Rev. Takeda Hakusai
24 September 2003
Devotees gathered as early as 5:30 a.m. to witness the auspicious beginning of the Amritavarsham50 Celebrations. The traditional Ganapati Homa was being performed by a multi-national team of priests trained in the ancient art of Vedic fire sacrifice. The ceremonial flames rose up under the woven palm-leaf roof as oblations such as flowers, ghee and grains were offered into the flames. As the priests chanted the ancient mantras in mellifluous tones, it seemed as if everyone had been transported back to the Vedic times.
Ages ago, India had attracted travelers from distant countries in search of the Truth. It was no different at Amritavarsham50. A group of Japanese priests sat in attendance of the homa. What did they feel looking at this ancient ritual. What did it mean to them? What brought them here?
Reverend Takeda Hakusai, representative and senior disciple of Sakai Yuusai Dai-Ajari of Heizan Enryakuji, sat close to the homakunda [fire pit]. With closed eyes and prayer beads moving in his hands, he radiated serenity. “What I am seeing here is the origin of esoteric Buddhism,” he told. “Japanese religion is similar to that of India. What they offer into the homakunda may be different, but the procedure we follow is similar.”
Regarding why he was attending Amritavarsham50, Rev. Hakusai, who spoke the next day at the Interfaith Summit, said that it had a lot to do with transformation. He said that when the Japanese interacted with other nations and cultures in the field of economy, industry and technology, they were influenced deeply and transformed. With exposure to different religions, he feels there will be a positive influence on their religion as well. According to him, the Japanese need to make an effort to know other religions. “Any person in any country needs to have an open heart and an open mind towards others. That is so important.”
Rev. Takeda belongs to the Tendai school of Buddhism. He said, “Like Amma teaches about harmony between man and Nature, Tendai Buddhism also urges man to live in harmony with Nature.” He finds great similarities between Tendai Buddhism and Hinduism. The main message of both being, “Everything has divinity in it. God is in everyone. Whether friend or foe, the same one God resides in all—so the need for peace and harmony. This is very important for all to remember.”