Essence Year 2008


Happy New Year! I have decided that my theme for this year is “returning to the essence,” and so my slogan is “Essence Year 2008.”

In view of all kinds of things that have happened so far, I believe it is important for us to go back to the starting line and think again about the essence of things. We must brush away the negative elements, do some tidying up and sorting out, and move forward with new and powerful strides toward the near future---serenely when things are going well, ambitiously when things are not going well. Whatever the case, I am sure everyone would agree that the time has come for Japan as a whole, and the world as a whole, to go back to the essence.

My simple philosophy about the importance of human beings comes from the cycle of universe?sun?earth?nature?humans and my understanding of time, “seeds,” and existence. Thinking about these cycles, I have built my own personal ideology, and I will look at human beings with eyes and heart that are an extension of this philosophy. My own return to the essence means going back to this way of thinking and taking a look at human society from this perspective.

Let me tell you about the flow of my ideas.

I am not a scientist, so I cannot speak about the universe and the sun in scientific terms. But when I look up at the nighttime sky, I see that it is full of stars. At the very least, I know that the light from the stars we see has reached us through time. Beyond them, an unseen and unlimited world expands out into the universe.

Then there is the sun. Leaving aside scientific understanding of what the sun is, I feel sincere thanks and gratitude when the sun rises in the morning. As the sun rises, it shines on everything. Its warmth and wonder are irreplaceable. That is my genuine appreciation of the sun.

Then there is nature, which reaps the benefits of the sun. The abundant workings of nature enable creatures to live, and so human beings exist.

Needless to say, human beings are different from other animals, and for that reason, human beings are important. So within the cycle that I have described, I put the focus on human beings.

Think for a moment about how the kanji for human being (ningen) was formed. The two characters nin and gen mean “people” and “between,” respectively. In other words, the kanji for human being refers to more than one person. Human beings exist in the plural.

Once we have appreciated the meaning of human being, next we can appreciate men and women. We can appreciate the existence of men and the existence of women, and we can appreciate that the equality of men and women, as human beings, is natural. In my work as well as my private life, I have never given any thought to the gender of people. Ever since my younger days, I have believed that men and women are equal. But I also appreciate that there are male roles and female roles.

As thinking in this way becomes natural, you begin to understand the Tannisho (Lamenting the Deviations; a Buddhist treatise of the thirteenth century) when it says, “Good people reach Paradise, and so do bad people.” You appreciate that the child next door is your own child and that humankind must be full of equality and love for all.

Accordingly, you realize that a person who thinks only of himself or herself is a bad person.

To quote Chuang-tzu (Chinese philosopher of the fourth–third century BC), “What is Tao [the path or way]? Tao is the fundamental order of the universe, the natural flow of things. If you are a wise man, you will understand the power of Tao to move the universe, you will align yourself with Tao, and you will not forget the fact that Tao is the source of everything.”

The year 2008, an important one for returning to the essence, is just starting.