Mar. 26, 2017 Sermon

March marks the end of the school year in Japan. It just so happens that Crown Prince Naruhito Shin-o
and Princess Masako’s daughter, Toshi no Miya Aiko is graduating from Gakushu-in Middle School. All
the students were required to write a composition upon graduation. I have translated a small portion of
what she wrote about the influence on her of visiting Hiroshima City in May of last year:

    There is not one who does not want peace. That is why, I keep saying over and
over, “peace” “peace”. However, it is not easy to realize world peace. Even at this
moment, there are many people in all quarters of the world who are suffering
because of war. How, then, can we realize peace?
    Without much discernment, I thought of the blue sky. That the sky is blue
should not be taken for granted. That we can live every day without affliction, and
to be able to live in peace without war, should not be presupposed. This is because
those who lived during the war could not presume such a life. Peace arrives from
being thankful of each and every aspect of our daily lives, to be thankful to others
for each and every act of kindness shown to us, and to sincerely empathize and
understand one another.
    We Japanese, born in the only country to have experienced an atomic bombing,
have a responsibility to acquaint the world far and wide of what we had seen and
felt. Peace cannot be had by waiting for others to act. This is because peace is
built upon each and everyone’s thoughts and responsible deeds.
When I wish to think more intently about peace, I would like to visit Hiroshima
again.

It is hard to believe that Aiko is only fifteen years old. Aiko may be young, but in her own way, she has
grasped an element of human interaction that is basic to creating good neighbors, when she says, “Peace
arrives from being thankful of each and every aspect of our daily lives, to be thankful to others for each and
every act of kindness shown to us, and to sincerely empathize and understand one another.” Aiko
understands that thankfulness in all things is the cornerstone of life. Everything extends from thankfulness,
such that respect and friendship grows from thankfulness.

Different cultures have different ways of showing respect and friendship. In India, people put their
hands together in prayer when they meet each other. In Japan, they bow. In the West, a handshake can
mean friendship. But, this friendship originates from thankfulness. Shirking a handshake can only mean
that you do not feel thankful of someone, and thus do not respect them, and have no intention to befriend
them.

Buddhism is an extension of thankfulness. From thankfulness arrives humility, sincerity, and empathy.
Our practice as priests begins with thankfulness. From day one of our training, we are expected to serve
the Buddha. As juniors, our attitude and service to our seniors at the temple, translates into our service to
the Buddha and his teachings. In this manner, we gain thankfulness for the merits that we receive. The
practice of Shodai-gyo is a unique Nichiren Shu practice, in a sense, to develop thankfulness for the
Buddha and his teachings. When one chants the title of the Lotus Sutra, “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo”, we
are showing our appreciation for the truth that the Buddha had taught and left for our benefit. Our
thankfulness to the Buddha then translates into our merits, which is a life of peace and harmony. By
chanting the O-daimoku, we are also vicariously linked to our ancestors who also chanted the O-daimoku,
and devoted themselves to the same truths of Buddha. The merits that we receive are indeed linked to the
knowledge that we are dependent on factors beyond ourselves. Thankfulness for those around us is the root
of peace and harmony in the world. (Eisei Ikenaga)