The attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh took place on their most sacred day of the week. The faithful should not have to face such peril in a sacred sanctuary. The faithful are supposed to feel safe in a house of prayer and communion.
People react is different ways to such events. It can be an instant emotional reaction while others may experience shock and silence. It can make us angry, confused, sad, fearful and reactive. Feelings can be mixed with the realization that nothing can be taken for granted in this unpredictable world. They can act as a reminder to feel a constant sense of gratitude for the blessing and protection that we receive each day.
These events also stir the primary and secondary spirits and we may struggle to find balance. As a Johrei channel, besides prayer, among the first actions we can do is to channel/receive Johrei to the forehead and abdomen when we feel reactive, confused and angry.
There are many recriminations already being hurled in the headlines and across political lines. Some more justifiable than others. As these current times of confusion take a greater hold in the consciousness, people are becoming more entrenched in their beliefs and prejudices and we are all susceptible to these conditions.
In the teaching The Power of Speech, Meishu-sama wrote that greatly beneficial results can be achieved through sincere prayer. He referred to the Amatsu Norito in particular, explaining that “...it is the vibratory power of speech which causes such a seeming miracle. The universe is filled with ether, in which seventy-five great basic sounds, with all their variations or different frequency rates, are in continual vibratory motion. This area is called the spiritual realm of speech. By means of its frequencies, all things in the universe come into existence and they in turn emit certain wave lengths of sound...the words we utter are impressed upon the ether that surrounds us, creating vibrations which influence the spiritual realm. Virtuous words emit high vibrations which diminish the clouds in the spiritual world, while bad words emit low vibrations which increase the clouds.”
Meishu-sama went on to explain the difference between speech that emit positive energy and those that have the opposite effect. “The wave lengths of the words which convey good and loving thoughts are attuned to this order and to the Law of truth, virtue and beauty. They are pleasing to the human ear, because they penetrate and contact the soul, the center of awareness. Conversely bad and hateful words do not reach the soul but stop at the mind. The secondary spirit, which is of animal nature, can possess the mind and stay there, but cannot enter the soul. The denser the clouds that surround the mind, the stronger and consequently more active the secondary spirit becomes. When this condition exists, the clouds and the secondary spirit cover the light of the soul, the voice of conscience becomes weak, and the individual begins to take delight in doing wrong...when benevolent words reach the innermost part of the spiritual body, the primary spirit takes on greater radiance and this begins to dissipate the clouds surrounding the soul. This then causes the power of the secondary spirit to diminish.”
As it often happens when such purifications make the headlines, we have public figures and religious leaders offering the almost omnipresent “thoughts and prayers.” Meishu- sama notes that simply uttering words or prayers do not determine their efficacy.
He writes: “There is another point to bring forth in regard to the power of words. It is not only the vibrations of the words themselves that determine their effect, but also the degree of purity of the spiritual being uttering them. The purer the soul, the more powerful will be the vibrational waves emitted by the words that are uttered. Therefore, we must always do our utmost to raise our vibrations to a higher plane so that our words will have greater power.”
Yehuda Berg, former co-director of the Kabbalah Center said that “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
In his book Love as a Way of Life, Gary Chapman uses the metaphor for words as being either ‘bullets or seeds’ which unfortunately, becomes a more graphic reality in the light of this recent and similar events. He compares words laced with feelings of superiority, divisiveness and condemnation to bullets and we witness this on a regular basis today. If only our leaders could reflect on this and do some soul-searching. Chapman reminds the reader that when we use our words as seeds with a feeling of supportiveness and sincere good will, we can rebuild relationships in positive and life-affirming ways.
