BOTH Michael Ramsey, then archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Church of England, and Joseph Cardinal Hoffner, archbishop of Cologne, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo. Archbishop Ramsey was deeply interested in the movement to unify the Christian churches, in social problems rooted in religious and racial discrimination, in ethics, and in moral issues. He wrote many works on theological questions. As I mentioned in one of the previous installments, I had tried to meet him during my trip to England following the executive committee meetings held near Boston, in 1970, in preparation for the first World Conference on Religion and Peace; however, our schedules had made a meeting impossible at that time.
But in 1973, he was invited by the Anglican Episcopal Church of Japan to spend three days in Japan meeting with church leaders and people in related fields to discuss religion and other matters. During his stay, he attended the general meeting of the National Christian Council of Japan and visited Saint Paul's University, Saint Luke's International Hospital, and Rissho Kosei-kai.
I went to the entrance foyer of the Great Sacred Hall to greet the archbishop on the day of his visit. He was a spry man who did not look his eighty years. A soft light glowed in his clear blue eyes. As we shook hands, I noticed that his hand was large, soft, and warm. After our initial greetings, I conducted him to the sanctuary, where we stood in front of the image of Shakyamuni. I briefly explained to him the intentions of Kosei-kai: "We are striving to bring peace to the world through the teachings of the Buddha. We feel that the basis of all religions is the belief that all human beings are the children of the Buddha or of God. Therefore we are convinced that all religions must transcend the limits of individual organizational differences in order to achieve the goal of religion itself. Since the time of the founding of Kosei-kai we have attempted to achieve this goal by promoting cooperation among religious groups."
The look on the archbishop's face and the light in his eyes told me that he agreed with what I was saying. I continued, "That is why we always welcome visitors from other religious organizations. And we are especially honored to have you with us. It will make us extremely happy if you will observe the way we express our religious ideas and if you will take part in the next international peace conference."
The archbishop spoke in a quiet voice filled with sincerity when he said, "Among people of religion in all parts of the world, a movement is currently arising in the name of cooperation for peace. Kosei-kai is one of the organizations working toward the realization of world peace. I think it is deeply significant that I have been given the opportunity to make this visit.
"It makes me happy," he went on to say, "to have a chance to learn of your fervent desire for world peace; to study your ideas, thoughts, aims, and the ways you practice them; and to engage in discussions with you. I have been especially impressed by the way in which the members of Kosei-kai employ hoza for the sake of spiritual improvement."
Many people from religious organizations in other countries have visited Kosei-kai, but Archbishop Ramsey particularly seemed to understand the true value of hoza. Several times, he said, "The steadfast study and the spirit of repentance I observe in your hoza counseling practices are truly wonderful." He added this comment: "The hoza helps you deepen mutual faith and develop a community of understanding and trust. In this sense, it reveals to me the vast energy that will help Kosei-kai grow in the future."
Hoza provides us an opportunity to give active form to the spirit of our organization. In metaphorical terms, if the Brighter Society Movement and the movement for peace in which we take part are the body, hoza groups are the cells that constitute the body.
As might be expected of such a perceptive man, Archbishop Ramsey had detected the importance of hoza on his first visit. He was what might be called the representative of the national conscience of Great Britain. During coronation ceremonies, his position made it necessary for him to remind the new monarch that he or she is a child of God. Archbishop Ramsey often expressed his opinions on various social issues on the British Broadcasting Corporation. Hearing his interpretation of Kosei-kai and of hoza, I was deeply impressed by his personality and his role as the primate of the Church of England.
Cardinal Hoffner of West Germany emphasizes social activities and is deeply interested in the development of religious sentiments in young people. Some religionists have said, "Young people today follow the impulses of the moment. Though intoxicated by the convenience of modern life, they are spiritually desolate. This state of affairs points to the present crisis of humanity." Cardinal Hoffner made it clear that he deplores this situation.
