Report on the 159th London Eza, Incorporating the Annual Ceremony to Pray for World Peace and Reconciliation.
On a sunny and warm afternoon on Sunday 4th September, many people gathered for the 159th London Eza, to Pray for World Peace and Reconciliation, and to remember those soldiers who took part in the Second World War. Many people came in person, and it was probably the largest gathering for an Eza since before the pandemic. There were many distinguished guests attending, including representatives from the Japanese Embassy, representatives of other Buddhist Societies, and Venerable Monks and Nuns from other Buddhist Denominations. Many people also joined online, and even before beginning, there was a very warm and friendly atmosphere.
To begin the meeting, an opening address was given by Mr Akihiro Tsuji, Political Minister of the Embassy of Japan in London. He thanked Reverend Sato and all others concerned on this special Eza for the first time in three years, since the pandemic began, and how important it is to promote peace and reconciliation to the world. He spoke of not forgetting that the peace and prosperity Japan and the U.K. enjoy today was built atop the precious lives and the suffering of the War dead, and that today’s strong U.K.-Japan relationship is based on the efforts of the people of both countries to overcome the past and to achieve reconciliation. He said that with the troubles the world is facing today, it is so important to work together to promote world peace and prosperity.
After the opening address, the Service to the Buddha was held, and during the Service incense was offered in remembrance and gratitude to the war dead, and to those who had done so much for the reconciliation movement, especially for Professor John White and Professor Ian Nish, who had passed away within the last year, and who had contributed so much to Three Wheels and towards reconciliation, and for Mr Maurice Franses who had been involved with Three Wheels reconciliation activities since the very beginning.
After the Service had finished Mr Andrew Webb read out a message from The Very Reverend Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield Cathedral. He thanked Reverend Sato for holding this important Eza and that how vital it was, particularly at this time, to seek peace and reconciliation in our world, and to remember those who have died. He expressed his appreciation to Reverend Sato and all his colleagues engaged in this noble cause.
Following this message Monks and Nuns from other Buddhist denominations chanted Sutras to pray for World Peace and Reconciliation. This included representatives from the London Vihara, Shonin-an Zen Centre, and Risshokoseikai. The chanting was very beautiful and it created an atmosphere of peace and gentleness and was very inspiring.
Following the chanting of Sutras there was the reading of two poems to commemorate the soldiers who had died in battle.
“ They shall not grow old
As we who are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn
At the going-down of the Sun
And in the morning
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.”
This was followed by One minutes silence in remembrance.
Followed by the second poem.
“When you go home, tell them of us and say
‘For your tomorrow we gave our today’ “.
Then the traditional shaking of hands in reconciliation took place, which was a lovely experience, with again a wonderful atmosphere of gentleness and friendship.
After everyone had returned to their seats, Reverend Kemmyo Taira Sato, head priest of Three Wheels gave a talk entitled.
“Let’s Pray for World Peace and Harmony in Diversity “.
Reverend Sato once again said that this year’s ceremony was to remember, among many others, Professor John White, a war veteran who had poured an enormous amount of spiritual energy into the establishment of Three Wheels and it’s reconciliation movements, and for Professor Ian Nish, who made an invaluable contribution to the reconciliation movement of the BCFG ( Burma Campaign Friendship Group). He also remembered the thirteenth memorial service for Mr Maurice Franses, another war veteran who had worked tirelessly for the BCFG ever since the organisation was first established. Reverend Sato then said that the world is currently facing countless tragic conflicts, including the Russian invasion of Ukrainian and the oppression of the people of Myanmar. Referring to Venerable Chimyo Takehara’s online Dharma talk.
“Excess Greed is the True Source of Human-caused Disasters “.
He said that humanity has been repeating these types of tragedies over and over again for thousands of years, due to the blind passions of greed, anger and ignorance, and our attachment to selfish views. He then talked about the war veterans that he had learnt so much from. Mr Maurice Franses, Mr Satoru Yanagi and Mr Masao Hirakubo, who had at one time been fighting each other, and yet had come to be such good friends and contribute so much to the reconciliation movement. Quoting from a letter by Mr Satoru Yanagi he said.
