Category Archives: Speech


The Circle of Gratitude

Every New Year’s Eve at Shumei America’s National Center in Pasadena, we have a fire ceremony in the courtyard before the clock strikes midnight.This fire ceremony is designed to purify us before entering the New Year. Years ago, when we first started this tradition, we tried to imitate the fire ceremony held on New Years Eve in Misono, Shumei’s international headquarters in Japan. However, now we have developed our own style of this observance, which includes a sage burning purification ritual, live music, and group meditation. It is a very good way to welcome the New Year and it is becoming one of our more popular events. If you have never attended this event, please come experience it for yourself at the turn of this year.


Everyone seems to be talking about the Mayan calendar and the significance it holds for the year 2012. Coincidentally, there will be many important events happening within our Shumei community this year. Within nature as well as within human civilization, many crises are occurring, and things will probably get worse before they get better. We live in very exciting times. About this time, Meishusama stated, “At the time of the world’s transformation, disaster will arrive in concert with joy.”


Wherever we look, the world has been undergoing great transformations: economically, environmentally, politically, socially, morally, and for each of us personally. Everywhere around us, changes are happening. Can we handle great change? Are we ready for 2012? If not, then I have one simple practice to recommend to you for making this year’s journey easier. It is The Circle of Gratitude. It applies to all of us. Gratitude is universal. I am sure even the angels practice gratitude.


Let us read Meishusama’s teaching entitled, You Are What You Think. It is the shortest teaching found in “The Essential Teachings of Meishusama” and I like this teaching very much. It has helped me a great deal throughout the years. This teaching changed my life.


Gratitude breeds gratitude; discontent spawns discontent. This is the truth. For a grateful heart rises straight to God while a discontented heart finds only the evil spirits of hell. Because of this, people whose hearts are ever grateful are naturally fortunate and happy, but people who are discontented or who grumble are unfortunate and miserable. This is a fact.
In the Oomoto teachings there is the following saying: “Be joyful and joy will come unto you.” These are words of truth and wisdom.


What this teaching tells us is that by being grateful, you become luckier and more good things will come to you.


I would like to share a wonderful story that is one of my favorites. It is about Linda Tan. She is now in her late twenties and is a very successful businesswoman in New York City. She is also the Youth Group Leader of our New York Center. Their youth taiko group, called OMNY Taiko, was created because of her passionate dedication to this art form. Today she is a success by most people’s standards. However, when she was around ten years old, her life was a different story. She did not have a good self–image. She was a little overweight and her school grades were not so great. Her parents were always comparing her to her cousins who were doing better than her. On top of that, she also lost her best friend who had been with her for a long time. Her weight, her grades, her parents, and her lost friendship all made her miserable. She felt like a complete loser.


Then one day, she happened to be in the New York Center during one of their monthly Sampais. She had been playing with the kids in the back of the Center when she heard the sensei talking about gratitude. She found herself intrigued by the sensei’s words. So, she stopped playing and went to the sanctuary to listen. And she got the message: gratitude will make her life better. She then decided to practice being grateful in her daily life. Every day she tried to find something to be thankful for. Surprisingly, she was able to find many things worth her appreciation. She had good parents who provided her with food, clothing, shelter, and an education. Every day she tried to fill herself with gratitude. Soon she started seeing positive changes in her life. She made a new friend, who remains her best friend to this day. Her grades started going up, she was able to enter a good college, and she got a good job. Today, whenever she travels great distances, she flies business class—that is better than I do! She provides strong support for her entire family both financially and emotionally. Gradually she has become happier and even more grateful. Gratitude kept attracting many wonderful things to her, which then made her more grateful.


Linda is definitely living within a Circle of Gratitude.


The opposite of living within a circle of gratitude is living within a vicious circle. One who complains constantly emits bad feelings, creates an unfortunate environment, and so attracts bad luck. Greed drives people on an endless pursuit of material wealth and pleasure. Such people always want more. No matter how much they get, they are never satisfied. Buddhists call them hungry ghosts. No matter how much they eat, they are still hungry.


