"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Japanese spirit

     I want to comment on the Japanese spirit. First let's look at examples of it.
     For Japan tsunami survivors, woes keep mounting reports yahoo.com. In Otsuchi, nearly a week after the tsunami, there is still no water, electricity, and last night a snowstorm brought temperatures to below freezing. Yet the people line up in "a neat queue" for half a rice ball and a small bowl of miso soup. One slice of bread might have to feed a family of three but there is no grabbing, shoving, no outbursts of anger.
     "'Whatever they give us, we just gratefully receive. At least they're feeding us three times a day,' says Katsu Sayawama, 72.
      "Ayumi Yamazaki, 21, worries that her 1-1/2-year-old daughter is not getting enough to eat. 'We rarely get to eat rice, so I'm a little concerned,' she said. 'But it's better than not eating at all.'
     "Despite the privations there's a sense of order in the evacuation center, the article goes on. In late afternoon, a neat queue forms in one hallway of the refuge shelter for men under 60 to collect clean underwear sent in through charity. 'Long-sleeve undergarments are reserved for the elderly,' a volunteer who lost her home says, apologizing to one man."
     In a blog I read, 
     Disasters in our country, natural or man-made, are routinely followed by vandalism and looting. Haiti's devastation was exacerbated by looting, child trafficking of orphans, and rape. Yet the Japanese form "neat queues"and express gratitude for starvation rations.
     Connie Nakamura posted her amazement "at the way that the Japanese people are responding to their horrific situation." Connie and her Japanese husband were in the process of moving from Saipan to southern Japan when the disaster hit. On her blog, Laughter, Love and the Zen of Midlife, Connie marvels at the Cooperation and order that characterize the Japanese as they take knockout punches from earthquake, tsunami and the threat of nuclear meltdown:
     "I see no break from law and order. There is no looting (like Hurricane Katrina) there is no violence over long lines. There is order, cooperation, civility.
      "I am amazed at their resilience. I am amazed at their courage in the face of devastation.
      "What a stark contrast to what I saw and heard from people who were on the ground in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. I was with the Red Cross during that time. I had first hand information. It was shocking and unimaginable.
      "Seeing how the Japanese people have responded to their situation has encouraged me. I am looking forward to living among this honorable nation.
      "I know there is no 'perfect' place and I know Japan has its problems but this gave me a glimpse into the Japanese heart and soul. I've heard my husband talk about this--now I see it first hand.
      "Tonight my husband said 'I am proud of my country' ....while he watched his countrymen suffer...images on NHK...we all suffer with them now."
      In a post Buddhism, refuge for Japanese on The Buddhist Blog, James Ure makes insightful comments about this spirit. He writes, "I personally don't believe in the literal existence of the Bodhisattva [enlightened one, heroic minded one, wisdom-being, anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings], but I believe in the archetype and that it can help uplift ourselves, others and give us a feeling of safety. It also gives us the inspiration to help others, which can help alleviate feelings of self-pity, helplessness and depression. That refuge, as represented through the [Sensoji] temple, and its monks, have a role to play in healing the Japanese. The temple (and many others) will provide a welcoming, embracing, compassionate and calming beacon for the many emotionally and physically injured in the aftermath of the quake and tsunami.
     "The Japanese people will benefit greatly from the Buddhist monks, as they have trained much of their lives to relieve suffering and show others how to do the same. I don't for one minute think that any of this rebuilding and healing will be easy, quick or without obstacles but Japan's Buddhist tradition will serve the people quite well in surviving the deep suffering that comes out of such a life-altering disaster. I have always seen the Japanese as admirably resilient, determined and patient, which will serve them well in the years to come. I believe that a lot of those qualities come from their cultural influence of Buddhist philosophy.
     "I have read that Buddhism has declined in some communities within Japan, especially amongst the youth. However, I think this tragedy will renew the embrace of Buddha's calm, compassionate and peaceful teachings because disasters often shake us from the modern delusion that materialism is a better way to find fulfillment in this world. When everything you own is lost, your house in rubble and maybe a loved one (or many) dead, material wealth doesn't seem so helpful. It's moments like this sobering event in Japan that remind us what truly matters in our journey in this life.
     "We need tools that can survive an earthquake, outlast a tsunami and restore peace of mind. The Dharma is a toolbox that we can carry anywhere, at anytime and is specifically geared toward learning how to live in a world of suffering that is full of empty promises of long-term happiness. It is my hope that in this time of need the Japanese (and all of us) will remember how the Dharma helped our ancestors not only survive a world of disasters, sickness and under-development, but thrive in it. May the Japanese people be healed by the soothing words of Buddha. I bow with compassion and love toward you all."

Note by Jessica: The idea of dharma as duty or propriety derives from an idea. . . that there is a divinely instituted natural order of things and justice, social harmony and human happiness require that human beings discern and live in a manner appropriate to the requirements of that order. (From Wikipedia)

     While I agree with much that James Ure writes regarding this philosophy, that does not mean I think the Japanese do not still need Jesus Christ.

And now for a bit of comic relief: Fox News Discovers Nuclear Reactor in Japanese Disco


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