真 (Makoto or Shin) means “true or truth,” and forms a person’s head and face facing down, to indicate a person’s death. When a person dies, he or she doesn’t change; he is unchangeable and becomes egoless.
And 復 (Fuku) means “revival,” which consists of three parts. The left side of the character represents half of a crossroad. The upper right side represents “steps,” and the lower right side represents a person’s foot. Together, the person goes up and down the steps. This also means the person can return from the bottom of the steps.
興 (Kou) means “to accomplish something by helping each other,” which consists of two parts. The character above represents two hands working together to make a hall or a line. The character below represents two arms that are holding them up.
I last wrote about Oo tsunami, which destroyed many beautiful towns, homes and lives and washed away the souls of more than 23,000 people. Generous countries and individuals from around the world have sent much needed supplies, prayers, gifts and monetary aid to the survivors. I am so impressed by the millions of people who have sent their love and support.
I thus began to think about the meaning of true spiritual revival. Of course, we must also help the survivors materially and spiritually. Is this enough, however? What can each of us learn from this tragedy? I recalled my experience from 40 years ago when I lived in Japan.
One day, at the age of 20, I had an out-of-body experience. I found myself looking down from the vast universe. At that moment, I saw two visions: One was of the end of my life where my heart felt empty and I was helpless and hopeless. In the other vision, I saw how humankind strives for material goods, but ends up falling down a cliff. These were scary visions.
This frightful experience taught me the true purpose of my life; I also recognized how material goods could never provide real satisfaction, inner peace and happiness. I asked myself, “What was most important in life?” Inner spiritual happiness and peace was the most important thing. Soon thereafter, I gave up my pursuit of material success and enrolled in Konko Seminary School to search for eternal peace and happiness.
Now, whether I die tomorrow or live for many more years, I truly believe I have found eternal peace and happiness.
The terrible disaster in Northern Japan points toward the end of civilization’s pursuit of material happiness and asks all of us to change our priorities. However, most people are unable to grasp the true meaning of this disaster. Instead of investing all our efforts toward developing and accumulating material goods, we should spend more energy and time obtaining inner peace and happiness. If we can do this, the brave souls who lost their lives would not have died in vain.
I wonder how many people can truly awaken from this disaster. I hope and pray all of us will learn from this horrendous tragedy and have a true spiritual revival.
Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and martial arts. He also gives spiritual counseling. He can be reached at email@example.com or (415) 517-5563.