New Year’s Sermon – Dec. 31, 2016 & Jan. 1, 2017

The word of the year for 2016, according to the Oxford University Press, was “post-
truth”, as in “post-truth” politics. This was motivated by Britain’s decision to leave the
European Union. Most who voted to leave the EU in Britain did not believe that it would
actually come to be. In Germany, its equivalent, “postfaktisch” was the top word of 2016.
This, chosen by the Society of German Language in Wiesbaden, refers to the various
political campaigns around the world which were based on appeals to emotion rather than
facts. This has rippled across the pond, with Merriam-Webster choosing the word “surreal”
as its word of the year. Pointedly, a candidate in this country had managed to gain
momentum fueled more by passion and frenzy than truth. In the end, it did not matter that
outright lies had influenced people’s choices. People woke up one morning in a surreal
world, dumfounded by its shocking reality.

Fake news--from the pope in Rome endorsing Mr. Trump to Secretary Clinton being
responsible for empowering ISIS--could be legitimized virtually, to be made “real”, such
that competing untruths cloud our comprehension with another layer of complexity
whenever we speak of reality. A good friend of mine invited me to dinner recently where I
was asked how we may know what reality is. I responded that there can be many realities
depending on how you see them. His son is a karate expert, so I decided to explain it this
way. When a karate expert is presented with a stack of wooden boards which he is asked to
break with his bare hands, he must mentally envision his fist puncturing all the boards. In
other words, the karate expert is expected to harness and expand his capacity of mental
visualization to meet or exceed reality to heighten his physical capability to accomplish
something super-human. His capacity to re-envision reality in his mind, then, can be
assumed to surpass that of most normal people. In the meantime, the task of breaking all
the boards, however, is a reality that does not change. Though reality can be modified or
created depending on how we define them, truth itself is one. The minimum force required
to break a certain number of given boards is of a certain mass with a certain acceleration.
How we manage to accomplish this is a matter of technique.

Buddhism is a way to fine tune our ability to evaluate reality, find truth, and solve
problems as necessary. For this to happen, we must be aware of all things around us, both
in a general and in a particular way. 2017 is the year of the bird. In view of the untruths
that were spawn throughout 2016, I find hope that the new year is the year of the tori or
bird. Birds has the ability to fly. Think of a “bird’s eye view”. This is exactly what is
necessary. We must have the discipline to see things as a whole, clearly, and without bias.
Finding truth requires seeing things as they are, and in their entirety. This integrity is the
only way in which truth can be separated from falsehood. I would like everyone to fly like
a bird, soar high, and find real truth in 2017. (Eisei Ikenaga)