A Message to Our Global Sangha, by Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head of Shinnyo Buddhism

November 22, 2015
Sydney, Australia

Thinking about the Paris attacks and other recent atrocities, please feel that you can grieve. Let us pause to shed tears, knowing that they will not drown our courage, even though it may seem as if dusk has fallen. Let our tears remember those who have lost their lives. Let us pause for a moment with our eyes gently closed in mourning so that we may open them again to the light. I am Japanese, but I feel close to those in France these days, as I think we all do at some level.

But today I also feel one with all people fleeing persecution, particularly those escaping the terrible civil war in Syria. In our shared humanity, we are all part of each other. Buddhism began by embracing a homeless way of life. So today, as Buddhists, I believe we need to continue to open our hearts to those who have no place to call home. To find one another is to find oneself.

Some say that Buddhism is impersonal, but I say it is very personal. It is about our hearts touching the hearts of others. How else will we bring healing? It is about hands holding hands. How else can we support those who falter; how else can we share our resolve, take another’s hand and move on together before that hand reaches for a weapon.

To be troubled by the pain of the world is the beginning of wisdom. Can we still love? Can our empathy still extend far and wide while we are feeling the pain of the world? That pain of the world both near and far will mark us in one way or the other. No, for me Buddhism is not impersonal, it is very personal.

Our founder Master Shinjo Ito started his spiritual journey by reflecting on the undefeatable, indefatigable, fiercely determined mind to attain enlightenment symbolized by a fierce looking buddha figure called Achala. Those who are violent, in any time or place, do not have sole ownership of those qualities of ferocity and determination. We all have an important stake in this world too. Lovingkindness and the personal touch that can reach out to people of any culture or religion will not be defeated. I know that we can be fiercely determined in our own way, determined to befriend others.

We all can be part of the solution by the way we act every day and in every situation, toward our neighbors, toward strangers, by comforting our children when they are frightened. We can thus become a crucial, vocal part of the vast majority of the world that cries out for peace and serenity for all people on earth. I may be a small Japanese woman, but I refuse to let compassion and wisdom be defeated. Won’t you join me in this determination?

A note about the photo: In Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, the image of Achala, the statue seen in this photo with Her Holiness, represents the determination to achieve enlightenment and the unwavering loving kindness of a buddha. Thus he is a remover of obstacles and a guidepost through difficult times.