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Unchanging and Varying | Practice and Realization are Perfectly One
Practice and Realization are Perfectly One
(Learning and enlightenment are one and the same)

Summary of New Year Greetings on 8 January

I wish you all a happy and fulfilling New Year.

In yesterday's Mainichi Daily Newspaper an article titled "A forest of education" featured a dialogue on "Hope" between Murakami Ryu, a writer, and Sakamoto Ryuichi, a musician, in which they touched on educational reform. I was interested in Mr. Sakamoto's assertions that we need to consider seriously what is most important for human beings and that children must be taught survival. These are exactly the thoughts we emphasize daily at our Center. It is Mr. Sakamoto's view that children would study on their own without their parents urging if they had a sense of crisis. Well, if the adults children see around them had that sense of crisis they would certainly have the sense to share it. But just look at today's adults. With things as bad as they are they are worried selfishly only about their profiteering! Things may be changing for the better if only slightly, but society at large, I believe, is still motivated by conventional values.
The best of human nature is being lost the world over in today's America-centered competitive market system dictated by material and monetary values. If we do nothing about this I fear there will be no future for humankind. Even if we survive it would not be in the kind of world in which we could live in peace and safety.
Human Being are responsible for the chaos we have created, so it is up to each one of us to put things right. Here lies the critical importance of the role of education.

According to the reports on Afghanistan in the media following the collapse of the Taliban government the Taliban fighters taken prisoner had hardly any education. I wonder how it is going to be possible to bring order to such a country.
Japan has long been passionately devoted to education. That is why in spite of the long period of isolation and our defeat in the last world war we had a developed culture and were able to maintain our national integrity.
When a country is in grave crisis how can the people hold their own without education?
I would like Japan to contribute to the restoration of Afghanistan by making good use of a long history of education.

And if we are to do what has to be done we must seriously examine our consciences regarding the present state of education. Since the war it has always been made to serve the interests of the economy. It became the express purpose of education to develop the national economy and improve the people's standard of living.
Now, however, in these times of crisis and uncertainty, I believe we need a drastic change of direction. In the past we have always thought in terms of adding-up orientation. From now on what we need is a deductive orientation. In other words, we should switch from a mentality of wanting this, wearing that and purchasing more of everything to wanting less and discarding what we do not need.

To some extent things and money are necessary to live. But we should stop wanting more and more as we have done in the past. In fact, I am afraid we will not be able to survive unless we do. We all know that the natural resources of the earth are finite. If big nations continue to exploit these resources to satisfy their greed there will be an ever wider rift between rich and poor. Inevitably this will lead to increased terrorism, as we experienced last year.
I believe it is absolutely essential to rectify the unfair and dangerous discrepancy between the 'have' and the 'have-not' nations. I don't think the Japanese people have always been this greedy. We used to have the virtues of diligence and simple and frugal living. It may be hard to return to the old ways now after we have tasted the comforts of our new found extravagance. However, given the preeminent need to ensure the survival of our kind we must learn with urgency to want less and need less material things.

For this to be a reality we need to cultivate a richness of mind that knows contentment. As more and more achieve this the world at large will gradually move in this direction. As a result, the 'have' nations will learn to share their abundance with the 'have-not' nations, if only for their survival.
Our own efforts may not have been enough to change the world but this has been a part of the original motive of our activities for the last forty years.
Today humankind is at a crossroads. I am convinced we are in need of a radical transformation from conventional values. Instead of striving to compete with others and to own more and live in greater luxury then our neighbours we must learn to care for those who have less than us and to share their suffering. Development of these human qualities should be the basis for the new values that must be sought to ensure human survival in the future.
In the past, most people have pursued material gratification. What is required of us is to shift our mind to search for our spiritual elevation. Unless we succeed in redirecting ourselves in this way our value systems will not change.

