratic Party, of which Mr. Fukuda is also the president, opposing the proposed official visit by cabinet members to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II.
In the statement, Shinshuren points out that since Japan's postwar Constitution declares the separation of religion and the state (Article 20), any form of governmental involvement in a religious organization would be unconstitutional. Shinshuren also stressed the significance of the fact that Article 20, which also guarantees freedom of religion, is the basis of guaranteeing liberty, freedom, and human rights for everyone following our great repentance for the war.
Niwano Peace Foundation Announces Financial Support Plan for First Half of Fiscal 2008
In August The Rissho Kosei-kai Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace entrusted the foundation with funds collected by the members and other well-wishers to aid the foundation's support activities.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds Dharma Youth Seminar in Hawaii
During August 6-13, Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Department and its American churches jointly held the Dharma Youth Seminar under the theme "World Peace---What the Founder Hoped For" at the Kona Retreat Center of Rissho Kosei-kai of Kona, a chapter of the Hawaii Church on the Big Island. The program was attended by 13 youth members from Japan and the United States.
Each session was conducted in Japanese and English. Participants learned about the life of Founder Nikkyo Niwano from a DVD created at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters. It documents his personal discovery of the Lotus Sutra and his work for world peace. The participants learned about Buddhist views on peace and interreligious cooperation by reading the book A Buddhist Approach to Peace. They also visited the USS Arizona Memorial museum at Pearl Harbor.
Before the seminar, the Japanese participants flew to Oahu and held a memorial service at the cenotaph of the Ehime Maru, a Japanese high school fishery training vessel that sank after being rammed accidentally by the surfacing nuclear submarine USS Greeneville in February 2001. They also visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, for U.S. soldiers killed in World War II and the Vietnam War.
Rissho Kosei-kai International Holds First Seminar for Overseas Leaders in Japan
From July 28 to August 10 in Tokyo, Rissho Kosei-kai International held the First Dharma Training for Leaders. Eleven leaders of overseas churches as well as dissemination districts in the United States, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, and from the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) in Tokyo took part. It was a special seminar for overseas leaders and English-speaking leaders living in Japan aimed at increasing their understanding of the teachings of Buddhism, that they may help relieve human suffering and contribute to the dissemination of Rissho Kosei-kai's teachings worldwide.
On July 28, a special lecture was delivered by Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the Buddhist organization's board of trustees, in Fumon Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters. He explained the history of Rissho Kosei-kai and the transmission of Buddhism from ancient India to China and thence to Japan. He then mentioned one of the organization's new guiding principles of installing an icon of the Eternal Buddha and the Dharma titles of the founder and the cofounder at the home altar of each member worldwide. He explained the significance of the installation and encouraged members to cultivate self-reliance as Buddhist believers.
On August 1, Rissho Kosei-kai President-designate Kosho Niwano led a special seminar for the leaders. She shared her reminiscences of Founder Nikkyo Niwano and described her experience of writing a book about him, titled Kaiso Sama ni Naraite (In the Footsteps of the Founder). She emphasized the importance of cultivating the wisdom of venerating the buddha-nature in all people.
During August 1-3, the participants divided into ten groups and visited 10 Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Tokyo to participate in practical training for dissemination. During August 4-7, they visited the Suganuma district of Tokamachi City, Niigata Prefecture, to take part in special seminar near the birthplace of Founder Nikkyo Niwano.
21st Anniversary Religious Summit on Mount Hiei Celebrated
On August 4, the Interreligious Gathering of Prayer for World Peace was held in front of the Konpon Chudo Hall of Enryakuji temple on Mount Hiei, Shiga Prefecture, under the aegis of the Tendai Association of Religious Cooperation for International Peace.
From Japan and other countries, some 1,000 religious leaders, including Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and adherents of folk religions, gathered to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei to keep alive the spirit of the Day of Prayer for World Peace held in Assisi in 1986 at the initiative of Pope John Paul II.
Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by President Nichiko Niwano; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department; and Rev. Kenichiro Nakamura, head of Kyoto Church.
Ven. Korei Hamanaka, chancellor of the Tendai Buddhist administration, delivered the opening address. This was followed by recitation of the Heart Sutra, led by Ven. Kojun Handa, head priest of the Tendai Buddhist Denomination. He then made a declaration emphasizing the importance all people devoting their wisdom and power to tackling various social problems, including environmental degradation and the worldwide proliferation of nuclear weapons.
In the subsequent ceremony, eleven religious leaders representing Buddhism, Christianity, established Shinto and Sectarian Shinto, and new Japanese religions, including Ven. Handa and Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai and chairman of Shinshuren (Federation of the New Religious Organizations of Japan), prayed together silently on the platform for world peace as the temple's peace bell tolled. The peace bell was installed last year to commemorate the summit's 20th anniversary.
Members Mark 63rd Anniversary of End of World War II
In August, in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Okinawa, local Rissho Kosei-kai members marked the 63 anniversary of the end of World War II by taking part in ceremonies to pray for world peace. In Hiroshima on August 6, 374 members of the Hiroshima Church of Rissho Kosei-kai held a memorial service. After offering lighted candles, flowers, and a thousand of paper cranes, which symbolize peace in Japan, they recited the Lotus Sutra and prayed not only for the atomic bomb victims but the victims of all wars.
In Nagasaki on August 8, a council of local people of faith in Nagasaki Prefecture hosted the 36th annual memorial service for victims of the atomic bombing on August 9, 1945. The service was held in Nagasaki's Peace Park adjacent to the hypocenter, attended by some 800 people of faith from the prefecture. Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo was represented by Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, a consultant to the Buddhist organization. On the next day, Rev. Niwano also attended the peace memorial ceremony organized by the city of Nagasaki in the same park as the official delegate from Rissho Kosei-kai.
In Okinawa on August 15, the 18th Interfaith Prayer for Peace Ceremony was held in Okinawa Peace Memorial Hall on Mabuni Hill in Itoman City. Some 309 people of faith took part, including members of the Okinawa Church of Rissho Kosei-kai. Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo was represented by Rev. Keiichi Akagawa, deputy director of the External Affairs Department.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Dissemination in Brazil
On July 27, Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil held a ceremony in the church's training hall in Sao Paulo to commemorate Founder Nikkyo Niwano's first visit to the country in 1958, to attend a festival celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Japanese immigration to Brazil and undertake his first dissemination of the teachings of Rissho Kosei-kai in that country. This year also marks the seventieth anniversary of Rissho Kosei-kai's founding in Japan. Under one of the organization's new guiding principles, Rissho Kosei-kai launched a project to install an icon of the Eternal Buddha and the Dharma titles of the founder and the cofounder at the home altar of each member worldwide.
Two hundred forty-three people, including distinguished guests and members, attended the ceremony in Sao Paulo. The headquarters in Tokyo was represented by Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, an emeritus member of the board of trustees.
An offering of the lighted candles and flowers by young women members was followed by recitation of the Lotus Sutra. Rev. Kunitomi then presented the icons as focuses of devotion as well as the Dharma titles to fifty-one members. Following one member's testimony to the faith, Rev. Kunitomi gave a speech. He explained the significance of the installation of the focuses of devotion as well as the Dharma titles of the cofounders and encouraged members to cultivate self-reliance as Buddhist believers. After the ceremony, Rev. Kunitomi also joined a hoza counseling session and a class in Buddhism at the church to strengthen friendly ties with the Brazilian members.
New President Welcomes Rev. Nichiko Niwano at Focolare Headquarters near Rome
After attending the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid July 16-18 hosted by the Mecca-based Muslim World League, President Nichiko Niwano flew to Italy on July 19. On the 20th he visited Rocca di Papa near Rome to call on the new Focolare president, Ms. Maria Voce, successor of the late Chiara Lubich, at the movement's headquarters. Also at the meeting were President Niwano's wife, Mrs. Yoshie Niwano; Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's General Secretariat; and Rev. Giancarlo Faletti, the Focolare Movement's co-president.
President Niwano congratulated President Voce on her election and expressed his hope for continued close ties between the Focolare Movement and Rissho Kosei-kai, arising from the partnership between both organizations' founders---Rev. Nikkyo Niwano and Ms. Chiara Lubich. In reply, President Voce said she could not forget the deep spirituality of both founders, describing it as a lasting heritage for future generations.
Later, President Niwano spoke at the general assembly in the Focolare headquarters' meeting hall, where the movement's leaders from all over the world had gathered. President Niwano stressed the importance of further cooperation between the two organizations and said they could grow stronger by combining the love and the spirit of unity cherished by Ms. Chiara Lubich with the compassion and the spirit of the One Vehicle embodied by Founder Niwano.
President Voce told the assembly that on assuming the heavy responsibility of leading the Focolare Movement, she hoped to emulate Ms. Lubich's dedication to the service of others and would strive to preserve her legacy.
President Niwano Discusses Sanctity of Life at Interfaith Meeting in Spain Sponsored by King of Saudi Arabia
In Madrid President Nichiko Niwano attended the World Conference on Dialogue, held July 16-18 and organized by the Muslim World League (MWL), one of the largest Islamic nongovernmental organizations, founded in Mecca in 1962. More than 200 religious leaders and scholars of different faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism, were invited from around the world. Also attending were President Niwano's wife, Mrs. Yoshie Niwano, and Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's General Secretariat.
The interfaith conference was sponsored by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. As custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, in March he proposed a conference to promote dialogue among governments, organizations and peoples irrespective of their religions and cultures. In June he also called for and sponsored the International Islamic Conference for Dialogue, at which some 600 Muslim leaders from around the world convened in Mecca. They issued the Mecca Appeal for Interfaith Dialogue, which emphasizes "the importance of continuing positive participation in the symposiums and meetings that had a clear, positive impact in promoting the culture of dialogue and in correction of many erroneous ideas about Islam and Muslims."
The conference opened at the Royal Palace of El Pardo in the outskirts of Madrid on July 16. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and King Juan Carlos of Spain cochaired the opening ceremony and acted as hosts. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was also present. After a luncheon in the palace, conference participants moved to the Auditorium Hotel Madrid to exchange views and discuss interfaith dialogue.
