Peace, Harmony, and Co-existence
A talk given at the United Nations in New York City by Rev. Kodo Umezu, Director of the Jodo Shinshu Center's Center for Buddhist Education in Berkeley, CA.

First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me to this auspicious occasion of the United Nations’ Vesak Celebration commemorating the 2600th year of Buddha’s Enlightenment. The theme for this event is “Peace, Harmony and Co-existence.” This is the most appropriate theme for today’s world and for religious leaders. The big question is, then, what do we need to do in order to bring peace, harmony, and co-existence into this troubled world? How we can make it happen? Today, I would like to share my humble appreciation of the Buddha-dharma through our Pure Land tradition.

Do you know that a bad person doesn’t exist? What really exists is this “I” who thinks that other person is bad. A person who I think is bad may become good if he or she does something favorable to me. I am sure you’ve had a similar experience in your life. Good or bad is not a permanent characteristic of a person. Good or bad arises in relation to our circumstances with each other.

Likewise, we often say that we have problems. In reality, this “I” is the problem. This, indeed, is what the Four Noble Truths are trying to say.

It truly takes outside eyes to view this “I”. These outer eyes are the eyes of wisdom; the Supreme Awakened One, the Buddha. In the Pure Land Buddhist tradition, each of us is urged to take refuge in the Immeasurable Light and Life. This true wisdom is summoning me through the calling of Namo Amida Butsu: “Namo (take refuge in) Amida Butsu (the immeasurable light and life).”

This Supreme Wisdom calls to all people regardless of gender, color, creed, beliefs, or social status. The Supreme Wisdom calls to everyone whether they are Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or atheists. Each of us, without exception, has been trapped in a small shell and transmigrating from darkness to darkness. In the eyes of the Buddha, this is really sad. Looking to this Supreme Wisdom, we begin to see the truth of our foolish selves. The True Light humbles us and puts a brake on our foolish actions that harm each other.

Buddhism is a religion of wisdom. By encountering the Supreme Wisdom, each of us can make this world a better place so that all of us can live our lives to the fullest, and then hand down this world to future generations.

Thank you very much.

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