Last year’s disaster in Japan was a wake–up call for all of us to reevaluate how we live our lives. Most of us do not need more food, clothing, and shelter. We need to recognize when we have enough and learn to appreciate what we already have. That is the key to happiness. We need to think of our children and their future instead of only ourselves. We should not sacrifice our children and their future for momentary luxuries. We must find an alternative energy source instead of deadly nuclear power. We must stop depleting and killing our soil with toxic chemicals to force it to produce larger harvests. We must alter our lifestyle to become more sustainable.


The Circle of Gratitude is the essence of Shumei’s Natural Agriculture. When farmers grow and harvest vegetables, they give gratitude to the Divine, to the sun, the moon, the water, the soil, and the seeds. Then consumers purchase these vegetables with gratitude toward the farmers and to nature. People eat these foods with gratitude to the farmers and the people who prepared their meal. And if the plants and soil could talk, I am sure they would express gratitude to the farmers for watering and caring for them. This energy of gratitude circulates and makes the vegetables spiritually rich and the people happy and healthy.

The real essence of food is spiritual energy. And this spiritual energy comes from the Divine, from nature, and from people’s gratitude. Meishusama said, “For a grateful heart rises straight to God while a discontented heart finds only the evil spirits of Hell.” A grateful heart can help connect us to God. Without gratitude, no matter how much Natural Agriculture produce you eat, you will not receive much spiritual energy. Without gratitude, no matter how much Jyorei you receive, it will not be enough. Gratitude is a powerful force that makes everything come alive. Life does not seem difficult when you are grateful.


When Shumei’s president, Kaicho–Sensei Hiroko Koyama, speaks to new members at the New Members gathering in Misono, she always emphasizes two lessons: Gratitude and Love for Others. When things are going well, it is easy to be grateful. How about when things are going badly? Can we be grateful then? This is one of our biggest challenges.


Long ago, I was not a very grateful person. However, after many years of practice, I have gotten to the place where I can always be grateful even when things do not go well. This is how I now think: “Well, I don’t understand why these bad things are happening to me now, but there must be some reason for them. Maybe I will be able to understand it later. Until then, let me say ‘Thank you, Meishusama.’” By repeating “Thank you Meishusama” many times, I usually begin to feel better.


God can sometimes feel distant and impersonal, whereas Meishusama always feels close to my heart. I do not know what God looks like but I do know what Meishusama looks like. I believe he is watching over me from somewhere high up in the spiritual world. Meishusama is very real to me. I feel God is working through him to benefit all creation. And I feel Meishusama cares deeply about me and everyone else. at is why I pray to Meishusama, and that is why I express gratitude to him.


You may prefer to pray to Jesus or Mary or Buddha or Krishna or some other saint or holy person. Whatever your belief, you will still benefit from feeling gratitude. through gratitude, we receive Divine Light. It was by cultivating gratitude that my own life was transformed.


It is especially good to practice gratitude every day. Remember Linda Tan. Do you chant every day? I encourage you to do so. Ideally, you should chant twice daily. Before you sleep, fill yourself with gratitude. First thing in the morning when you wake up, chant. Daily chanting is a way of saying thank you, not a way of asking for favors. It is a way to thank the Divine, to thank the people in your life, to thank nature, and to give thanks for whatever arises in your daily life. It is easy to say, but it is difficult to do it every day.


No matter how many years you have been giving Jyorei and participating in Shumei events, if you do not practice gratitude in your every day life, you are missing something very important. If you have not already, this is a good year to begin being grateful and giving gratitude for all you have. If you make a commitment this new year to be more grateful, I guarantee that one day you will look back at this new year and say, “My life has changed.”

The key to happiness and success is gratitude.


Spiritual Internet

In our modern age, all of us are connected with everyone else by some kind of communication device such as mobile phones or the Internet. Every day, many people depend on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We are very serious about how well we are connected with the ones we care about as well as the world around us.