At the second session, on July 17, President Niwano spoke of the importance of promoting peace through interfaith dialogue and cooperation as the highest calling of our time, explaining the significance of the spirit of the One Vehicle in Buddhism as well as the activities of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. He also emphasized the importance of respecting the sanctity of life by cultivating love, compassion, and consideration for others to build world harmony, following the example of the Bodhisattva Never Despise. He also pointed out that all religions are rooted in universal truths and emphasized the importance of promoting interreligious cooperation.
On July 18, the conference issued the Madrid Declaration, which includes "the agreement among the followers of religions and prominent cultures regarding the value of dialogue as the best way for mutual understanding and cooperation in human relations as well as in peaceful coexistence among nations."
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds Ullambana Ceremony
The annual Ullambana ceremony, in which members transfer religious merit to their ancestors by chanting the sutra and making offerings, was held in the Great Sacred Hall and churches of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan on July 15. The ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall, at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo, was attended by 3,300 members.
In the Great Sacred Hall, sutra chanting led by President-designate Kosho Niwano was followed by an offering at the altar by sixteen women members. Then the president-designate and 256 representative members who are certified Dharma teachers read out 15,285 posthumous Buddhist names of the departed. The president-designate then led members in a prayer for merit transfer, and one member gave personal testimony to the faith.
After that, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of trustees, spoke of the Buddha's Original Vow described in the Lotus Sutra and said, "The Buddha would focus his mind on how we could emulate his attainment of buddhahood." Rev. Watanabe emphasized that "we must accept the Buddha's boundless compassion as a tenet of belief of Rissho Kosei-kai members."
He also explained that ullambana in Sanskrit means "hanging upside down" as a metaphor for suffering; that is, all living beings suffer because they do not understand the truth and see things as if hanging upside down. "We have learned that all things are impermanent and are devoid of self," Rev. Watanabe said. He went on to say, "It is important to learn to see things from the Buddha's viewpoint so that we can awaken to truth." He added, "Parental love is the most important factor enabling children to see things from the Buddha's viewpoint."In conclusion, he urged parents, "Always stay with your children when they are infants. Do not let go of their hands when they are toddlers. Keep your eyes on them when they are in elementary school. Always take care of them when they are in junior high school."
Founder of Templeton Foundation Dies
Sir John Marks Templeton, founder of the John Templeton Foundation, died from pneumonia at the age of 95 on July 8 at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, the Bahamas. The pioneer global investor and philanthropist inaugurated the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1972, the world's largest annual award to individuals. The prize is intended to recognize exemplary achievement in spiritual work. Mother Teresa, founder of India's Missionaries of Charity, received the first Templeton Prize in 1973.
Founder Nikkyo Niwano received the Templeton Prize in 1979 for significant achievements in promoting interreligious cooperation and understanding. He is so far the only Buddhist to have received the prize. Ms. Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, received it in 1977.
In 1987 Sir John established the John Templeton Foundation to contribute a sizable amount of his fortune to philanthropic research for the reconciliation of science and religion.
After hearing the sad news of Sir John's death, President Nichiko Niwano sent a letter of condolence to the foundation, in which he praised Sir John for his great achievements and paid tribute to his memory.
Rissho Kosei-kai Chair Greets UUA President
Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Mrs. Sinkford visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo on July 7. They conferred with Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of trustees, in the administration building of the headquarters complex. Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai, and Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the external affairs department, also were present. Before visiting Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Sinkford attended the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace, held July 2-3 in Sapporo on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
During their talk, Rev. Watanabe reviewed the events and activities in which both organizations have been involved, and referred to the topics discussed at the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace. Rev. Watanabe said he had renewed his sense of the importance of religious people's cooperation through dialogue and their actions for world peace.
In response, Rev. Sinkford described the UUA's interreligious programs for promoting activities with adherents of Islam, Buddhism, and other religions. He expressed his hope that, together with Rissho Kosei-kai, the UUA will continue to promote dialogue with people of various beliefs and disseminate in their societies what they learned through the dialogue.
Rissho Kosei-kai has enjoyed friendship with the UUA since 1968 when Founder Nikkyo Niwano first met with Dr. Dana McLean Greeley, the UUA's first president, in Tokyo. The two organizations have cooperated for many years through various interreligious gatherings, such as those held under the auspices of the International Association for Religious Freedom and the World Conference of Religions for Peace.
Japanese PM Receives Religious Leaders' Statement to G8 Summit
Fourteen world religious leaders representing the World Conference of Religions for Peace called on the Japanese prime minister, Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, at his office in Nagatacho, Tokyo, on July 4 to deliver a statement for him to carry to the G8 Summit.
The leaders represented some 100 faiths in Japan and around the world took part in a conference July 2-3 at the Sapporo Convention Center in Sapporo, Hokkaido, called The World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace: On the Occasion of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit. It was convened under the auspices of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, its Japanese Committee, and the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations. The fourteen religious leaders included Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai and Religions for Peace Japan; Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, leader of Myochi-kai and secretary-general of Religions for Peace Japan; Sheikh Tayser Rajab al-Tamimi, supreme judge of Sharia Courts in Palestine; and His Grace John O. Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria.
Their visit preceded Mr. Fukuda's departure for Hokkaido to chair the 34th G8 summit held July 7-9 as leader of the host country, and they delivered a statement for him to take to the summit calling for urgent action against such threats to humanity as the destruction of the environment and climate change, extreme global poverty and deteriorating food security, nuclear arms, terrorism, and violent conflict.
At the beginning of the meeting with the prime minister, Rev. Niwano thanked Mr. Fukuda for the religious summit's support from Japan's Ministry of the Environment. Mr. Fukuda agreed to convey the religious leaders' statement to the G8 leaders. He also emphasized the importance of heeding the views of people around the world, especially the wisdom of people of faith.
World Religious Leaders Discuss Pressing Global Issues Before G8 Summit
On July 2-3, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (Religions for Peace Japan) convened the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace in Sapporo, Hokkaido, with the cooperation of its international body of Reli*gions for Peace. The conference was held shortly before the summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations (G8) held July 7-9 by Lake Toya near Sapporo. The participants discussed pressing global issues and worked out a statement to the G8 leaders. The religious summit was attended by about 300 religious leaders, including 100 delegates, from 23 countries and regions. It was one in a series of multireligious conferences preceding annual G8 summits. The first was held in Moscow in 2006 and the second in Cologne in 2007.
Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by President Nichiko Niwano (also president of Religions for Peace Japan); President-designate Kosho Niwano; Chair Yasutaka Watanabe; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department; Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the General Secretariat; and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Department.
During the opening ceremony, Ms. Harumi Takahashi, governor of Hokkaido; Mr. Fumio Ueda, mayor of Sapporo; and Rev. Masami Yatabe, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations (JAORO), made welcoming addresses. After messages from Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the grand sheikh of Al-Azhar; Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue; and Rabbi Yona Metzger, chief rabbi of Israel, were read out by their representatives, Rev. Koshin Otani, head priest of the Honganji subsect of the Jodo Shin sect of Japanese Buddhism, delivered the keynote address. During the following six plenary sessions, the participants discussed the draft statement to the G8 summit and addressed such issues as the environment and climate change, Millennium Development Goals, nuclear disarmament, violent conflicts and terrorism.
On the afternoon of July 3, the participants adopted the statement, which lists areas of concern that they requested the G8 Summit to discuss or tackle in its action plans. A copy of the statement was then presented to Mr. Matsushige Ono, deputy chief cabinet secretary. During the Closing Ceremony, Rev. Niwano urged the participants to continue efforts to instill the spirit of the statement deeply in their communities and nations.
Youth Department Announces Further Support for Victims of Cyclone in Myanmar and Earthquake in China
In June, the Youth Department of Rissho Kosei-kai announced that it had donated 15 million Japanese yen to victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the earthquake in Sichuan, China, which both occurred in May. In consultation with the Japan Association for UNICEF, the youth department decided to donate funds raised for UNICEF in fiscal 2008.
The department had received many letters of requests from members throughout Japan who were concerned about the victims as well as the devastation in Myanmar and China. Annually the department has donated funds to the Japan Association for UNICEF for use, as specified by the fundraiser, in improving elementary education in East Timor, Nepal, the Philippines, and Cambodia. The department switched its allocation this year originally intended for the improvement of primary education in four Asian countries to aid children who are victims of natural disaster in Myanmar and China. The department allotted 10 million Japanese yen for children in Myanmar and 5 million yen for children in China.
UNICEF has conducted relief activities in both countries, such as the distribution of medical aid and relief supplies, support for the rehabilitation of schools, and counseling for children.
The Youth Department sent letters of gratitude to young members of Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan for their work to help children who are victims of natural disaster. The letters also described the significance of the Donate-a-Meal Movement long promoted by Rissho Kosei-kai and asked for the further cooperation of members as well as ordinary citizens in helping UNICEF's education programs in Asia through Rissho Kosei-kai's UNICEF fundraising campaign.
Minister of Rissho Kosei-kai of New York Attends Unitarian Universalist Association's General Assembly
During June 25-29, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) held its General Assembly 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, attended by 3,000 members. Every year Rissho Kosei-kai dispatches a delegate to the General Assembly, and this year the Buddhist organization was represented by Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, minister of the New York church. President Nichiko Niwano had the opportunity to attend and speak at the General Assembly 2004 in Long Beach, California.
The theme of this year's assembly was "Common Threads," meaning the weaving together of the fabric of the Unitarian Universalist faith with local communities. This year the president's annual report outlined UUA's efforts to address social issues in the United States, such as the rights of the rapidly increasing number of Hispanic illegal immigrants and sexual discrimination, as against gays.
The five-day assembly included a number of workshops. Rev. Kamiya attended one on June 26 titled "My Minister Is a Buddhist?" hosted by UUA ministers who publicly identify with or acknowledge the influence of Buddhist practice and teachings. At this workshop, Rev. Kamiya described the lay Buddhist movement in Japan, whose members strive to apply the Buddha's teachings in daily life. On the afternoon of the 26th, Rev. Kamiya met UUA's president, Rev. William G. Sinkford. Rev. Sinkford referred to the trust built up over the years between Rissho Kosei-kai and the UUA and expressed his hope for future collaboration through exchanges among churches of Rissho Kosei-kai and UUA in America.
