Special March Edition


Wisdom March 2011 Issue

Special Edition – Religious Leaders Respond to the Crisis in Japan

There are times when the citizens of the world reach out for help. Times of disasters, manmade or otherwise, are times when we look to religious leadership for understanding and direction.
One of the challenges for religious leadership is to know when to provide words of comfort, and when to encourage action – especially in the face of overwhelming human fear and suffering. The current growing debacle in Japan is just such a moment.
In keeping with our mandate to disseminate what our Board members are saying and doing, we are sharing with you some of the public statements members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders, past and present, have made, and some of the actions their organizations are taking or encouraging at this time. Our hope is that that these statements give solace to the suffering, and direction to those who are able to alleviate the suffering.

Responses follow from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders.

Buddhist Responses:

Ven. Dr. Bhikkhuni Kusuma: “Solace to suffering – how to alleviate suffering – a buddhistic approach”

As a member of the Elijah Interfaith Organisation, and as a Buddhist Nun and a caring human being, I cannot but be deeply moved by the great tragedy faced by the people of Japan and my thoughts of Loving Kindness and Compassion are directed towards them and I pray that they will gain rapid relief through the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem.

Dr. Maria Reis Habito, representing Dharma Master Hsin Tao, provided us with the following update:

On the day of the news, a great prayer ceremony was arranged for all of the members of the Ling-jiu shan monastic and lay community, during which the Great Compassion Mantra was chanted 108 times (it is a long prayer that relieves and protects from suffering).
Also, on the very day, a collection of dry food was sent to Japan to feed about 10,000 people in the disaster area.
Finally, a recording of Dharma Master`s chanting of the Great Compassion Mantra, with his spiritual instructions about the chanting and its benefits – translated into Japanese – was made in by followers in mainland China. Ten thousand copies of this CD will be donated to people in the stricken areas for spritual comfort and help.

Jan Chozen Bays, sent the following letter to her teacher, Shodo Harada Roshi, in Japan:
As the unbelievable pictures come in on our computer screens, our hearts are filled with sadness and prayers for those tens of thousands who have died, those who are injured and those who grieve. It’s horrible thinking about the many lives that have been lost through the hands of others. You could even categorize these events as wrongful deaths, and in any other situation, the families and friends of those left behind would be looking for a personal injury lawyer to help them receive the compensation they deserve, (click here for more information). But in an incident of this magnitude, I don’t think it’ll happen. We can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like. An entire nation turned upside down. What else can we say?
In ancient times, entire villages were wiped out by earthquake and tsunami. Maybe only the few people who survived could tell about it and remember it. But now we all can see it, the ferocious power of nature, of the sea. Those huge waves carrying away a vast jumble of tens of thousands of cars, houses, trucks, boats, greenhouses, human bodies, buses, all the accumulated human junk and treasures, grandmothers, babies, even an entire University. We will never forget it.
And then, for the only nation on the earth that has suffered attacks by nuclear weapons, to be under the threat of a nuclear disaster. It is unbelievable.
As Buddhists we cannot take refuge in this being part of God’s inscrutable plan, or even in the notion of God’s wrath for a planet not cared for. We take refuge in something that is hard for many to understand. We take refuge in the truth of impermanence. As the Buddha said to his weeping disciples as he lay dying, ‘All compounded things will fall apart and be gone.’ Over centuries, or in a flash. When our lives rest on that foundation, on the strange and strong foundation of constant change, then our lives are anchored in truth.
‘Vast ocean of dazzling light, marked by the waves of coming and going, being born and dying.’ We chant this at our memorial services. This week we have all seen it in action. We practice to be able to balance wisdom and compassion. The wisdom eye sees constant change, even tsunami, as normal, as expected, as part of how IT IS. At the same time our tender hearts feel acutely the pain of human suffering on an unimaginable scale, and we are moved to do what little we can to help. The small blessing of a natural disaster is that there is no one to blame. The earth shrugged, a huge amount of water was displaced, and it flowed where it could. With no energy wasted on blame, everyone can work together to help.
Please know that we are chanting every day for those who have died and are suffering. We will also donate through various organizations including Red Cross and Soto Shu, to help in any small way.
We had a young monk visiting here for a month at the monastery. He flew home last week, arriving on the day of the earthquake. His home temple is in Fukushima. We have no news about him or his family. We have no news of Abe-san and his temple members, who worked with us on the Jizos for Peace Project.

Our thoughts are constantly with everyone in Japan.
In love and sadness,

Bhikkhu Sanghasena wrote:
The Japan earthquake was really a shocking tragedy for the humanity and what you all are doing is commendable at this hour of crisis. Our prayers stands continue for the Japanese people to overcome this natural disaster and we pray that life will return to normal for the Japanese people soon

Christian Responses:

Cardinal Jorge Mejia contributed the following: The Holy Father’s statements, which have had wide publicity, represent exactly what, as a Cardinal, I would have said myself. I certainly believe there is no need for a particular statement of my own. And for practical action, I have turned personally to our Caritas Internationalis organization as others of us have done in the Vatican. We entirely rely on them. Following is part of Pope Benedict XVI’s response:

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is renewing his spiritual closeness to the people of Japan in the wake of a 9.0 magnitude quake and resulting tsunami that left more than 1,600 dead and some 10,000 missing.
After praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father stated in Italian that “the images of the tragic earthquake and consequent tsunami in Japan have deeply shaken us.”
“I would like to renew my spiritual nearness to the dear people of that country,” he continued, “who are dealing with the effects of these calamities with dignity and courage. I pray for the victims and for their families and for all those who are suffering because of these awful events.
“I encourage those who with praiseworthy readiness are preparing to bring help. We remain united in prayer. The Lord is near!”
In his greeting in English, Benedict XVI asked for more prayers “for the victims of the recent devastation visited upon Japan.”
He added, “May the bereaved and injured be comforted and may the rescue workers be strengthened in their efforts to assist the courageous Japanese people.”

