Sunday Morning Reflections on “Mu” and the Resurrection at Ganshoin

Hokusai Phoenix at Ganshoin

As I prepare for church this morning, I think back to two recent trips to Ganshoin, a Zen Buddhist temple in Obuse in Nagano, Japan. Those sojourns inspired conversations with Buddhists and Christians alike.The temple is perhaps best known for famed Japanese artist Katsushiksa Hokusai's painting of the Phoenix or “Ho-o Staring in Eight Directions.” The painting appears on the temple ceiling (pictured in this post). The temple grounds also feature the grave of daimyo Fukushima Masanori and the … [Read more...]

The Blood of the Martyrs & the Seed of the Church, Love and Tolerance

Nikko Karamon Gate

Last week, I visited Nikko, Japan, one of Japan’s greatest historical and memorial sites. Nikko features Toshogu, Japan's most extravagantly adorned shrine, and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Tokugawa shogunate’s founder. In keeping with his instructions for the year following his death, he was enshrined as a deity at Nikko by designation of the Imperial court. Ieyasu’s aim was to serve Japan from Nikko as its perpetual guardian. By most if not all standards, Ieyasu was a brilliant milit … [Read more...]

Thoughts on Diversity in Japan and the United States

Japanese flag

The other day I was talking with an American of diverse ethnicity in Japan. We were discussing how homogeneous Japan is and how difficult it would be for Japan to foster diversity similar to the United States. In light of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and a host of other such tragedies, one might wonder if fostering diversity American-style is a good thing. As a culture, we have such a long way to go, as the CNN interview with Russell Simmons makes clear.In … [Read more...]

What Makes Someone a Person and not a Thing?

P Food for Thought

What makes someone a person and not a thing? Can such differentiation even occur? Do these questions matter, and if so, why?The differentiation of persons and things bore great significance for Martin Luther King, Jr. for matters of morality. In his estimation, moving from a culture of things to persons would help us confront well such problems as economic exploitation, racism, and militarism (Please listen here to King’s critique of the Vietnam War along such lines).While I don’t know pr … [Read more...]

Imagine a World without Forgiveness

cross of christ built into a brick wall

Recently, during a conversation over dinner in Japan, a Buddhist scholar told me that he believes John Lennon’s song “Imagine” was inspired by Buddhism’s Heart Sutra. Lennon’s song reflects upon a world without heaven, countries, possessions, religion, and war.  Perhaps the following lines from The Heart Sutra served as influences to Lennon in writing the song: Therefore, in the void there are no forms and no feelings, conceptions, impulses and no consciousness: there is no eye, ear, nose, tongu … [Read more...]

The Holy of Holies

Ise-Inner Shrine

Members of my family and I recently visited the central shrines of Shintoism in Ise in Mie Prefecture in Japan. Our gracious hotel host pointed out what he took to be Israel’s Star of David engraved on stone posts as we traveled to the inner shrine, where he introduced us to our official tour guides. Our host knew not why the Star of David-like symbol was engraved on these posts, or where such engravings came from. In addition to witnessing people cleansing themselves with water as they a … [Read more...]

The Rabbit Hole Revisited

rabbit in the deep hole

In a previous post, I wrote about Jesus going down the rabbit hole. He goes further than we would ever go if we were to try and save ourselves and further than we could ever imagine him going. The hole he goes down is the void of humanity’s fallen existence.Jesus alone could go the way he did as God’s Son—alone. There was no way in the world his first disciples could have pursued him down that hole the night of his passion unto death for our sins. Nor could we have borne his burden with him. … [Read more...]


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