President of Rissho Kosei-kai Seminary Lectures at Thai University on the Lotus Sutra
During June 9-26, Rev. Michio T. Shinozaki, director of the Chuo Academic Research Institute and president of Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin seminary, lectured at the College of Religious Studies at Mahidol University's Salaya campus in Nakhorn Prathom, Thailand, on the teachings of the Buddha as set down in the Lotus Sutra. Dr. Shinozaki's special seminar on the Lotus Sutra was planned and sponsored by the university for 44 undergraduates, who could receive credit for attending the seminar.
Mahidol University is a public university, and one of the most prestigious universities in Thailand. Its College of Religious Studies was founded in 1999. Its academic programs address new, emerging challenges to religion, such as globalization, women's rights, new scientific discoveries, and the use of modern technology in medicine.
Rissho Kosei-kai and the college have had a close relationship. In May 2001 a group of twenty-three students from the college were welcomed at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo during a visit to Japan. They also traveled to Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka to study the practice of Mahayana Buddhism. In November 2003 another group of twenty-one students also visited Rissho Kosei-kai for the same purpose. At that time Mr. Masatoshi Shimamura, then chief coordinator of the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation, which is one of Rissho Kosei-kai's churches overseas, accompanied them to the headquarters of member organizations of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) and to Taisho University, one of Japan's leading institutes of Buddhist studies.
Dr. Shinozaki said he hoped his lectures on the Lotus Sutra, based on the practical teachings of Rissho Kosei-kai, a lay Buddhist organization in Japan, would promote understanding between Mahayana Buddhists in Japan and Theravada Buddhists in Thailand and that their exchanges would deepen one another's understanding of the One Buddha Vehicle. Dr. Shinozaki said he would lecture again at Mahidol University in August and said he hoped to impress upon students that the Lotus Sutra embodies the message of the Buddha as a manifestation of the great life force.
Rissho Kosei-kai Gives Emergency Relief to Iwate-Miyagi Inland Earthquake Victims
In June, Rissho Kosei-kai's executive committee of the Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace, chaired by Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department, decided to provide emergency relief to the victims of the Iwate-Miyagi Inland Earthquake. The magnitude 7.2 earthquake took place on June 14 in the north of Japan's main island of Honshu.
On June 18, the committee assigned regional representatives of Rissho Kosei-kai churches to present a letter detailing the contribution of 1 million yen and then allocated the funds to disaster relief headquarters in the cities of Oshu, in Iwate Prefecture, and Kurihara, in Miyagi Prefecture.
According to Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency, as of June 17, 10 people were confirmed dead, 12 missing, and 286 injured, and 10 buildings were destroyed and 204 damaged. Two cities, Oshu and Kurihara, where the earthquake struck at a magnitude of 6, were seriously damaged and about 260 people have stayed in shelters since the earthquake. Landslides and unstable ground in the broader area of the Iwate and Miyagi prefectures may cause further damage.
WCRP/Japan Holds Joint Meeting of Boards of Directors and Councilors prior to World Religious Leaders' Summit for Peace in Sapporo
On the morning of June 16, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace held the 101st meeting of its board of directors as well as the 97th meeting of its board of councilors, at the headquarters of Myochi-kai, a religious organization in Tokyo. Fifty-two directors and councilors participated. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, attended as president of Religions for Peace/Japan. Other committee members present from Rissho Kosei-kai were Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of trustees; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department; Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, a former trustee; and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Department.
An opening address by President Niwano was followed by an address by Rev. Watanabe, who succeeded Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, former chair of Rissho Kosei-kai, as a councilor. Participants heard reports on committee activities and approved the expenditures for fiscal 2007 and ascertained the list of participants in, and the schedule of, an international multireligious conference in to take place in Sapporo July 2-3 before the annual summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations (G8), which was set for July 7-9 near Lake Toya on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. They also learned about a preparatory meeting held in May in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the seventh assembly of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace, to be held in Manila, the Philippines, October 17-20.
The board members also heard reports on emergency relief of victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in May and detailed reports on fiscal 2008 activities from the subsidiary committees of the Japanese Committee.
WCRP/Japan Holds Special Peace Lyceum Course prior to World Religious Leaders' Summit for Peace in Sapporo
On the afternoon of June 16, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace held its 2008 Peace Lyceum course titled "World Religious Leaders' Summit for Peace: On the Occasion of the G-8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit" at the headquarters of Myochi-kai in Tokyo. Some 160 people from member organizations of Religions for Peace/Japan, including its boards of directors and councilors, took part.
The Special Peace Lyceum course was a study session in preparation for the religious leaders' July 2-3 summit prior to the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations held July 7-9 near Lake Toya on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
On June 16 the course opened with an address by Ven. Eiin Yasuda, an executive director of Religions for Peace/Japan. Its secretary-general, Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, then outlined the religious summit meeting. Rev. Miyamoto said the summit would help people of faith deepen their awareness of the eternal truths shared by all religions in tackling current challenges. Then, in his keynote address, Prof. Akimasa Sumi of the University of Tokyo pointed out that the level of consumption of Japan's energy resources far exceeds the minimum to sustain human life and that Japanese people should adjust their lifestyles to use less energy. He encouraged people of religion to find ways to create ideal communities where people can live contented lives using less energy and where tolerance prevails for the diversity of all individuals.
There was then a panel discussion by Mr. Junichi Sato, director of the International Research Center of Metatechnology; Prof. Minoru Sonoda, head priest of Chichibu Shrine; Dr. Yasuaki Nara, professor emeritus of Komazawa University; and Rev. Keizo Yamada, professor emeritus of Sophia University, led by Prof. Yoshiaki Sanada, director of its Peace Research Institute.
American Buddhist Scholar and Students Visit Headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai
On June 2, Dr. Stephen G. Covell, associate professor of comparative religion at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, and eleven graduate students from the university visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo. They visited Japan to learn more about the country's religions and religious organizations. It was the third time that Dr. Covell brought a group of his students to the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai.
After visiting the Great Sacred Hall, the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, and the Horin-kaku Guest Hall, the group saw a video introducing Rissho Kosei-kai in the auditorium of the Nikkyo Niwano Memorial Museum. At the museum they also heard a lecture by Rev. Tomonobu Shinozaki, president of Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin seminary, on the Lotus Sutra, the teachings of Rissho Kosei-kai, and the history of Japanese Buddhism. He referred to the parable of the burning house in the Lotus Sutra and explained that the teaching of the One Vehicle means that everyone can emulate the Buddha's attainment of enlightenment. After the lecture, the students asked questions about Rissho Kosei-kai's hoza practice, history, and interfaith dialogue and cooperation activities.
A student specializing in Islam said, "I am very surprised that each structure, even its shapes and numbers, has very profound meaning in Buddhist symbolism, and now I have a strong interest in the dialogue and cooperation among different religions in which Rissho Kosei-kai has been engaging."
Annual Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa Ends
The Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, which starts annually on April 1, ended this year on May 31. Rissho Kosei-kai has been supporting the campaign for many years, and members especially promote it around the time of Rissho Kosei-kai's annual Youth Day, which usually falls on the third Sunday in May, and this year on May 18. In the early stages of the campaign, many Rissho Kosei-kai churches appeal to the public through the media, such as local cable TV networks and bulletins, while members reach out to local people through door-to-door visits and by distributing fliers on busy streets.
The Takachiho Branch of the Nobeoka Church on the Japanese island of Kyushu received cooperation in the campaign from local municipalities in the towns of Takachiho, Hinokage, and Gokase. The purposes and activities of the campaign were successfully communicated to each family over disaster-prevention radios in their homes. On May 19 and 29, used blankets were collected at senior facilities in each region.
On May 25, the Misato Church in Saitama Prefecture collected blankets at the Soka railway station of the Tobu Isesaki Line and two other places. The church plans to send notes of thanks to blanket donors. Efforts to raise funds for the shipping of the blankets to Africa were also carried out in many places. The Toyoda Church in Tokyo held a bazaar besides collecting blankets. The Nagano Chuo Church in Nagano Prefecture solicited funds on city streets for shipping costs. The Yatsushiro Church in Kumamoto Prefecture appropriated funds for shipping raised through the church's yearlong volunteer activity of collecting aluminum cans for recycling. The church also appealed to the public to turn over aluminum cans on Youth Day.
On the same day, the Komatsu Church in Ishikawa Prefecture held a religious service before shipping the blankets it had collected. After chanting the Lotus Sutra, members packed 720 blankets and loaded the boxes onto trucks. The church also held a recycling bazaar the same day to raise funds for shipping. The Suginami Church in Tokyo also held a religious service before shipping blankets.
All the blankets were to be sent to warehouses of Nippon Express in Tsurumi in Yokohama for shipment to Africa.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds World Youth Preliminary Meeting 2008
On May 25-26, Rissho Kosei-kai International and the Youth Department of Rissho Kosei-kai jointly organized a webcast meeting of youth members overseas, connecting the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai International at Fumon Hall, Tokyo, as a key station with Rissho Kosei-kai's sister organization in South Korea and Rissho Kosei-kai's chapters and churches overseas. Eighty-six young members participated, mainly in Asia and the Americas. The webcast meeting was organized as the World Youth Preliminary Meeting 2008 for the World Youth Meeting 2008, which is scheduled for August 24 also as a webcast. The purpose of the preparatory meeting was to confirm among the participants the achievements of each of their local religious activities based on the action plan for world peace adopted as a "Global Youth Mission Statement" expressing the shared hopes of all members of Rissho Kosei-kai's youth sangha during the World Youth Meeting 2007 last October, which also held a live webcast meeting at the Kona Retreat Center of the Rissho Kosei-kai of Kona, a chapter of the Hawaii Church on the Big Island.