The late philosopher Tetsuzo Tanigawa recorded his conversations with many people from all walks of life. In his book "Perplexed at Ninety" he recounted a dialogue he had with a master dancer from Kyoto by the name of Han Takehara which I found most enlightening.
In this dialogue Mr. Tanigawa refers to the statement, "Practice and realization are one and the same", which appears in Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253)'s "Shobo Genzo" (1231-53) The Eye and Treasury of the True Law. I believe it applies to all of us.
"Shu" means practice, and "sho" means enlightenment. The message is that these two notions are one. It is in practice that one finds enlightenment, and in wnlightenment that one finds practice. Practice therefore is an unending process. If the process stops there will be no enlightenment.

It must have a more profound meaning, but simply put that is what I believe it means. Practice and enlightenment are two sides of the same coin. One may attain enlightenment by cumulative practice, but I venture to say that, by the same token, if one neglects practice one will lose it.
We must resist any temptation to stop practice, especially before we have even reached a serious stage of practice. We may obey the right principles and find our situation has improved or we are liberated from our troubles and sufferings, and say to ourselves, "That's great, now we won't have to learn any more!" What was our purpose in wishing to learn in the first place?

In the dialogues Mr. Tanigawa also describes training a dealer in curios. For at least three years he should become acquainted with all kinds of fine objects and learn to recognize counterfeits. Fine curios have a history. To be properly appreciated valuable objects must be thoroughly studied, but those who have discerning eyes can tell their value by just looking at them.
It is the same with people. A discerning person can tell how some people have much more than meets the eye. On the other hand, they can clearly see at a first meeting the shallowness or lack of quality in others. I would like myself to be a fine curio. Don't you also want to be the kind of person who is considerate, liked by all and able to bring happiness to others?

NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, is currently airing a programme called "Honma-mon" -- true things. I like that term, "honma-mon". In this drama the 'real' things are what the cook produces but it can also apply to manufactured products, art objects and practice. As for myself, I want to be a real human being and a true person.
Education should have for its object nurturing a human being. We should all aspire to being such a person.

In the dialogue with the master philosopher the master dancer Han Takehara recounts how she corrected her bad habit of sticking her neck out by wearing a needle that would prick her to remind her to hold her head properly. She also said that artists must not lose their commitment to training. It is the heart that dances so one's heart must be pure, and one must be strict with oneself, for the lack of discipline would show in one's dance.
If we are serious about correcting our shortcomings we should be serious at changing ourselves. Some of you may think "one does not have to go that far". Let me tell you that living your life well has everything to do with this point.

In another dialogue included in the same book Mr Tanigawa quotes Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, "Self is the farthest from the self". I think I understand what is meant by this.
A self-centered person is full of himself and he does not really see his true self. One can only find oneself in relationships with people individually and collectively. A selfish person does not see others and therefore he does not get to know himself.
Therefore I believe it is most important to perceive self truly in all relationships.

The Center celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. In the autumn it will be organizing the Eighth International Forum on Lifelong Integrated Education at UNESCO.
We are ordinary homemakers, taking care of our families and homes from day to day, and at the same time actively involved in the wide world. I do not think there are many other such organizations. We should be proud that we are part of it and deserve to be more self-confident.

We learn at the Center the importance of concerning ourselves with the world we live in as well as of seeking to know ourselves. Since we are born as human beings we should recognize the many kinds of potential within us and at every opportunity make the most of it so that we can truly live a life without remorse. Don't we all want to be real persons?
We will never be true to this potential if we live a life of habit without checking our selfishness and living only for ourselves.
We must throw away the self, continue to yearn for things bigger than self, and raise our sights to a world which transcends our human dimensions. If we do, we may before the end of our lives come closer to being 'real' people.
Let us treasure our chance encounters. Let us treasure that we came to learn of these activities and to make new friends here. Let us be proud of the virtues imbedded in our ancestral roots and be thankful, and repay such gifts with the way we live.

Yoshiko Nomura
Director General
Nomura Center for Lifelong Integrated Education
Nomura Center for Lifelong Integrated Education
Yoyogi 1-47-13, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0053 JAPAN
Tel: +81 (0) 3-3320-1861 / Fax: +81 (0) 3-3320-0360

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