I agree with him to an extent. But I feel that it is the duty of the person of religion to implant rich humanity in the hearts of people of all age groups. Indeed, I believe that people of religion ought to devote serious thought to the causes of their failure to save mankind thus far.
Cardinal Hoffner went on to say, "The influence of the mass communication media - newspapers, television, motion pictures, and so on s tremendously great. I believe that all people of religion in the world must join forces to exert a good influence on the mass communication media and, in this way, improve the effects these media have on young people." He added, "Buddhists must observe the social activities of the Christian religions, and Christians must study the spirituality of Buddhism. Both groups must learn from each other."
With this sentiment I am in full agreement. It is important to learn the good points of other religions. The willingness to learn reflects both recognition of the other party and respect for his beliefs. A sense of community and of cooperation is born of such an attitude.
I should like to take this opportunity to mention the support, both material and spiritual, that Cardinal Hoffner gave the World Conference on Religion and Peace. He was good enough to ask us to hold the second conference in West Germany. When it was decided to hold the meeting in Belgium instead, he made substantial financial contributions.
In addition to Archbishop Ramsey and Cardinal Hoffner, many other people from abroad have come to visit Kosei-kai. Among them were Dr. Dana McLean Greeley, who had been extremely active in the World Conference on Religion and Peace and who was chairman of the International Association for Religious Freedom; Dr. Homer A. Jack; Alberto Moravia, the famous Italian novelist and former president of the international P.E.N. Club; Apostolic Pronuncio Bruno Wuestenberg, ambassador to Japan from Vatican City; Archbishop G. Hultgren, of Sweden; Bishop Juvenaly, of the Russian Orthodox Church; Metropolitan Galitsky Philaret, of Moscow; Thailand's Princess Poon Pismai Diskul, president of the World Fellowship of Buddhists; Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam; Abraham Kaplan, professor at the University of Haifa; and Dr. Richard von Weizsacker, an outstanding leader from West Germany.
When Bishop Juvenaly of the Russian Orthodox Church visited us, he was accompanied by people from the Soviet embassy in Tokyo. Viewed in a good light, this contingent of nonreligious people constituted a courteous formal visit. Viewed in a bad light, it was observation by government personnel. Under such circumstances, bland, amiable, noncontroversial conversation is the usually adopted policy. But I do not like bland conversation. I consider it rude to a visitor to put up a front by saying polite things that I do not mean. Consequently, I asked candidly, "I have read somewhere that Stalin graduated from a theological seminary. Is that true?" "Yes," replied the bishop.
"If that is so," I pursued, "why did he change from a seminarian to a communist?" Perplexity was clearly written on the face of the interpreter from the embassy.
I went on: "Marx said that religion is an opiate. I suspect Stalin found something rotten in the religion of his time that made him agree with Marx's opinion."
The interpreter was surprised. For a few minutes he and the bishop conversed together in Russian. "Since I hadn't been born yet at the time - " the bishop said.
I thought I had asked no more than an ordinary question. But the people from the Soviet embassy obviously thought it was out of order. The confusion on their faces suggested that asking questions about the connection between Stalin and religion must be taboo. I realized this at once, but I could not see how true understanding could come of mutual concealment and hesitancy.
During our conversation, the bishop seemed to come to understand my feelings. At our parting handshake, I said, "Under the kind of system that prevails today in the Soviet Union, you are proving how true your religion is by constantly acting in such a way as to maintain the light of faith."
Under his stiff-looking beard, the bishop smiled and said, "Meeting you has encouraged me. When you have a conference of religious people, by all means invite me."
He understood and approved my wish to effect open exchanges of beliefs and opinions in a way that transcends national and ideological boundaries. Bishop Juvenaly looked directly in my eyes when he said, "You bear a heavy responsibility as a man of religion active throughout the entire world. Please take the best possible care of your health."
This made a lasting impression on me. Many people from at home and abroad have visited me at Kosei-kai, but Bishop Juvenaly was the first to express concern about my health.
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