Summary of New Year Greetings on 8 January
|I wish you all a happy and fulfilling New
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Nomura Center for Lifelong Integrated Education