Wish for Peace on the 70th Anniversary of the End of World War II

This message is from the Gomonshu, the spiritual head of our denomination based in Kyoto, Japan. The current Gomonshu is His Eminence Monshu Kojun Ohtani, the 25th-generation descendant of Shinran Shonin to head the Hongwanji.

Gomonshu Kojun OhtaniAs a special observance expressing our wish for peace, I solemnly pay tribute to the memory of all those who perished in World War II.

On August 6 seventy years ago, a single bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima devastated the beautiful city, and taking the innocent lives of many. The horrendous tragedy that the atomic bomb brought about, however, continues to remain as effects of radioactivity and as a painful memory for many to this day. In reflecting on this, I cannot help but be reminded of the stupidity of human beings, the brutality of war, and the cruelty of the atomic bomb.

This is why I feel there is deep meaning in our being able to renew our aspiration for peace together here in Hiroshima, at the very site of the atomic bombing, on this occasion of the 70th anniversary since the end of WWII.

Seventy years have passed since the conclusion of WWII. Although seventy years may have elapsed following the experiences of brutal warfare at an unprecedented global scale, have we really been alleviated from the deep sorrow and pain? As a result, has our aspiration for world peace and awareness really been deepened?

As those who experienced war firsthand become fewer, the painful memories of war becomes a thing of the past as it slowly fades away eventually becoming forgotten. We must also not forget the fact that Hongwanji at one point supported the then militarized regime’s war campaign. Seventy years after WWII, it is our most important duty to pass down the memories and emphasize the importance of peace. In order to shape a brighter future, let us be guided by the teaching of the Buddha’s wisdom and face the reality of the ongoing disputes constantly taking place somewhere in the world.

At the root of disputes is the notion of self-righteousness, which justifies our mindset while denouncing others who argue against us. Such human tendency filled with biased views was acutely pointed out by Shinran Shonin as, “With a foolish being full of blind passions, in this fleeting world that is empty and false, totally without truth and sincerity.” In the name of justice, each individual or party is apt to persist in their legitimacy, however, their insistence is never detached from their selfish desires. However, this is inevitably shattered when illuminated by the light of Amida Tathagata’s wisdom and compassion that embraces everything equally. With those words, Shinran Shonin also warns us that we all have the potential to behave inhumanely depending on the circumstances and situation.

We must take to heart that there is no war that is not accompanied with tears of sorrow. All of us equally receive birth as human beings in this world and live the same moment. Despite the bond with which we are tied together, why is it that we hurt one another, rejecting others’ existence? By being aware of the Buddha’s wish that is extended to all life equally, we are able to realize a society in which each life cherishes and respects others under the guidance of the Buddha’s wish. At the very least, we as Nembutsu followers must do our best to actualize a society in which all people can live in peace and harmony.

We should not let the seventy years following WWII become merely a time in making the sorrow and pain of warfare to be forgotten. Rather, together with all people around the world, let us take this 70th anniversary as the opportunity to pursue the realization of a global society that mutually supports one another, where every life can coexist through acceptance of differing values. It is my hope that each of us will reconfirm this principle on this occasion.

July 3, 2015

Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha