Adapted excerpts from Mokichi Okada's writings.
Awareness of Aesthetic Values
I think it is essential that we cultivate a greater awareness of aesthetic values. By so doing, not only individuals but also our nation as a whole will receive unexpectedly great benefits. Truly beautiful environments are a great help towards inspiring more beautiful thoughts in the minds of the public, and these will greatly reduce crime and other evils in society. If we act upon only this one point, it will certainly serve as a means of furthering the realization of paradise on earth.
I myself have loved the beautiful aspects of life since my youth. Even in those days when I was living in straitened circumstances, I made small flowerbeds, painted pictures whenever I could find some time, visited art museums and art exhibits as often as possible, and enjoyed the loveliness of Nature, especially that of flowers in spring and the red and yellow foliage of trees in autumn.
The Mission of Art
The “progress of civilization” means that humanity is gaining control over its animalistic nature. When this has been accomplished, we can say that the world of true civilization has been achieved. The truth is however, that most of humanity is still exposed today to the threat of war, and this means that a great deal of animalistic power is still present.
The artists of the world are given the important work of helping to eradicate that animalistic part of humanity’s nature. The mission of an artist is to help elevate humanity’s character through art, through painting, literature, music, dancing, drama, and so forth.
Through these various means an artist’s soul appeals to the souls of the people. To put it more simply, the vibratory power emanating from the artist’s soul touches the heartstrings of others through his or her painting, music, literature, voice or dancing.
People in general probably think that the present-day world is a most civilized one. However, as we study its true substance we find it is full of defects, as we can easily see from the daily newspapers, which are filled with reports of crimes and of other unhappy events involving people.
What is to be done, then, to correct this state of affairs? It is not a particularly difficult undertaking; it is, in fact, quite easy. That is, it can be done by awakening people from their materially-biased education and making spiritual education more important. To put it more plainly, we can correct this condition by dispelling the false belief in the invisible.
The only way to accomplish this is to awaken people to the reality of God by the power of spiritual teachings.
The deeper the faith, the more natural and unaffected a person is. One with true spiritual understanding speaks and acts sensibly, modestly, sincerely. One leaves an uplifting, warm impression upon those with whom he or she meets, because this person is concerned about the individual happiness of others and the welfare of society.
Observe Nature, which never rests, never stands still. It is constantly renewing itself, is always progressing. Once we can clearly see that all things in Nature and in the world are making progress every moment and are growing, we human beings should follow those larger examples and constantly work to improve ourselves. This is living in accord with Truth.
Selves of the Moment
Try to become "selves of the moment." This means to become aware of and comprehend the feeling that comes the instant something is seen or heard; then there is no room for the barrier of preconceived ideas to get in the way.
It is like being in the state of a child. We are often struck with admiration at the words a child speaks when he or she asks a question immediately in response to something said by an adult. This because a child has no barriers - no preconceived ideas with which to block what is seen or heard.
Influence of the Soul of the Artist
A strong, inseparable connection is formed between the soul of the artist and that of the public. If the artist’s character is low and mean, the public’s character becomes baser and meaner. If the artist’s character is high and noble, the character of the public is elevated accordingly. Herein lies the greatest value of art.
In other words, an artist needs to be the kind of individual who is able to lead the public to higher levels with his or her spiritual self.
These days, many people seem to think that everything can be handled by science. But there are a certain number of important things that cannot be controlled by scientists, however hard they may try. Surprisingly few individuals seem to realize this.
What I have in mind is art. I am not saying that there is no element of science in art. However, all creative fields of expression are based not only on intelligence, intent and effort but also on creative genius; this included painting, sculptures, music, dancing literature, plays, motion pictures and crafts.
As everybody knows, art is extremely important in human society. If there were no art the world would be as dry and uninteresting as a cold prison built of stone.
Mankind should not only see each thing as it is at the moment, but should also clearly observe the constant overall change itself. For this reason, we should change our viewpoints and ways of thinking about religion and civilization with every passing day.
Accept the changes of the outside world with flexibility, adjusting ourselves so we are in harmony.
Be a Good Listener
An ancient Chinese philosopher once said, "Don't underestimate people when they talk to you." What this means is that we should listen with open minds and not discount a person's ideas before we know what they have to say; that we must not judge by appearances. We can often learn something from the most unlikely source. Even a small child can voice a wonderful truth or express an original idea.
The Forging of A Perfect Sword
In days gone by, when a good sword was made, the rough metal was first thrust into a hot fire. When it had become heated to the point of softening, it was withdrawn and hammered on while still hot, then thrust back into the cold water. This process was repeated over and over, until the raw material was forged into a beautiful, powerful sword.
The same process can be applied to our own lives. Since civilization began, those who have accomplished truly great things have suffered unusual hardships, without exception. The spiritual explanation is that the greater a person's mission is to be, the harder are the trials they must go through first.
If progress were to be made only on the materialistic side of life - in business or social activities - people would be like tumbleweed, without roots and aimless in direction. True progress means evolvement of the soul and ennoblement of character.
Keeping this constantly in mind, build your own life step by step. Never be in too great a hurry; do not be concerned if your development seems slow, for in the long run you will surely grow. Your determination to improve yourself is the measure of your strength of character.
Nothing is as precious as true love.
It has the power to penetrate
Even a heart as hard as rock or iron.
The true cause of all the world’s problems
Which baffles solution is the lack of love
Within the hearts of the leaders.
The spirit of true love and devotion
Is the only power which can build
A new world of peace and harmony.