Sharing with those who suffered

November 4th 2011

Sendai, Japan, 4 November 2011 - "When I heard about the earthquake and tsunami--and then also the serious danger due to nuclear reactivity--in this area last March, I really felt very, very sad," His Holiness said, on his first stop after arriving in Sendai, the large town north of Tokyo near which the earthquake of March 11th had its epicenter. "Such suffering, beyond our control! Also, as a Buddhist, I felt sadness for Japan, a Buddhist country. Thirdly, because I have visited Japan many times, I have many Japanese friends. So therefore I felt it was my duty to pay a visit to share in your suffering.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greets well-wishers as he departs  Koyasan for Sendai, Japan, on November 4, 2011. Photo/Kimimasa Mayama
At the end of April, on his way to America, His Holiness had stayed in Tokyo for a few extra days, he explained, to the group of 30 or so media people who had gathered for a small press conference, "and I had the opportunity then to pray for those who tragically died and to express my condolences to their families. And then, in Gokokuji temple in Tokyo, I met one person who came from this area, and I promised him that as soon as I had the opportunity, I wanted to visit the region where this tragedy took place."   

Thus, His Holiness, on the sixth full day of his Japanese tour, set the tone for his journey to the areas of Sendai and Fukushima-ken, which suffered so terribly earlier in the year.


He had begun his day in the radiant, red-mapled quiet of Koyasan, the mountain center of Shingon Buddhism, and, after taking leave of his hosts there, had drive to Osaka for lunch, and to fly to Sendai. When he arrived at the airport in Sendai, he was greeted by representatives of the Sendai Buddhist Association, clapping as they saw him and saying, in some cases, that they had been praying for him to come.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets with members of the press on his arrival in Sendai, Japan, on November 4, 2011. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
As he drove into the city, scenes of devastation were everywhere: whole areas had been flattened, high rectangles of scrap metal were gathered along the sides of the road, everywhere tractors were clearing areas laid waste by the tsunami. Even in high buildings in the center of town, cracks could be seen from the earthquake. Only a few months after the earthquake and the tsunami had hit, just as Sendai began to recover, a typhoon swept through, causing further destruction.Now, making his first trip to the remote, largely rural Tohoku area--Japan's "far north"--His Holiness explained a little to the press about his resons for coming, but said that he wanted to reserve most of his thoughts for his visit and prayers the next day.

"The tragedy has already happened," he stressed. "Now, instead of too much sadness, we should try to translate that sadness into enthusiasm. And find the strength to rebuild your town."

As members of the press asked him about the recent self-immolations in Tibet, about the future of the Dalai Lama incarnation, about what the earthquake means in terms of Buddhism, he spoke briefly of the law of causality, and reminded the gathering that he had completely handed over political responsibility to Tibet's elected political leadership in March. It was now up to the Kalon Tripa to answer some of these questions.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama waves to members of the media as he leaves the press meeting held in Sendai, Japan, on November 4, 2011. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
As for the future of his incarnation, he said, "The final decision will be taken when I'm 85, 86, 87. So there's no hurry. I would like to fully consult with leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, not only from Tibet but from all Buddhist countries that follow the Tibetan tradition, which means Mongolia and the whole Himalayan range. Then I can come to a final decision according to consensus."

"I can't take the sorrow of the people here away," he concluded, asked about what he could truly "share" with the people of Sendai. "But simply mixing with them, exchanging my own deep feelings, that's what I can share. When you're going through some difficulty, if your friend goes out of his way to come and see you and express some kind of condolence, that kind of sharing can mean a lot."


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