On May 25 a session for members in Asia was held, joined by 52 youth members in South Korea, Thailand, Mongolia, as well as the International Buddhist Congregation in Tokyo. Rev. Toshimasa Arai, deputy director of the Youth Department, gave an opening address, in which he emphasized the importance of sharing the aspiration for saving all living beings, which Rissho Kosei-kai promotes as a guiding principle for its youth sangha, and he encouraged the participants to strive together to realize world peace in the spirit of the One Vehicle. Members in the Asian region reported on their local programs embodying the action plan. Members in Mongolia, for instance, organized a youth gathering once a week to practice chanting the sutra, participate in hoza sessions, and study Buddhism, thus deepening their understanding of the Buddha's teachings. Six members representing their chapters and branches shared their religious affirmation under the theme "The Buddha and Myself."
On May 26 another session for youth members in the Americas was held, joined by 34 youth members from Rissho Kosei-kai of New York, Hawaii, and Brazil. Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of Rissho Kosei-kai International, delivered an opening address in which he said he hoped every youth member would contribute to the webcast meeting's significance by communicating as much as possible with fellow members in other countries. Members in Brazil and Hawaii reported on their local programs. Members in Brazil, for instance, said they promoted gatherings in which people could encounter the Buddha's teachings. They held a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of Shakyamuni Buddha's birth on April 8, inviting friends and members of other civic organizations, to awaken them to the event's significance. Four members representing their churches made speeches of religious affirmation. During both sessions Rev. Suzuki emphasized the importance of realizing that the future of humanity depends on the efforts of all youth around the world. He expressed the wish they would be torchbearers of the Dharma by embracing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra themselves and passing them on to many other people.
Rev. Koichi Matsumoto Meets Religious Youth Leaders in Europe
On May 21-22, a meeting of the Summit of European Religious Youth Leaders was held in Rovereto, Italy. Eighteen youths of various faiths such as Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism gathered there from 10 European countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Georgia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Spain. The summit meeting was cosponsored by the World Conference of Religions for Peace and the Campana Foundation.
The summit served as a post-congress of the Youth Assembly, which was held as part of the Eighth World Assembly of the Religions for Peace in Kyoto and Hiroshima in 2006. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Department as an observer in his capacity of an advisor to the Religions for Peace's International Youth Committee; Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata, a Rissho Kosei-kai representative in Geneva; and Ms. Yuka Mizumo, a staff member of the External Affairs Department.
In his opening address, Rev. Matsumoto encouraged the youth participants, saying that cooperation among religious youths would greatly contribute to world peace.
The European youth religious leaders discussed the European Interreligious Youth Network (EIYN), one of the six regional networks of the Global Youth Network, which was proposed in the Hiroshima Declaration adopted by the Youth Assembly in 2006. They elected officers of the EIYN and discussed a three-year concrete action plan for enhancing and enlarging the youth network in Europe.
IBC Invites American Buddhist Philosopher to Give Public Lecture
The International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai hosted a public lecture by Dr. Brook Ziporyn, an associate professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, on "Buddhism and Ecology" in the First Group Pilgrimage Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters complex in Tokyo on May 24. It was attended by twenty-eight people, including foreign residents of Japan.
In his lecture, Dr. Ziporyn gave an example of the Buddhist teaching that people should concentrate more on trying to change their attitude than on changing their environment. He said the cleaning up of a neighborhood is not only the cleansing of a place but of the heart and fosters community spirit.
Dr. Ziporyn explained the relationship between the self and its surroundings in terms of the Buddhist teaching of interrelatedness. He concluded that there is no fixed self and people's acts stem from their attitude, and their acts shape realities.
Young Rissho Kosei-kai Members Work for Peace on Annual Youth Day
On May 18, Rissho Kosei-kai's annual Youth Day was observed throughout Japan with the theme "Great Aspiration: Raising the Winds of Social Change." On this day some 19,000 young members throughout the country participated in various activities for the betterment of society and the building of world peace. About 35,000 adult members and members of the general public also joined in the activities. They promoted such projects as visiting facilities for the elderly, blood donation drives, the cleaning of public places, raising funds to support UNICEF activities, and collecting blankets for the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. At noon all the participants joined in a silent prayer for peace.
This year, when global warming is an issue of widespread concern in Japan, many of the churches focused on environmental problems, collaborating on such projects as beautifying the environment, environmental studies, and fundraising to support environmental protection projects. At the Kakegawa Church in Shizuoka Prefecture, members and citizens together cleaned up a coastal windbreak forest, near the beach where blue turtles lay their eggs. Cleanups of local beaches and rivers were also carried out by many other churches across Japan. Shiga Church members held a charity bazaar at their church and donated the proceeds to the Lake Biwa Trust, an NPO founded in April at the initiative of citizens in Shiga Prefecture to protect the environment of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, in their prefecture.
Shortly before Youth Day, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on May 2-3, killing hundreds of thousands of Burmese, and a strong earthquake devastated the southwestern province of Sichuan, China, on May 12, leaving nearly 70,000 people dead or missing. Appealing to passers-by at railway stations or in the streets for donations to help UNICEF projects strengthened many young Rissho Kosei-kai members' sense of the significance of the fundraising drives undertaken by their churches over many years, and they experienced the joy of serving others.
Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace Gives Emergency Aid to Victims of Sichuan Earthquake
Rissho Kosei-kai's Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace executive committee announced that it was donating 3 million Japanese yen to repair damage in China's Sichuan province caused by the magnitude 8 earthquake that struck on May 12. On the afternoon of the 15th, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of trustees of Rissho Kosei-kai, visited the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo and presented the donation to Counselor Ma Jinsheng.
The Sichuan earthquake did extensive damage not only in that province but neighboring parts of western China. According to the Chinese government, it was confirmed that 40,075 people had been killed and 247,645 injured as of May 20. The total number of people dead or missing is estimated at more than 70,000. In the province's high, mountainous regions, roads near the epicenter have been blocked by landslides, delaying the arrival of rescue teams and hampering their efforts.
Meeting with Rev. Watanabe, Counselor Ma, who was born in Sichuan, described the devastation there and said, "According to Chinese tradition, whenever we meet difficulties, our friends never fail to come forward and help us. We deeply appreciate having received many kinds of aid from our neighbors, including Japan."
Rev. Watanabe explained the ideals and activities of the Donate-a-Meal Movement, which Rissho Kosei-kai has conducted for many years, and said, "I hope this aid will serve to ease the sufferings of the victims of the earthquake."
Niwano Peace Foundation Holds 2008 Symposium in Kyoto Fumon Hall
On May 10, the Niwano Peace Foundation Symposium 2008 was held in Rissho Kosei-kai's Kyoto Fumon Hall, adjacent to the Kyoto Church. Some 300 people, including religionists, religious scholars, and ordinary citizens, took part.
In 2001 the foundation adopted the symposium's main theme, "Challenges Facing Religious People in the New Century." Under the special subtheme of 2008, "The Ethic of Human Solidarity---Bridging the Human Dignity Divide," the keynote lecture was given by the recipient of this year's 25th Niwano Peace Prize, Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In his address, Prince Hassan described the world of the early 21st century as a world of conflict. He criticized huge military expenditures especially at a time when an increasing number of people are living in poverty. He expressed the hope that all human beings would cultivate mutual understanding in promoting human happiness and global cooperation on a foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values.
Prince Hassan then joined in a panel discussion, chaired by Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, bishop emeritus of Oslo of the Church of Norway as well as chairman of the Niwano Peace Prize Committee. The other panelists were Sister Shizue Hirota, regional coordinator of Japan Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz and a board member of the Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, and Rev. Hitoshi Jin, executive director of the Japan Buddhist Council on Youth and Child Education (Zenseikyo Foundation). The panelists discussed the role of ordinary citizens and people of faith in building world peace, the effects of terrorism in many parts of the world, and the amendment of Article 9 of Japan's Peace Constitution proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, which would allow Japan to possess a military force for defense.
25th Niwano Peace Prize Awarded to Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan
On May 8 the Niwano Peace Foundation presented the 25th Niwano Peace Prize to Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo. Some 200 people, including Mr. Samir Naouri, Jordan's ambassador to Japan, and representatives of Japan's political and religious circles, attended the ceremony.
The Niwano Peace Prize Committee honored Prince Hassan for his tireless interfaith advocacy and leadership in the promotion of peace based on his profound faith in Islam. He is the second Muslim recipient of the prize since the fifth prize in 1987, which was awarded to the World Muslim Congress.
At the presentation, Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, chairman of the Niwano Peace Prize Committee and bishop emeritus of Oslo of the Church of Norway, described the screening process for the prize. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, the foundation's president, presented a citation, a medal, and 20 million Japanese yen to Prince Hassan.
After an address by President Niwano, a congratulatory message from Mr. Kisaburo Tokai, Japan's minister of education, culture, sports, science, and technology was delivered by proxy. Then, Rev. Daijo Toyohara, chairman of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations (JAORO) and the Japan Buddhist Federation, read out a message of congratulations. Prince Hassan then delivered his acceptance address, in which, warning against the world's widening economic disparities and the continuous loss of life in neverending armed conflicts in many parts of the world, he proposed the creation of a network of religious and other organizations to create a global dominion of peace based on humanitarianism.
Members See Results of Donate-a-Meal Movement
This year Rissho Kosei-kai initiated a new program as a part of the project of Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteers Leaders, one of the Buddhist organization's seven independent projects sponsored through its Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace. The new program is to organize participants to see firsthand the activities of joint projects Rissho Kosei-kai promotes overseas with other organizations, such as in Cambodia, East Timor, Vietnam, Pakistan, and India. The program aims to deepen their understanding of the spirit of the Donate-a-Meal Movement by on-site observation of such local activities and thus of the importance of promoting the movement. Rissho Kosei-kai also expects that the program will allow each participant to learn more about the various problems that our societies face and to find ways as an individual to promote global harmony.
From April 28 through May 5, a group of 10 members headed by Rev. Ryuichi Iwasaki, minister of the Takanabe Church, visited Cambodia. They toured sites where work is being carried out as part of the joint project Rissho Kosei-kai promotes with the Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA), a Japanese NGO. They visited slums in Phnom Penh where the SVA operates a mobile library. They also toured the National Buddhist Institute of Cambodia, whose construction was completed in 2002, paid for in part by the Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace. They also visited one of the mass graves at Choeung Ek, where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the communist Khmer Rouge regime, and held a memorial service before a commemorative stupa there.
