The Year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombings killed over 200,000 people with hundreds of thousands more who died of acute radiation syndrome. Although it has been 75 years since that tragedy, even today there are still many individuals who suffer from the radiation aftereffects. It is estimated about half a million people died as a result of the two historic bombings. How dreadful it is.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during 75th anniversary service at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
In looking back on world history and contemplating this significant milestone, humankind has always wished for peace, yet not a day passes without war and conflict somewhere in the world. There are many people who have lost their precious lives, and there are countless people who have lost their parents or children and are aggrieved by war.
We can imagine the heartrending cries of soldiers during wartime, including Buddhists whose religious beliefs are not to kill another being, fighting in the frontlines in the name of one cause or another.
We must constantly remind ourselves that our comfortable lives today are due to the ultimate sacrifice of those who died in past wars, and to those dying today on our behalf. In their memory and with deep feelings of gratitude to them, we should try to realize true world peace.
It is true that most of our current generation does not know the true terror of war and too often takes the gift of life lightly. In commemorating those who have died cruelly in conflicts, we must mark this anniversary with a fresh determination to do our best to reject the awful misery of war.
Fortunately, we were born into this world as human beings. Buddhism teaches us how rare is it to receive life in human form, yet now we have received it. Once we understand this truth clearly, we must try to carry out our lives with gratitude. Accepting the existence of and respecting others, and helping one other is the way we should live our lives. It is very important to realize what a precious gift it is in this world to share our lives with others.
However, as I mentioned, humanity has waged war continuously for as long as there have been people. War is an outgrowth of human greed and fear. The emotions of greed and fear also find justification for war to the exclusion of those on the other side. To make things worse, we now face a growing crisis as the very planet we inhabit is threatened by the nuclear weapons we have created.
Once while reading a book, I was struck by the following words: “If the earth is compared to a living thing, humanity is like a cancer cell.” These are shocking words, but in reality, people not only kill others out of self-interest, but also destroy the environment and drive the earth to ruin for the same reason. The moment I first realized this, I was forced to agree that humanity is like a cancer to the earth and all its living things. As a human being, I felt deep shame.
In Buddhism, there is a teaching to repay a debt of gratitude. In the great blessing of nature in this world, our lives depend upon thesacrifice of many others. We must repay this precious favor throughout our lives. I believe the way to best repay these debts of gratitude is to acknowledge others’ existence through our respect and support.
All living beings are precious in this world, but only humans have the special ability to be considerate of others. We alone have a wonderful mind capable of empathy to put ourselves in another’s shoes. We have beautiful minds that share our sadness, happiness, and joy with one another. Above all, we have precious minds capable of self-reflection.
It is human nature to make the same mistakes over and over. However, we should realize how important it is to accept our faults and be mindful of how we can correct and atone for them. It requires courage and patience. Although one person attempting this alone may seem weak, but coming together as a community and Sangha to support one another helps to make up for our individual shortcomings.
As for the abolishment of nuclear weapons to preserve world peace and help maintain the integrity of the earth, we alone have an urgent responsibility to do so for all other creatures.
Even under the label “humanity,” we have separate personalities, values and culture, and therefore are individuals who are different from one another. Because of gender, nationality, skin color and abilities, we each are different. However, it is undeniable each life is linked to many other lives and, ultimately, to all other lives. Therefore, we should never forget this truth: “The way we destroy others is the same way we destroy ourselves. The way we allow others to live is exactly the same way we ourselves live.”
Lanterns on Motoyasu River beside Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima to mark anniversary
Buddhism is a teaching of wisdom that shows we should try to respect and understand one another so that we realize that a life where all people living harmoniously in the world is truly possible.
The phrase, “There is no need to use soldiers and weapons,” appears in the Larger Sutra, the most important scripture in Jodo Shinshu. In other words, Sakyamuni Buddha teaches us that if the Buddha Dharma spreads correctly throughout the world, there is no need to wage war against others because people who have the mindset of consideration for others are able live in peace and tranquility.
In conclusion, while appreciating deeply Shinran’s sincere wish, “May peace and tranquility prevail throughout the world, and may the Buddha’s teaching spread!” I would like to express my deep gratitude for those who strive for the destruction of nuclear weapons and the realization of world peace. At the same time, I would like to offer my deepest sympathy to the victims of the atomic bomb and to all who have died in the world’s many conflicts.
Rev. Yushi Mukojima