Perspective on Peace

The Taste of the Nembutsu cover image

A message from Bishop Eric Matsumoto which appears in the book, “The Taste of the Nembutsu,” published in 2016 by the HHMH State Ministers’ Association. The book is a collection of dharma messages by each of the active ministers.

To extend the reach of the dharma within these messages, we will publish one per week on our website.


Home, Sweet Home

Bishop Eric Matsumoto

Let us nurture Peace! As we strive for world peace, I believe it is important to reflect on “What sort of peace are we trying to achieve?” The peace and security we have today is largely kept in place by a balance of power and dependent on military power. It is one reason why it is difficult for America and other nations to give up nuclear weapons or reduce their military.

However, the Dharma presents a different perspective and method of attaining and perpetuating peace. At a Peace Seminar held at Moiliili Hongwanji, Dr. Robin Fujikawa asked “What power source are you plugged into?” I interpreted his inquiry in this way. He was asking each one of us if we were plugged into the self-centered, small power source of “me, myself and I” or if we were plugged into a larger, all inclusive power source called the Dharma, or for us in Jodo Shinshu, more specifically, Amida Buddha or Namo Amida Butsu. Many of us, including myself most of the time, are plugged into the “me, myself and I.” This applies to us not only as individuals, but as a society, as a nation, and even as human beings. We tend to view matters from our perspective only. Buddha’s Wisdom wants to clear that self-centeredness and have us become more aware or conscious of others or All-centered, Dharma-centered in contrast to self-centered, or that larger power source that Dr. Fujikawa mentioned. I believe the Dharma can guide all of us in that a person does not have to be religiously a Buddhist to embrace the Dharma or teaching or be guided by it.

At the close of the seminar, I shared that the peace we are attempting to bring about is based on non-violence, interdependence, deep reflection, mutual equality, and acknowledges possible change by all parties involved and not only the so called defeated. But in order to bring this kind of peace about I believe we need to change how we think. We need a different philosophy, a different perspective.

For example, mutual equality, in the event of a war, do we see each other as being equal? After the battle has been fought, are we big enough to recognize the other party, though misguided in their previous actions, as an equal in the sense that we are both living beings who have feelings and who have wants and needs and are not perfect? I think not. I may be generalizing, but the one side seen as victorious then goes on to impose its view or vision of what is good. Usually there is no real discussion or dialog between the parties involved as to what would be the best way to improve conditions, and what keeps things in place is military authority. Please do not misunderstand. I am not criticizing those who have given their lives and fought in wars. The goal is to create a world in which no one has to go to war. As Jeannie Lum stated, we are trying to transform from a culture of war to a culture of peace. We are trying to move away from a culture of war in which we resort so quickly to fighting and killing at such a high cost of so many lost and broken lives on both or all sides. As it is often said, “There are no winners in war. All suffer whether victor or defeated.” We should be able to resolve our differences through non-violent means and action, and we need to do this all together, all of us. It will not work if only one or few do it; we must all do it together. Humankind needs to rise to the next step of maturity.

Further, in any disagreement, all parties need to self-reflect; not only the defeated but even the victorious. Many times, after a war, we try to improve matters, but in most cases, we are addressing only the conditions that led to the war. We do not address the deeper cause(s).

In our recent armed conflicts in the Middle East, we are targeting a certain group. I am not supporting terrorism in anyway, but what happened on 9/11 is the condition that led to the present war. I do not think it is the cause of the war. I am convinced that there is a deeper underlying cause or factors that must be addressed. We need to address the fundamental causes of the hate, frustration, and anger. I keep thinking, of all the places, why was it the World Trade Center that got hit? What does the World Trade Center represent? And why America? As Americans, as a nation, I think, we need to think deeper and self-reflect too. Why is it that for all America does for the world, we are still not liked? Again, we need to address the causes not only the conditions, but the difficulty is that many times, the causes are not as obvious or apparent, but this is important for true peace and happiness to prevail.

Finally, the importance of responding to situations as opposed to reacting to them applies to individuals, families, local communities and even nations of the world. More often than not what happens is because of our klesa/bonno/our passions and negative emotions. Our egos get the better of us and we react, but reacting has never been the best way to resolve a conflict. We should respond, and in our day and age, this is more important than ever. Now, you might say, as a bonbu/foolish being I cannot make this kind of peace a reality. True, it is a very difficult task, maybe an impossible task, but it is an ideal we need to embrace.

My perspective is that while acknowledging our imperfections, our weakness and frailty, I focus on the ideals that we should strive for as Buddhists. I receive my inspiration and hope from the sutras and writings of Shinran Shonin. In the Larger Sutra, it says those who come in contact with Amida Buddha’s Light become “gentle in body and mind” and “feel peace and happiness in both body and mind.” In Shinran Shonin’s writings, he says in one of his letters “In people who have long heard the Buddha’s Name and said the nembutsu, surely there are signs of rejecting the evil of this world and signs of their desire to cast off evil in themselves. That people seek to stop doing wrong as the heart moves them, although earlier they gave thought to such things and committed them as their minds dictated, is surely a sign of having rejected this world.” “Rejecting the world” here, does not mean to escape to the Pure Land; it means to embrace this imperfect world including this imperfect I, and try one’s best to make a difference by living with the Dharma as one’s guide. It does not mean that I will be able to perfectly manifest peace, but having encountered Amida Buddha’s Great Compassion, there is a deep- rooted aspiration for peace in our lives and the world, a peace that is not limited to only oneself, but also includes others even those who are different, for this peace, this Compassion has Wisdom guiding it. Wisdom guides how Compassion is expressed, and Compassion fulfills Wisdom. This is the deep meaning, I believe, of Shinran Shonin’s words “May there be peace in the world; may the Buddha-Dharma spread!”

To conclude, I would like to quote the Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra, which says, “Wherever the Buddha is present, there is no state, town or village which is not blessed by Buddha’s virtues. The whole country reposes in peace and harmony. Its people enjoy peace. Soldiers and weapons become useless as people esteem virtue, practice benevolence, and diligently cultivate courteous modesty.”

Namo Amida Butsu.