Another group of 15 members, headed by Rev. Takamasa Hirai, minister of the Setagaya Church, also visited East Timor at the same time. First they visited the Santa Cruz cemetery, where the Santa Cruz massacre was carried out in November 1991 by a group of Indonesian soldiers, and held a memorial service for the victims. They also toured four elementary schools in Dili, the regional capital, and the Aileu and Manatuto Administrative Districts, which are supported by UNICEF, which promotes a program to normalize education across the country.
Inter-Religious Council of Sri Lanka Inaugurated
Through a longstanding effort by the World Conference of Religions for Peace and religious leaders in Sri Lanka, the Inter-Religious Council of Sri Lanka (IRC-Sri Lanka) was set up as a regional council of Religions for Peace and held its inaugural ceremony at the governor's auditorium in the capital, Kandy, on April 28.
Thirteen leaders of Sri Lankan Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim organizations took part, as well as about 150 religious leaders from other countries, including the Most Ven. Tep Vong, great supreme patriarch of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and Dr. M. Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Muslim organization in Indonesia. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Rev. Norio Sakai, former chair of the board of trustees, in his capacity as an international trustee of Religions for Peace.
At the ceremony, Dr. Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council in Sri Lanka made an address. Referring to the approximately 19 members of IRC-Sri Lanka, he expressed his hope for the council, saying that while Sri Lanka had seen many attempts at interreligious cooperation in the past, this could be the most important one, since the most senior prelates of four major religions in the country had pledged their participation. In his address, Rev. Sakai explained Rissho Kosei-kai's effort to support development of the country through the Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace.
On May 2 in Colombo, the participants and delegates who had taken part in the inauguration met with Mr. Basil Rajapakse, a senior advisor to the president of Sri Lanka, and Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, a former prime minister and leader of the United National Party, to explain the reasons for establishing IRC-Sri Lanka and asked for their understanding and collaboration for the council's efforts for conflict resolution.
Third Buddhist- Christian Symposium Held at Focolare Headquarters in Italy
During April 27-30, the Third Buddhist-Christian Symposium took place in the Mariapoli Center at the headquarters of the Focolare Movement, a worldwide Catholic movement based in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. Some 100 Buddhist and Christian representatives took part in the symposium. They included clerics and lay members of various Christian denominations and the Focolare Movement and non-Christians, including Theravada Buddhists from Thailand and adherents of Mahayana Buddhist traditions, such as the Tendai and Nichiren sects of Japanese Buddhism.
Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by President and Mrs. Nichiko Niwano; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, external affairs director; Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, director of the Chuo Academic Research Institute; Rev. Keiko Yamao, minister of the Taito Church in Tokyo; and Rev. Munehiro Niwano, assistant professor at Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin seminary.
At the opening ceremony on April 27, the participants offered prayers according to their own traditions. Led by Rev. Yamao, Rissho Kosei-kai participants prayed after adherents of the Theravada and Tendai traditions offered their prayers.
The opening address by Professor Giuseppe Zanghi, co-director of the Focolare's Center for Interreligious Dialogue, was followed by President Niwano's address.
In his address, President Niwano recalled the late Ms. Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, who died in March, and the late Ms. Natalia Dallapiccola, former co-responsible for the movement's Centre of Interreligious Dialogue, who died in April. He said, "By convening the Third Symposium at such a time as this, we are following the wishes of Chiara and Natalia that we should never flag in our efforts to bring love and compassion to the entire world."
The symposium was divided into three sessions. The first was introductory; the second addressed the theme "Buddhist Dharma in the Face of the Challenges of Our Contemporary Cultures"; and the theme of the third was "Buddhist Compassion in the Face of the Challenges of Contemporary Cultures."
At the third session, moderated by Dr. Shinozaki, Rev. Munehiro Niwano, husband of President-designate Kosho Niwano, delivered a speech titled "Compassion of the Buddha and the Ecological Issue--From the Viewpoint of the Lotus Sutra."
The series of Buddhist-Christian Symposiums, with the common theme of "The Dharma and Buddhist Compassion--Christian Agape," began in 2004 to seek beliefs common to both Buddhism and Christianity and to apply them in meeting the challenges of life today. The first symposium was held at the Mariapoli Center in Italy and the second at Rissho Kosei-kai's Osaka Church and Enryakuji temple on Mount Hiei near Kyoto in 2006.
Rissho Kosei-kai Inaugurates Buddhist Center in North America
On April 8, Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America (RKINA) was inaugurated at its new office in Orange County, California. The 47 participants included invited guests, local residents and Rissho Kosei-kai International's director of overseas dissemination, Rev. Kotaro Suzuki. RKINA is a regional office of Rissho Kosei-kai International in Tokyo and will help the five Rissho Kosei-kai churches in North America---Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Oklahoma--spread the Buddhist teachings in North America and support dissemination work by the five other Rissho Kosei-kai churches.
In his opening remarks at the beginning of the ceremony, Rev. Suzuki said, "Inheriting Founder Nikkyo Niwano's wish for worldwide dissemination of the Lotus Sutra, we would like to continue our endeavors to support the activities of Rissho Kosei-kai churches in North America."
Chanting of the sutra was led by the RKINA's director, Rev. Shoko Mizutani. Then Rev. Ken Nagata, secretary and chief financial officer of RKINA, described its facilities and RKINA's future activities.
Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, founder and president of California Institute for Human Science and head priest of Tamamitsu Shinto Shrine in Tokyo, and Rev. James Fredericks, professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, delivered congratulatory messages and encouragement for the future activities of RKINA.
For more information about Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America
Youth Department Supports Japan Program of Israeli Youth
During April 8-17, fifteen Jewish and Palestinian youths of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI) visited Japan and held a study session at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. The ICCI is an Israeli nongovernmental organization (NGO) that serves as the Israeli chapter of Religions for Peace and is a member organization of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ). The ICCI had held six previous study sessions since last April, mainly in Israel, under the theme "Between Memory and Reconciliation: Individual Identity, Collective Memory and Narrative Implication for Conflict Transformation." The final session in Japan was called the Japan Program.
On April 9, the ICCI group heard a lecture on Buddhism and Rissho Kosei-kai's history and activities at Rissho Kosei-kai's Administration Building. They also had a cordial talk with Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of trustees. Rev. Watanabe discussed Rissho Kosei-kai's founder, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, and his efforts for world peace through interreligious dialogue and cooperation. He mentioned that the Niwano Peace Foundation, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, has awarded the Niwano Peace Prize to one individual and two organizations in Israel for their contributions to world peace: Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (1993), Rev. Elias Chacour (2001), and Rabbis for Human Rights (2006). Rev. Watanabe encouraged the youths to study ways of reconciliation reflected in Japan's culture and history, including, for example, the practice of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. He said, "Everything in this world arises from a combination of causes and conditions. We can comprehend that these represent the manifestation of truth, and therefore they inevitably lead us as Buddhists to revere everything we encounter by clasping our hands in prayer and bowing our heads."
On April 11, the ICCI group visited the Diet, or house of parliament, where they met some of its members, and the Israeli Embassy to confer with diplomats. On the 12th they heard a lecture on Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra by Rev. Michio T. Shinozaki, director of the Chuo Academic Research Institute, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai.
IBC Holds International Hanamatsuri
On April 13 an International Hanamatsuri (flower festival) was sponsored by the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai at Rissho Kosei-kai's former headquarters within the current headquarters complex in Tokyo. Some 300 foreign residents of Japan from 19 countries took part. The fifteen guests of honor included the Indian ambassador, Mr. Hemant Krishan Singh; the Cambodian ambassador, Mr. Pou Sothirak; and the Myanmar ambassador, Mr. U Hla Myint.
The ceremony in the former headquarters' main hall opened with an offering of lighted candles and flowers to an image of the Buddha by 17 IBC youth members, followed by an offering of words of praise for the Buddha by some of its juvenile members. Rev. Yoshihiro Ono, head of the IBC, then led recitation of the Lotus Sutra in English. After that Dr. Brook Ziporyn, an associate professor at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, in the United States, gave a lecture titled "The Buddha's Eternal Life." This was followed by music played by a woodwind quintet of members of the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra.
Finally Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of trustees of Rissho Kosei-kai, gave the closing address. He expressed the wish that all people in the world will find happiness in embodying the Buddha's teachings.
After the ceremony, the participants moved to the Kosei Library nearby, where they saw such expressions of traditional Japanese culture as a koto performance, a tea ceremony, and flower arrangement.
Rissho Kosei-kai Mission Visits Philippines for Bataan Day
Seven Rissho Kosei-kai members, led by Rev. Yasunori Kobayashi, director of Chubu-Hokuriku Area, visited the Philippines April 6-10 to hold memorial services for the dead of World War II and observe Bataan Day, a national festival.
On April 6 the mission visited the cemetery in Muntinlupa in Manila and held a memorial service for fallen Japanese soldiers. They traveled to Bataan Province on the 8th for a commemorative ceremony with the president of the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC), Ms. Kristine Carol Quicho Reyes, and seven other BCYCC members at the Friendship Tower, which was built with prayers for world peace in 1975. The participants from both countries marched from the starting point of the Bataan Death March to the Friendship Tower. Many American and Filipino prisoners of war died during the Death March through Bataan in severe tropical heat. After offering flowers and chanting the Lotus Sutra, Rev. Kobayashi reviewed the history of exchanges between Rissho Kosei-kai and the BCYCC, saying, "In accordance with the wish of Founder Nikkyo Niwano, I would like to bequeath friendly ties between Filipinos and Japanese to the future generations to come." After that, the Peace Bell was tolled, and everyone prayed for world peace.
On April 9 the mission observed Bataan Day, an annual Philippine national day of remembrance of the fall of Bataan in 1942. At the summit of Mount Samat they held a memorial service for all victims of the war.
Shakyamuni's Birth Celebrated at Great Sacred Hall and All Rissho Kosei-kai Churches
On April 8, Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated the anniversary of the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha at the Great Sacred Hall in the headquarters complex in Tokyo and all churches in Japan. The event was an opportunity for all members to appreciate the significance of the Buddha's birth and renew their commitment to disseminate his teachings. Some 3,300 members participated in the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall, and the event was relayed by satellite TV to all churches in Japan and webcast to churches in six other countries.