It often comes down to a matter of choice, as to how we communicate our thoughts, beliefs and observations. One hundred percent objectivity on all matters is not achievable, but it is possible to convey even our subjective thoughts and concerns, in a way that might elicit a response or attention that is non-confrontational or destructive. In his book, Being Peace, the renowned monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
Meishu-sama often referred to the laws of Nature or Cosmic laws, in explaining the human condition and the condition of society in general. Through his teachings and revelation that he received in 1931, we learn that humanity is in the throes of turbulent changes, emanating from the spiritual realm and reflecting on this physical world. Sometimes, such explanations can sound too mystical or abstract, to those of us struggling with physical and material challenges in our daily lives.
However, if we pay just a little more attention to events surrounding us, we can see changes happening at an increasing pace. Many nations on all the inhabited continents, have moved from one end of the ideological pendulum to the opposite, as the current cycle moves from the left and center to the right. Change elicits responses that include inspiration, hope and curiosity. It also stirs up fear and uncertainty. When powerful voices choose to focus on the latter, it can only result in a predictable outcome.
It is common knowledge that when humans are faced with inevitability of the imminent end of life, something significant changes regarding how we think, and fear plays a prominent role in this equation. There is a phrase called “terror management theory.” The explanation of this phrase is that when faced with the inevitable, even those that are not religious, or doubt that there is anything after this life, begin to embrace culturally constructed beliefs. People consider that the world has meaning and that our lives have value. The experts say that often, these considerations emerge to fend off what would otherwise be almost paralyzing existential terror. Hence the term – terror management theory.
Cultural, economic, political and religious changes can also stir up similar fear and terror, as we witness today. When expressed in extreme ways, people become more defensive about beliefs and react with hostility to anything that threatens it. Compassion toward the suffering becomes replaced by contempt and suspicion. Instead of becoming more compassionate, we become more intolerant and even violent toward people who may not be like us.
As a Japanese man, born and raised under great economic challenges, personal purifications and religious persecution under a military dictatorship, Meishu-sama was particularly observant about how we view other cultures and religions. These simple words from Common Sense in Religion, convey his perspective: “...a dogma which causes its followers to be unfriendly to those of another does not impart the right spiritual concepts. A true spiritual teaching attempts to instill in its members a conviction that its mission is to serve all men and it urges them to help not only those who belong to their own group- but all others as well.”
Ultimately, an event like the one that took place in Pittsburgh this past weekend is more than a cultural or religious tragedy. It is a very human experience. Several people gathered together to pray lost their lives. Many were senior citizens, enjoying their years of rest and prayerful reflection. Their families and friends lost their loved ones. Their whole community has been shattered.
Meishu-sama’s words about religious tolerance are not just about building relationships. They also guide us toward empathy. In order to recognize the bonds that tie humanity together, we must seek to feel what someone else may be feeling, while maintaining our individual selves.
According to neuroscientists, empathy requires three dimensions. The first is to have the emotional capacity to recognize someone else’s emotions. The second is on a cognitive level – the capacity to understand the reasons why someone may be feeling a certain way. When we can incorporate the first two, it changes our emotional perspective which then allows us to go beyond observing and understanding someone else’s experience and emotions.
It takes us to the dimension of “in your place, I would feel the same as you do.” Often, this understanding makes us more inclined to reach out to others in times of suffering. We may not be able to change the karma or the experience that someone else may need to have for his or her spiritual growth, but we can care at a much deeper level that transcends race, color and religion. In just a few days following the attack at the synagogue, two Muslim-American groups have raised several hundred thousand dollars for the victims and to go toward repair of the synagogue.
Meishu-sama said that Johrei belonged to all of humankind and that our individual mission in sharing this Light is to start from where we stand. Let's continue to make that our daily practice and treasure our freedom and our lives by not taking things for granted. Let us continue to pray for the suffering and marginalized and help them in whatever way we can.
LOVE FOR OTHERS
How big and beautiful
Are the hearts of those
Who put first
The welfare of others-
Yes, even before their own.
I am doing my best
In my desire to fulfill
The needs and the wants
Of all of humanity,
And to make others happy.
Know that the happiness
Which we feel when we bring joy
And make others happy,
Is a greater happiness
Than any other on earth.