Abbot Primate Notker Wolf’s press release (translated from the German) stated:
Our earth is not Paradise. Natural disasters, suffering and death are realities within the world we inhabit. God has no pleasure in punishment. We punish ourselves by not imposing limitations: when everything seems to be falling on us like Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice, and we not longer control even the hazards that are human creations. All that is left for us is the hope, the longing for a final overcoming of cruelty and suffering, to fulfil the biblical vision of the renewal of the whole world.

Hindu Responses:

Save Japan – Save Humanity, by Swami Agnivesh
We in World Council of Arya Samaj, Bonded Labour Liberation Front and Parliament of All Religions (India) are deeply grieved by the massive loss of life and property due to earthquake and tsunami. Our hearts go out to those who are living and suffering incalculable calamity. We pay our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost their near and dear ones.
Please let us know in what way we can contribute towards ameliorating this suffering and devastation.
We express our utmost solidarity with the people of Japan in this hour of unprecedented havoc and the looming dark clouds of nuclear meltdown.
At a later date, we need to go back to the profound wisdom of Buddha and all other great men and women of wisdom to feel inspired and be able to challenge this all too materialistic and consumeristic model of development. We need a balanced paradigm of both material and spiritual.

Jewish Responses:

Statement by the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks on the disaster In Japan

The Chief Rabbi, together with the Jewish Community, is deeply distressed at the tragic loss of life and damage suffered by the people of Japan . Not only are they dealing with the shock, anguish and physical danger that the earthquake and tsunami itself brought, but are having to cope with the challenge to survive at a time when the infrastructure around them is destroyed.
The Chief Rabbi has distributed to all his congregations a special Prayer to be recited on behalf of the Japanese people and asks all members of his communities to identify themselves with international efforts of fundraising and rehabilitation.

The Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks
13 March 2011

Earthquake in Japan


Adon ha-olamim, Sovereign of the universe,
We join our prayers to the prayers of others throughout the world, for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that brought destruction and disaster to Japan and took so many lives.
Almighty God, we beseech you, send comfort to the bereaved, and healing to the injured. Be with those who even now are engaged in the work of rescue and securing of safety. Grant strength to those who see to the needs of the injured and sick, who give shelter to the homeless, and who provide sustenance to those in need. Bless the work of their hands, and may they save many lives.
Almighty God, we recognise how insignificant we are, and how helpless in the face of nature when its full power is unleashed. Open our hearts in prayer to the people of Japan so that, by joining our sentiments with theirs we may bring comfort, healing and the knowledge that they are not alone. Help us now and all humanity as we seek to do what we can by helping people reconstruct their broken lives, broken homes, families and neighbourhoods. Ken Yehi Ratzon, ve-nomar Amen.

Responses were also received from Rabbis David Rosen and Michael Melchior

A Muslim Response:

In his capacity as President Emeritus of Religions for Peace, the following appeal for Japan relief came from H.R.H. El-Hassan bin Talaal of Jordan. The catastrophe that has befallen the northeastern coastal area of Japan is almost beyond words. After one of the largest earthquakes in history shook the Pacific Rim on 11 March, the ensuing disasters were of a nature humankind might predict, but not avert. Instead of the terror of helplessness, the people of Japan have exhibited ingenuity, resolve, and dignity in the face of a terrible wound, neither reasonable nor self-inflicted. In the shadow of this Leviathan and the ominous nuclear threat which it has spawned, our thoughts, prayers, and hopes are with the people of Japan. Religions for Peace Japan has mobilized its communities to provide help and healing. With its member communities, it has already sent relief teams and support to thousands of refugees. They need our help. Your prayers and support will make a difference.

Yours in peace,
H.R.H. El-Hassan bin Talaal of Jordan
President Emeritus of Religions for Peace

A Sikh Response:

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh provided us with the following words of wisdom:

Any calamity or disaster should awaken compassion to flow from within us. This should lead us to offer a prayer to help those who have suffered and those who are suffering, and also to serve in whatever capacity is possible for us, either financially, in kind or in person. Every disaster provides an opportunity for us to take stock of our lives and to make resolutions for our future here and in the life hereafter. We must be encouraged to turn over a new leaf and make the best of what we have – life is precious and time is short. It is important for prayer and service to be sustained and continuous – it should not only happen when calamity strikes.
For over 30 years, the Gurudwara served by Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha has held two annual ‘Sampath Akhand Paaths’ which consist of 11 days of continuous prayer coupled with continuous service. The prayers are dedicated for world peace and offered for such world disasters.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh,
Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha

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