At the Great Sacred Hall, after sixteen young women members in colorful saris made offerings at the altar before the statue of the Eternal Buddha, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the organization's board of trustees, led chanting of the Lotus Sutra by all assembled. He then recited a devotional prayer in front of the Buddha statue and poured sweet hydrangea tea over an image of the infant Buddha in a small pagoda decorated with flowers on the stage of the hall.
After that, following a member's testimony to the faith, President Nichiko Niwano also poured the tea over the image of the infant Buddha and gave a Dharma talk. Referring to the significance of the Buddha's birth in this world, Rev. Niwano said that realizing the value of our own life should awaken us to the sanctity of all life and encourage us to disseminate this principle to many other people.
Family Volunteer Group Visits Azerbaijan for Little Bags of Dreams Campaign
From March 27 to April 5, a volunteer group of young Rissho Kosei-kai members and their parents visited Azerbaijan to hand out gifts to children, which were collected through the organization's Little Bags of Dreams Campaign.
In last year's campaign from June 1 to August 31, Rissho Kosei-kai collected 47,381 bags of toys and school supplies from members and other people of good will in Japan.
In cooperation with Hayat, a local nongovernmental organization, 5,036 bags were distributed in Azerbaijan, and 291 out of 5,036 were handed to the child refugees by the parent and child volunteers from Japan.
About 1 million refugees are reportedly living in Azerbaijan. They are internal displaced persons (IDPs) who fled the conflict in neighboring Armenia, and refugees from Chechnya and Iran. The volunteers, guided by a Hayat member, visited an elementary school to hand out the bags to children there. They also had cultural exchanges with the children, acquainting them with traditional forms Japanese culture such as folk songs and origami, or the art of paper folding.
In Azerbaijan the volunteers also visited Martyrs' Lane, also known as Shahidlar Hiyabani, in the capital of Baku. The lane is a cemetery primarily for those who died in the war of independence in 1991, and the volunteers held a memorial service for them.
Rissho Kosei-kai High School Students Visit Philippines
On March 24 the students arrived at Ninoy Aquino (Manila) International Airport and in Manila visited the cemetery in Muntinlupa to hold a memorial service for the victims of World War II. On the following day, they traveled to Bataan Province and met 50 members of the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC). They shared religious experiences at hoza counseling sessions. After that, the students and BCYCC members visited the Friendship Tower in Bagac, Bataan.
On the 26th the students visited the UNICEF office in Manila and were briefed on UNICEF's support activities in the Philippines. The students then visited Child Hope, a local NGO that supports street children, and learned about their plight and need for protection. On the 27th the students moved on to Infanta, a town in Quezon Province. They assisted with a school lunch program for elementary school children operated by the Infanta Integrated Community Development and Assistance, Inc. (ICDAI), a local NGO. They also helped with afforestation work to protect an area often damaged by erosion caused by heavy downpours in the annual rainy season.
IARF President Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On March 29, Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, president of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and conferred with the chair of the board, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, and the external affairs director, Rev. Takeshi Kawabata. Rev. Watanabe spoke about the interreligious exchange programs that the IARF has been conducting for many years at the grass roots, rating the programs as extremely important. Rev. Janamanchi responded that we are in an age when grass-roots exchanges among different religions and cultures are strongly needed on a global level. He said it is necessary for all of us to focus on our similarities, though we come from different backgrounds.
On March 30, at a Rissho Kosei-kai facility in Tokyo, Rev. Janamanchi attended a Sunday service, one of the programs organized by the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai. He spoke on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and its significance in the twenty-first century and then joined a circle discussion of the role of prayer in everyday life.
Rissho Kosei-kai Opens Churches in Thailand and Bangladesh
Rissho Kosei-kai announced in December the redesignation of branches of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia in Thailand and Bangladesh as full-fledged churches. The new churches--Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangkok and Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangladesh--were inaugurated March 23 and March 28 respectively.
On March 23 some 200 local members celebrated the inauguration in Bangkok at the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation in Bangkok, which houses the church.
The ceremony opened with an offering of flowers to an image of the Buddha by 18 local young women members, a recitation of the Lotus Sutra in Thai, and religious testimony by a local member. The member said the teachings of Buddhism had brought her joy by strengthening her ties with co-workers. Then Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of Rissho Kosei-kai International, gave a talk in which he emphasized the importance of bodhisattva practice to help others and of sutra recitation every morning and evening with gratitude for the gift of life. He also stressed the need for all members as people of faith to relieve others' sufferings by practicing the teachings in daily life, thus setting an example that can lead others to the Buddha-Dharma. Dr. Banjob Bannaruji, a professor at Chulalongkorn University, then gave a congratulatory address. Finally Rev. Yasuhiro Hasegawa, minister of the new church in Bangkok, expressed his thanks to all participants.
On March 28 Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangladesh was inaugurated at the Chittagong Engineers' Hall in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Some 1,700 local members from Chittagong and the nearby cities of Cox's Bazar and Domdama attended.
The ceremony opened with a traditional dance and choral singing by 20 local young women members and a procession to offer lighted candles at an image of the Buddha. Both Mr. Biman Kumar Barua, head of the church's Educational Affairs, and Mr. Deshapriya Barua Chowdhury, its chairman, gave addresses. Ven. Priya Ratna Thero, abbot of a Buddhist temple in Chittagong and secretary-general of the local Buddhist association Ariyabangsha Bhikkhu Sangstha, gave a congratulatory address.
Rev. Teruo Saito, director of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia, also gave a congratulatory address, in which he encouraged all local members to devote themselves to dissemination by always keeping in mind the motto "Many in body but one in spirit." Then Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of Rissho Kosei-kai International, gave a talk in which he stressed the importance of the lay Buddhist practices of expressing gratitude to others, having a good word for everyone, and praising people for their strong points. Finally Rev. Noriyuki Aritomi, the minister of the new church of Chittagong, thanked all the participants.
Rissho Kosei-kai Leaders Attend Funeral Mass for Ms. Chiara Lubich
At the news of the passing of Ms. Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, on March 14 at the age of 88 at her home near the movement's headquarters in Rocca di Papa, south of Rome, President Nichiko Niwano sent a message of condolence to the Focolare headquarters. In his message, President Niwano praised Ms. Lubich's lifelong dedication to promoting world unity and expressed his gratitude for her friendship with Rissho Kosei-kai. The funeral Mass for Ms. Lubich was celebrated on March 18 at the Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls in Rome, led by the Vatican's Secretary of State, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, six headquarters officers, including Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of Rissho Kosei-kai, attended.
During the Mass, representatives of six Christian and other religious organizations made speeches of condolence. Rev. Watanabe spoke as one of the representatives of non-Christian faiths, Recalling Ms. Lubich's virtues, he said that Rissho Kosei-kai hopes its ties with the Focolare Movement will flourish eternally as both organizations work hand in hand for peace.
In Japan, on March 28, a memorial Mass for Ms. Lubich was celebrated at St. Ignatius Church in Tokyo. Focolare members in Japan were joined by other Catholics and many other adherents of non-Christian faiths. From Rissho Kosei-kai, President and Mrs. Nichiko Niwano and President-designate Kosho Niwano attended, along with Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department, and Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of its General Secretariat. Archbishop Alberto Bottari De Castello, Apostolic Nuncio to Japan, delivered a eulogy, praising Ms. Lubich for her contributions to world unity. The Mass was presided over by Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, and he read out the message from Pope Benedict XVI for the March 18 funeral Mass celebrated in Rome. Near the end of the Mass, Mr. Masao Arakaki, who is in charge of the Men's Focolare Center in Tokyo, made an address.
Ms. Lubich was revered as the leader of the Focolare Movement, an international Catholic lay movement with some 4.5 million members in 182 countries. She received a number of awards, including the prestigious Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion in 1977. Exchanges between the Focolare Movement and Rissho Kosei-kai began in the 1970s, and friendship deepened between Ms. Lubich and Founder Nikkyo Niwano of Rissho Kosei-kai, who also was a recipient of the Templeton Foundation Prize (1979). Friendships also flourished between Ms. Lubich and President Nichiko Niwano and President-designate Kosho Niwano. There also have been active exchange between the members of both organizations.
Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace Announces Grant Recipients for Fiscal 2007
In March the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace announced the grant recipients for fiscal 2007. A total of 476,756,773 Japanese yen was donated by Rissho Kosei-kai members as well as Japanese well-wishers through the Donate-a-Meal Movement. It aims to help solve problems in the fields of environmental protection, rural development, disarmament, peace-building, defense of human rights, and so on. The donated money was allocated to various projects in Japan and other countries in three categories: Rissho Kosei-kai's independent projects, joint projects with other organizations, and aid grants.
The sum of 104,337,218 yen was allotted to Rissho Kosei-kai's seven independent projects, such as the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign and the Global Volunteer Leaders (GVL) project.
A total of 177,720,158 yen was allocated for 13 joint projects with other organizations. These included the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, JEN, and other activities in which Rissho Kosei-kai has been participating for many years.
The remaining 194,699,397 yen was provided for aid grants subcategorized as support for special grants managed by the Niwano Peace Foundation, interreligious cooperation activities, special grants, and UN activities, as well as emergency relief.
For emergency relief, 39,500,000 yen was allocated to help victims of natural disasters in Japan, such as earthquake victims in Ishikawa and Niigata prefectures, and of natural disasters or armed conflict overseas, including flood victims in Mozambique and Bangladesh and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Expenditures in Fiscal 2007
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Boards of Directors and Councilors in Nara
On March 17 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 100th meeting of its board of directors as well as the 96th meeting of its board of councilors, at the Nara Prefectural New Public Hall in Nara Prefecture. Forty-nine directors and councilors participated. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, attended as president of WCRP/Japan. Rissho Kosei-kai was also represented by Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of its External Affairs, Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, a former trustee, and others in their capacities with WCRP/Japan.
