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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 35 JAPAN HAS FOR MANY YEARS NOW been the most powerful Buddhist country in the world. Ever since the Fourteenth Dalai Lama first visited the country in 1967—on his first journey out- side Tibet, China, and India—he has been telling the Japanese that they have an extraordinary potential to bring their highly sophis- ticated modern technologies together with the ancient traditions that are still so visible here and there across the country. Material conveniences offer comfort and ease for the body, he points out; spiritual and philosophical teachings offer balm for the soul. If the two can be brought together in a healthy balance, Japan can not only help itself but also offer a model for the world. It was this theme, among many others, that he frequently sounded on his most recent visit to Japan, visiting the nation, as he often does, just as the brilliant blue skies and the first edge of color in the leaves bring home a Buddhist message that everything is constantly changing on the surface, but something more fundamental never shifts deep down. He gave some public talks in Tokyo and visited a school in Osaka, but the heart of his journey came in a two-day conference on peace that he attended in Hiroshima and in several days of teaching and initiations that he of- fered at the invitation of a Japanese Buddhist group on the holy island of Miyajima. Japanese audiences tend to be much quiet- er and shyer—but also more attentive—than audiences elsewhere; they like to keep their feelings to themselves. Yet wherever the Dalai Lama went in the bright autumn sunshine, the gray roofs of temples rising like mist above the maples as they began to show some red, large crowds showed up to greet him, in part perhaps because his message and wisdom is ever more popu- lar around the world, and in part perhaps because Japan feels an empty space inside itself that it needs to fill. At many events, peo- ple stood up and asked him about the increasingly urgent problem of “shut-in” kids in Japan, so estranged from society that they do nothing all day but sit in their darkened rooms and mope. In response, the Tibetan visitor spoke often about the virtue of volunteering. “If you think only of yourself,” he said in Hiro- shima, “then even a small problem becomes something almost unbearable.” Those in Japan, he said in Miyajima (suddenly breaking into English during a question-and-answer session), “have more skill and education. So you can help people in differ- ent countries. So, more of your people should go to these areas, Feeding the Spiritually Hungry For all their material success, says PICO IYER, many Japanese feel alienated and spiritually starved. They responded hungrily to the Dalai Lama’s teachings on his recent tour of Japan. PICO IYER is the author, most recently, of Abandon, a novel, and Sun After Dark, a set of essays. PHOTOBYLOBSANGWANGYAL Above: Watching a Vajrayana initiation by the Dalai Lama at Daishoin Temple in Miyajima, Japan.