President-designate Encourages Members in Disaster Areas
Rev. Kosho Niwano, the president-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, visited 15 Dharma Centers and their facilities in the Irabaki Division in the Kanto-Koshinetsu Area and the Fukushima, Ohu, and Tohoku Divisions in the Northeastern Area of Japan during April 13-18. She met afflicted members and visited the port of Otsu in Ibaraki Prefecture and the cities of Kamaishi and Miyako and the town of Yamada in Iwate Prefecture.
During her visits, Rev. Niwano met some 3,700 members. She heard them tell about their experiences and shook their hands in encouragement. Ms. Ayako Maeda, a member of the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, accompanied the president-designate and played the flute to comfort some of the afflicted members. Also accompanying the president-designate were Rev. Koichi Sono, the director of the West Japan Area and director of Rissho Kosei-kai's West Japan Earthquake Task Force; Rev. Masaaki Koyata, director of the Chubu-Hokuriku Area and a deputy director of the task force; Rev. Yasutoshi Matsuo, director of the Kyushu Area and a deputy director of the task force; and Rev. Takanori Kumano, head of the Education Group and a member of the East Japan Earthquake Task Force.
At each center she addressed members, saying she was impressed by the spiritual change they said they experienced after the earthquake, which made them more willing to reach out to others. She also said that it is important for members to apply what they have learned from the Dharma and the Sangha to the way they live. She told them what her grandfather, the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, said after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, when there were fears that radiation might reach Japan. The founder told his family not to worry but just to continue their steadfast devotion to Buddhist practice. She said she was comforted by the founder's persuasive words and strong faith. Saying that the founder's two greatest gifts to members are his emphasis on the virtues of showing a smiling face and doing bodhisattva practice, she praised Sangha members who had taken care of others despite their own hardships. She added, "Obsession with your own worries can overwhelm you, but thinking about others' sufferings can give you courage. My belief has been reaffirmed that bodhisattva practice also helps oneself."
President-designate Niwano visited the Mito Dharma Center (550 members present) and the Hitachi Dharma Center (347 members present) on April 13. On the following day, she visited the Ibaraki Dharma Center (200 members present), the Iwaki Dharma Center (150 members present), the Taira Dharma Center (155 members present), the Shirakawa Dharma Center (150 members present), the Koriyama Dharma Center (407 members present), the Fukushima Dharma Center (566 members present, including members from the Aizu, Ryonuma, and Kitakata Dharma Centers), the temporary home of the Haramachi Dharma Center (44 members present; the center itself is off-limits in a high-radiation zone), the Sendai Dharma Center (800 members present), the Ishinomaki Dharma Center (128 members present), and the Kesennuma Hoza Center (an adjunct of the Ishinomaki Dharma Center; 26 members present). On April 17 she visited the Kamaishi Dharma Center (110 members present), as well as its adjuncts, the Yamada Hoza Center and the Miyako Training Hall.
President-designate Niwano attended the ceremonies at each place, addressing members. After silent prayers and greetings by the minister of the Dharma Center, Ms. Maeda played the flute. Three dissemination area directors conveyed words of encouragement and good wishes from members in their areas. Some afflicted members related their experiences of the disaster.
An area leader of the Fukushima Dharma Center said that after the earthquake she tried to make elderly victims more comfortable by bringing them hot-water bottles to warm their feet, and she delivered rice cakes to neighbors. She said the Dharma inspired her to do these things, and that she would continue offering guidance to fellow members.
After the ceremony at the Sendai Dharma Center, the president-designate met and encouraged each member individually. She hugged an area leader of the center who had lost a fellow Sangha member in the disaster. The area leader said the president-designate's visit moved her to tears.
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