At the beginning of the joint board meeting, President Niwano made an opening address. During the meeting, there were reports on preparations for the seventh assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP), including its proposed main theme and related agendas and programs, as well as a list of keynote speakers. The assembly is to be held in Manila, the Philippines, October 17-21.
Based on the reports, the boards acknowledged that the secretariat of WCRP/Japan, with Rev. Nichiko Niwano in his capacity of president of WCRP/Japan as the central figure, would take charge of organizing participants and staff members for its delegation to Manila.
The boards also discussed the ad hoc committee for organizing a celebration in 2010 of WCRP/Japan's fortieth anniversary. Ven. Eiin Yasuda, chief abbot of the temple Yakushiji in Nara and executive director of WCRP/Japan, was appointed chairman. The boards also confirmed that the committee should collaborate with the Association for Commemorative Events of the 1,300th Anniversary of Nara-Heijo-kyo Capital, which is a prefectural institution set up to commemorate in 2010 the 1,300th anniversary of the founding of Nara as an ancient capital of Japan.
The boards also heard a report on preparations by WCRP/Japan to host an international multireligious conference in Sapporo July 1-4 before the annual summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations (G8), which will be held July 7-9 near Lake Toya on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, with environmental issues among the main topics on the agenda. The boards also heard detailed reports on fiscal activities from the committees for human rights, disarmament and reconciliation affairs, and public relations, as well as from the Youth Board, the Women's Committee, and the Peace Research Institution, which is affiliated with WCRP/Japan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates Its Seventieth Anniversary
On March 5, about 3,500 members attended the celebration of Rissho Kosei-kai's 70th anniversary in the Great Sacred Hall at the organization's Tokyo headquarters. Celebrations were also held at all Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Japan, and the ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall was relayed to them by satellite TV and webcast to overseas churches and other Rissho Kosei-kai dissemination centers.
In the Great Sacred Hall, after sixteen young women members made offerings at the altar before the image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, President-designate Kosho Niwano led the assembly in sutra chanting and read out a pledge of dedication to the Buddha composed by President Nichiko Niwano. In his pledge, referring to the significance of Rissho Kosei-kai's founding and its ultimate goal, Rev. Niwano stated that since the religious essence of Buddhism is seeking buddhahood and that this can be accomplished by the salvation of all humanity, Buddhism would be meaningless without efforts for dissemination.
Referring to one of the organization's new guiding principles, the installation of an icon of the Eternal Buddha and the Dharma titles of the founder and the cofounder at the home altar of each member, President Niwano pledged that Rissho Kosei-kai will make a fresh new start when each member greatly aspires to disseminate the teachings with joy and gratitude for the installation.
After the president-designate's reading of the pledge, President Niwano presented letters of thanks and commemorative gifts to two representatives of the 128 leaders and 190 members who have rendered distinguished service to Rissho Kosei-kai churches and the organization as a whole.
On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of its board of directors, then made an address. In his remarks on promoting the installation of icons of the Eternal Buddha and Dharma titles in members' homes, Rev. Watanabe explained that President Niwano, as his father's successor, was realizing one of the founder's long-cherished wishes. Rev. Watanabe then also pledged diligent devotion to his religious training, saying that the chair himself was clearly aware of his gratitude for such an honorable karmic opportunity to be a Buddhist and a Rissho Kosei-kai member.
Then Rev. Niwano conferred an icon of the Eternal Buddha and the Dharma titles on the directors of seven dissemination districts in Japan and of Rissho Kosei-kai International as representatives of overseas members. In his speech he referred to the meaning of "cultivating the fields in our hearts and minds," which was declared the organization's new goal in 1998; the Buddhist spirit of "oneness of matter and mind"; the installation of icons of the Eternal Buddha and the Dharma titles in members' homes; and the importance of dissemination. He then encouraged all members to make further efforts to study the Dharma diligently for Rissho Kosei-kai's seventieth anniversary as a good opportunity for a new beginning.
Franciscan leader Mizzi dies at age 77
Father Maximillian Mizzi, founder and director of the International Franciscan Centre for Dialogue (CEFID), died at the age of 77 on March 3 in his room at the Sacred Convent of Assisi near the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy.
His funeral Mass was celebrated March 5 in a chapel of the basilica, attended by 60 bishops, monks of the basilica, and about 300 family members and friends. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata, the representative of Rissho Kosei-kai of Geneva read out a letter of condolence from Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai. In his letter, President Niwano praised Father Mizz's meritorious services in promoting interreligious understanding and cooperation, paid tribute to his character, and recalled meetings with him.
Father Mizzi was born in Malta in 1930 and joined the Franciscan Minors Conventual Order in 1946 and was ordained a priest in 1955. He was responsible for ecumenical work and interreligious dialogue in the Franciscan Order since the 1960s. Rissho Kosei-kai first established friendly relations with him in 1975 when the Vatican invited a mission of Rissho Kosei-kai youth members to attend the Mass on Christmas Day at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Holy Year.
In 1983, President Nichiko Niwano visited Assisi and toured the basilica, and he and Father Mizzi began their friendship. In 1990, Rissho Kosei-kai invited Father Mizzi to the celebration of the anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth, and he made a congratulatory speech. Whenever peace missions from Rissho Kosei-kai visited Assisi, Father Mizzi always warmly welcomed them and communicated to them the spirit of Saint Francis and the importance of interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan to Receive 25th Niwano Peace Prize
The Niwano Peace Foundation announced that it will award the 25th Niwano Peace Prize to Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The announcement was made at a news conference at Rissho Kosei-kai's Kyoto Fumon Hall in Kyoto on February 27 by Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, chairperson of the Niwano Peace Foundation. Prince Hassan will receive the prize for his tireless interfaith advocacy and leadership in the promotion of peace based on his profound faith in Islam. He is the second Muslim recipient of the prize since the fifth prize in 1987, which was awarded to the World Muslim Congress.
Prince Hassan has devoted himself to building peace with justice in the Middle East, especially with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has been advancing a vast range of activities on a global scale in such areas as conflict resolution, human rights, disarmament, and environmental protection. He has provided leadership to a number of institutions and organizations, devoting himself to multireligious efforts for peace. In this regard, the prince served as moderator of the World Conference of Religions for Peace from 1999 to 2006 and continues, as its president emeritus, to provide inspiration and leadership. Prince Hassan has founded and is actively involved in a number of Jordanian organizations, including the Arab Thought Forum (1981), the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, the Islamic Scientific Academy, the Hashemite Aid and Relief Agency, and the Institute for Diplomacy.
The Niwano Peace Prize is awarded on the basis of nominations by up to 1,000 leading figures in 125 countries, and the nominations are considered with strict impartiality by the Niwano Peace Prize Committee before reaching a decision.
The presentation will take place in Tokyo on May 8. In addition to the award certificate, Prince Hassan will receive a medal and 20 million Japanese yen from Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of the Niwano Peace Foundation.
Volunteers Finish Distributing Blankets in Mozambique
On February 16, a team of twenty-two volunteers who distributed blankets in Mozambique returned to Japan. They were members of Rissho Kosei-kai and the Japan Team of Young Human Power, a Japanese nongovernmental organization (NGO). Both are member organizations of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. The volunteers distributed blankets among people in nine districts of Maputo Province.
KULIMA and Associacao Crista para o Desenvolvimento Comunitario (ACRIDEC) are both local NGOs that serve the poorest people and conduct rural development projects in the country. In collaboration with these NGOs, the volunteers distributed 26,000 blankets, of which they gave 1,000 to people in the province selected by the government, KULIMA, and ACRIDEC. The recipients were mainly orphans, the elderly, and AIDS carriers.
It is reported that Mozambique, in southeastern Africa, is seriously afflicted with malaria and HIV/AIDS. Malaria kills several thousand people per year, and there are about 1.8 million AIDS carriers. In the nation's capital, Maputo, the volunteers visited the Japanese Embassy and met Counselor Kenichi Kimiya. He described the current internal situation in Mozambique, and the volunteers explained the blanket campaign's aims and activities.
The campaign collects blankets from ordinary citizens throughout Japan annually in April and May and distributes them to needy victims of natural disasters and civil wars in various African countries.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Anniversary of Shakyamuni's Entrance into Nirvana
Rissho Kosei-kai observed the anniversary of Shakyamuni Buddha's entrance into nirvana on February 15 at the Great Sacred Hall at the organization's Tokyo headquarters and at churches throughout Japan. Some 3,600 members gathered in the Great Sacred Hall to learn about the anniversary's significance and renew their devotion to the teachings of the Buddha, imparted some 2,500 years ago.
In the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall, members heard the story of the Buddha's death. Sixteen young women members from the Saitama Division placed offerings on the altar before the image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni. Then President-designate Kosho Niwano led the sutra chanting and recited a prayer of dedication to the Buddha composed by President Nichiko Niwano.
After that, Rev. Takako Nagano, minister of the Kochi Church, testified to her faith. She said the experience of caring of family members had deepened her appreciation of the gift of life and her reverence for the buddha-nature, with which all people are endowed. She said that accepting the Buddhist truth of the impermanence of all things means accepting everything that happens to us. She said she felt renewed self-esteem as a member of her family and the Sangha. In conclusion, she said she would strive to become a more loving and virtuous person.
Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, then delivered a Dharma talk. He explained the Meditation on the Throne of the Enlightenment, which is included in Rissho Kosei-kai's book "Sutra Readings." He emphasized the importance of practicing the Buddha's teachings in family life, describing the home as the place of fundamental training for the whole family. He said Shakyamuni's entrance into nirvana reflects the fact that every living things dies and that Shakyamuni's teachings can enlighten us to the eternity of life itself. He said that one of the Buddhist practices of compassion is disseminating the teachings in words that are easy to understand.
Israeli Ambassador and President Niwano Confirm Importance of Dialogue
On February 14 the Israeli ambassador to Japan, Mr. Nissim Ben-Shitrit, visited the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo, where he conferred with President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Also present were Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, Rissho Kosei-kai's director of the External Affairs Department, and Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of its General Secretariat. Mr. Ben-Shitrit was appointed ambassador to Japan in 2007.