“Thanks to Amida Buddha’s Virtue-Transference, all the great lumps of I’ll feeling that had remained deeply embedded within me for the last fifty years, were finally washed away with Dharma Water. It was, indeed a marvellous gift from the Buddha. The Head Priest of Shogyoji Temple teaches us that the most important thing of all is to attain inner peace. Thanks to my encounter with Mr Maurice Franses, I was indeed able to acquire my own inner peace. I am so grateful to you, Maurice, for that wonderful experience “.
Adding to this Reverend Sato said that each individual’s attainment of inner peace is the foundation stone of their sincere prayer for world peace. In the realisation of genuine love through the attainment of inner peace, loving oneself and loving others do not contradict one another. In Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva’s ideal is to benefit oneself and others simultaneously. There is no contradiction because the true self is “no self “ or “selflessness “, in which the self and others are found in greater oneness. In this true oneness they are neither one nor two.
Reverend Sato went on to say that at the request of his dearest friend, the late Professor John White, he is currently translating the letters of Shinran Shonin, and read out two letters which show the vital importance of attaining inner peace. One letter reads:
“Those who feel unsure of their birth in the Pure Land should first and foremost say the Nembutsu whilst aspiring for their own birth, but those who are absolutely sure of their birth and are mindful of what has been done for them by the Buddha, should say the Nembutsu with heartfelt gratitude and in the spirit of ‘May there be peace in the world and may the Buddha-dharma spread widely’ Please ponder this very carefully “. (Letter 13)
To conclude his talk Reverend Sato asked that, together, let us all pray for those suffering extreme poverty and adversity and entrust ourselves absolutely to Amida Buddha.
Following Reverend Sato’s talk, Mrs Phillida Purvis of the International Friendship and Reconciliation Trust, paid tribute to Professor Ian Nish, who had recently passed away at the age of 96. Professor Nish, who was a pre-eminent scholar of Japanese history and British-Japanese relations, was in many ways instrumental in helping bringing about peace, friendship and exchange between Japan and Britain. Being a historian he also believed that the dark years and actions that occurred should not be overlooked or forgotten, but that lessons should be learnt, and to move on in friendship, making sure such things never happened again. Professor Nish had said “It is the steps taken towards reconciliation which are important “. Mrs Purvis also thanked Three Wheels, Reverend Sato, and many others including Mr Maurice Franses, Mr Satoru Yanagi and Mr Masao Hirakubu, for everything that they had done and were doing for British-Japanese reconciliation.
Speaking next was Dr Desmond Biddulph, President of The Buddhist Society, who had taken time away from being on retreat to attend the meeting. He talked about Buddhism being a peaceful religion, but that due to the three poisons of Greed, Anger and Ignorance it was not always so easy to be peaceful people. He said that repentance for our bad actions, words and thoughts was very important, but again that that was also not always easy. He finally again paid tribute to Professor John White, calling him a “Splendid Human Being “.
Mr Richard Pe Win, Representative of The Myanmar Buddhist Society, then talked about the very sad current situation in Myanmar. But he said that even war and oppression were impermanent and would eventually change into better times. He also spoke of the importance of our mindfulness of the actions of our own body, speech and mind.
Mr Sam Kelly then said that the meeting had made him think more about impermanence, and how impressed he was that the war veterans had been able to overcome their blind passions, and be able to reconcile with their former enemies.
Mr Andy Barrit then talked about a Buddhist man from the Ukraine who had become caught up in the current conflict. He had asked his teacher for advice and was told that he should do whatever he has to, but to try not to get caught up in the blind passions, and not to see the “enemy “ as any different from himself. Mr Barrit also said that the current situation shows that how living in Samsara, the little seeds of hatred can turn into so much more.
Afterwards, the Venerable Dr Sumana Siri, a Monk originally from Singapore, spoke about the importance of the transformation of good thoughts into good actions, and to understand how to bring this about. He said sometimes large organisations with noble aims failed to make any real progress in certain situations. He finished with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. “Remember your Humanity, forget the rest “.
Mr Christopher Duxbury then went on to admit that when it came to showing compassion, he still found it easier to show it to certain people rather than others. He said he was so impressed at how Shinran Shonin was able to show compassion to everyone, even so called enemies.
After everyone had spoken, Mr Andrew Webb then introduced some of the upcoming events that will be happening soon at Three Wheels and then it was time to conclude the meeting. The whole Eza really reinforced how important working towards World Peace and Reconciliation is, and that the whole meeting, held in an atmosphere of gentleness and friendship, showed us how it must be possible.