During their conversation, President Niwano mentioned the Niwano Peace Foundation, which he also serves as president. He alluded to the past recipients from Israel of the Niwano Peace Prize--Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam (1993), Archbishop Elias Chacour (2001), and Rabbis for Human Rights (2006)--explaining that these recipients have long been involved in the promotion of peace in the Middle East by helping people overcome religious and ethnic differences. Ambassador Ben-Shitrit expressed his appreciation for the friendship between Rissho Kosei-kai and religious leaders and groups in Israel. Referring to the planned visit to Japan during February 25-28 by Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the ambassador emphasized the importance of dialogue and exchange, saying these should not be limited to national governments but should also flourish among private groups.
President Niwano informed the ambassador that the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, of which he is also president, will host an international multireligious conference in Sapporo, Hokkaido, July 1-4, prior to the G8 Summit, which will also take place in Hokkaido, by Lake Toya, July 7-9. He said that during the conference religious leaders from both Japan and other countries will address such issues as disarmament and the global environmental crisis. Mr. Ben-Shitrit endorsed religious leaders' offering their opinions and discussing global issues. He said Jews also are in favor of promoting interreligious dialogue for better understanding between religions.
Ninth WCRP Japan-South Korea Youth Encounter Program Organized
During February 10-14, the ninth Japan-South Korea Youth Encounter 2008, a program co-sponsored by the Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) and the Youth Committee of the Korean Conference on Religion and Peace, the national committee of WCRP of the Republic of Korea, was held at the headquarters of Zenrin-kyo in Tsukushi City, Fukuoka Prefecture. Sixty-four youths from nine religious organizations in Japan and South Korea participated. From Rissho Kosei-kai, 12 persons, including youth members, headed by Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Department and chairman of the Youth Board of WCRP/Japan, were present. The program, which started in 1990, aims to build trust through interfaith dialogue between religious youths of the two countries, and to encourage them to cooperate on concrete plans for promoting peace.
At the meeting they affirmed the role of religious youth in building lasting peace, nurturing mutual trust, and developing partnerships. They agreed on the need to build a comprehensive network of religious youth not only between South Korea and Japan but covering Northeast Asia, to realize their ultimate hope for world peace.
As part of the peace program, they visited Nagasaki. At the Nagasaki Catholic Center they heard a lecture on the history of the persecution of Japanese Christians beginning in the sixteenth century. They then visited Saint Mary's Cathedral, also known as Urakami Cathedral. They toured the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, which was built to show the world the horrors of the bombing and the need to eliminate all nuclear weapons. In the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, next to the museum, they met one of the survivors of the bombing of August 9, 1945, and heard his account of what happened to him and his family that day. In Nagasaki Peace Park they held a memorial service for the victims, offering flowers at the altar and holding various rites according to their respective religious traditions. In the park they also visited site of the hypocenter of atomic bomb and a monument to Korean atomic bomb victims who were brought to Japan for forced labor.
After the program the participants separated and some of them stayed in the homes of Rissho Kosei-kai members in Kurume, Saga, and Fukuoka.
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Boards of Directors and Councilors
On January 30 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 99th meeting of its Board of Directors as well as the 95th meeting of its Board of Councilors, at Rissho Kosei-kai's Horin-kaku Guest Hall in Tokyo. Fifty-one directors and councilors participated. As president of WCRP/Japan, President Nichiko Niwano took part along with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai and a councilor of WCRP/Japan, and other Rissho Kosei-kai representatives in their capacities with WCRP/Japan.
The meeting began with tributes to Stephen Fumio Cardinal Hamao, who died November 8, 2007, and Rev. Eiji Shirai, president of the Association of Shinto Shrines, who died February 1. After a welcoming speech by Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Niwano gave the opening address. Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, described plans for new activities by the international committee of Religions for Peace and gave an overview of its work in different regions of the world. He also reported on developments since the Religions for Peace's Eighth World Assembly in Kyoto in August 2006 and expressed support for the G8 religious summit in July.
The participants then discussed the activities of the Japanese Committee and approved the objectives, plans, and budget for fiscal 2008. They reaffirmed the need for people of faith to address current problems in the light of the eternal truths on which all religions are based. They also agreed on the need for a longstanding, holistic view as people of faith in addressing issues of international affairs, in which national interests often conflict.
Changes in personnel were then announced. Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe succeeded Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi as a member of the Board of Councilors, and Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the General Secretariat of Rissho Kosei-kai, became a member of the Finance Committee.
Rissho Kosei-kai Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace Announces Grants for Fiscal 2008
In January the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace announced grants for fiscal 2008. This year a total of 426,937,500 Japanese yen will be appropriated for various peace projects in Japan and other countries. The grants will be made in four categories, including Rissho Kosei-kai's joint projects with other organizations, its own independent projects, financial assistance for other organizations' peace activities, and emergency relief projects. The executive committee administers the fund in the spirit of the Donate-a-Meal Movement, following the Buddhist practices of compassion, prayer, and almsgiving.
A total of 140 million yen is to be allocated for nine joint projects with other organizations, including the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, the Reforestation Program in Ethiopia, JEN for its relief aid to victims of wars and natural disasters, the Shanti Volunteer Association for its program to preserve Cambodia's Buddhist heritage, and the Japan Association for Refugees for its support of legal and social assistance for foreign refugees in Japan.
A total of 158 million yen is to be provided for four aid grants subcategorized as grants for interreligious cooperation activities, special grants, grants for U.N. peace activities, and special grants managed by the Niwano Peace Foundation (NPF). The sum of 100 million yen is to be entrusted to the NPF. The NPF will allocate the money to recipients of its activity grants, who are selected during biannual application periods primarily from among individuals or groups involved in social and peace activities, and to recipient organizations in its South Asia Program. Aid grants for interreligious cooperation activities are to be provided for the promotion of peace activities through interreligious dialogue and cooperation by member organizations of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.
The sum of 128,937,500 yen will be allocated to Rissho Kosei-kai's seven independent projects, such as the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign and Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteer Leaders. A new program of organizing members to see firsthand the activities of joint projects Rissho Kosei-kai promotes overseas, such as in Cambodia, East Timor, Vietnam, Pakistan, and India, is also included
The executive committee did not budget funds for emergency relief in Japan or overseas, but will so do when the need arises.
The Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace Gives Aid to Cyclone Victims in Bangladesh
The Rissho Kosei-kai Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace donated 3 million Japanese yen to a project carried out by the Shapla Neer, Citizens' Committee in Japan for Overseas Support, to help victims of the powerful cyclone that hit Bangladesh last November. On November 15, Cyclone Sidr came ashore in Bangladesh from the Bay of Bengal and moved to the north of the country, along the border of the Bagerhat and Barguna districts. It caused severe damage, especially in the southern coastal areas. Houses and fishing boats in these areas were destroyed by high tides and torrential rain. According to a report by the government of Bangladesh on December 31, 3,363 people were killed and another 871 were still missing, with a total of 8.9 million people affected. In collaboration with local partner organizations, Shapla Neer arranged for the distribution of food and drinking water, as well as clothes and blankets, to victims of the cyclone in the Sarankhola region of Bagerhat and the Bamna region of Barguna. To prevent further disasters, they also engaged in maintaining and improving hygiene and securing clean water as well as providing shelters for victims who had lost their homes. Many others lost their livelihoods. Mr. Toshio Shirahata, Shapla Neer's overseas activities chief, expressed thanks for the donation from the Donate-a-Meal Fund for Peace and said it would be used to help victims rebuild their lives.
Annual Ceremony Commemorates Shakyamuni's Attainment of Buddhahood
At the beginning of such a significant year as Rissho Kosei-kai's seventieth anniversary, on January 7 the president gave his first sermon of the year at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters before a gathering of about 3,500 members in the Great Sacred Hall. The occasion was relayed by satellite TV to all churches in Japan.
After offerings of lighted candles and flowers at the altar by young women and sutra chanting led by President-designate Kosho Niwano, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chair of Rissho Kosei-kai, spoke. He said that one of Rissho Kosei-kai's projects for 2008---the placement of an icon of the Eternal Buddha and Dharma titles of the founder and the cofounder above members' home altars---would help members share the Buddha's aims and engrave the Dharma in their hearts.
The other projects for 2008 are as follows: undertaking the three basic religious practices, which are sutra chanting; participating in dissemination, guidance, and hoza sessions; and study of the Law; publication of a book of reflections on the founder's teachings by the president-designate; improvement of systems and programs of dissemination; religious education of young members; global dissemination; and encouraging all members to recognize and publicize Rissho Kosei-kai's identity and goals with the help of the organization's emblem and logotype.
Then President Nichiko Niwano delivered his first sermon of the year, encouraging members in their religious practice. He explained that enshrining the icon of the Eternal Buddha as a focus of devotion in the households of all members encourages them to aspire to Shakyamuni's wisdom through study of the Dharma.
Members Open New Year with Dawn Worship Services
At dawn on New Year's Day, members took part in their first worship services of the year in the Great Sacred Hall at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and at all churches in Japan. Some 3,500 members gathered in the Great Sacred Hall. In previous years these services were held at midnight New Year's Eve.
The service in the Great Sacred Hall began at 6:30 a.m. to the beat of a Japanese drum. Chanting of the sutra was led by President-designate Kosho Niwano, followed by President Niwano's offering of vows for the New Year to the image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni. Mentioning Rissho Kosei-kai's decision to place an icon of the Eternal Buddha above every member's household altar, and saying that this was Founder Nikkyo Niwano's wish, he urged all members to truly make the Buddha's wisdom their own. He also emphasized that, because every member is ready to become a torchbearer of the Dharma through self-discipline, this year would bring a fresh opportunity for all members to improve their knowledge and practice of the faith and to share the joy of living by the Dharma with people in their communities. He also urged all members to follow the bodhisattva way in striving to build world peace.
President Niwano also delivered a New Year's message to all members, reminding them that Rissho Kosei-kai would observe its seventieth anniversary in March and that the Buddha's teachings are eternal and that every generation has the duty to bequeath them to the next.
President Niwano concluded the ceremony with a prayer before the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, paying reverence to the memory of the founder and making a New Year's offering of spiced sake.
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