The mobile phone and the Internet are now vital to our relationships. Because we cannot live without relationships, today we cannot live without mobile phones and the Internet. But long before the invention of the Internet, even before telephones, we were connected with each other, but in a different way. We were connected to each other spiritually, through what Meishusama called Spiritual Cords. Nowadays, because of our heavy dependence on the Internet, we tend to forget about the efficiency and importance of our spiritual connection with each other. I want to explore this connection and gain an understanding of how we can make our lives and society better through the spiritual cords.


… there are tens, hundreds, thousands, indeed, uncountable numbers of spiritual cords attached to you. Some are thick, some thin; some are long, some short; and some of them are good, while others are bad. They all, to a varying degree, influence and change your life. It is no exaggeration to say that human beings stay alive because of these spiritual cords.
—Meishusama, “Spiritual Cords,” The Essential Teachings


The spiritual cords exist where there are relationships with people, animals, plants, places, money, and things like cars, houses, furniture, jewelry, and heirlooms.


These cords carry both positive and negative energy back and forth from person to person. In the case of Facebook or Email, you can select what kind of message you send to your recipients. In the case of spiritual cords, you can neither select the recipients nor the message. If you are filled with negative thoughts and feelings, that destructive energy automatically goes to the people, animals, places, and things that are connected to you. So if you are constantly filled with bad energy, you will send such energy to everyone and everything. And they, in turn, will send bad energy back to you. This will make you feel angrier and more depressed or anxious than before. Conversely, if you fill yourself with gratitude and positive thoughts that energy emanates and goes to all that you are connected with.


When you walk down the street or through a hallway, do people smile at you as you pass? Have you ever had such an experience? If people smile at you very often, then you must be smiling all the time. Because you are sending out positive energy, people become affected by it, and they smile back at you. So, it is better to fill oneself with positive thoughts and gratitude rather than negativity and resentment. This is especially true of those who are important to you. Whether you care or not, you should think positive thoughts about them. Are you smiling at your wife, husband, or children? Are you sending positive energy to your girlfriend, boyfriend, or parents? Do you say “Hello” to your plants? Do you express gratitude to your car or computer? Do you say “Thank You” to your body and every cell within it when you eat or have a bowel movement?


How many hours you spend every day on your iPhones or smartphones or laptops communicating with your friends and associates? Do you spend more than one hour a day? Perhaps you spend two hours a day. How about three hours? How about four? Believe it or not, according to statistics, on average, people spend four hours every day on some sort of communication gadget. Can you believe it!


I really believe that we should spend more time maintaining our spiritual communication, especially with someone or something significant to us.


Maybe the most important spiritual cords are those connecting us with our spouses, children, parents, or friends. These people influence, support or damage us most strongly in our lives. Do you have good relationships with your wife, husband, children, or parents?


Spiritual cords are constantly varying in thickness. When the relationship between husband and wife is warm and loving, the cord between them is radiant and thick. When they quarrel, however, it becomes thinner and loses its radiance.
—Meishusama, “Spiritual Cords,” The Essential Teachings


Some of you may have bad relationships with your wives, husbands, children, parents, or friends. Some may have felt that you do not care for your relationships with these people or have even given up on them completely. Because they influence your life so strongly, it is not usually a good idea to put your relationship with them aside. It is generally better to try to improve your relationships.


If you have problems in your relationships, try paying more attention to your side of the conflict rather than theirs. It is hard to change others, whereas it is less hard to change ourselves. Often when we stop judging others and begin appreciating the good within them, things improve. It is amazing what a gentle smile and a kind word can do. Please remember, “What goes around comes around.”


The attitude you feel toward them is what counts. Meishusama says, “Gratitude breeds gratitude.” Do you want to send out anger, hostility or indifference through your spiritual cords, or love and appreciation? THe choice is yours.


Myself, I was able to improve my relationship with my second brother through changing my attitude towards him. I am grateful for my mother for helping me do that.


The spiritual cords not only connect us to the living but to people who have died. Aer my mother passed on three years ago, I had more opportunities to spend time with my two brothers and thus became closer to them. Since leaving Japan 38 years ago, I have not had much chance to see my brothers, especially my second brother, as he became inactive within Shumei. I did not know how much both brothers did to take care of our family matters, including our funerals and weddings. In the case of my mother’s funeral, they did everything. My wife, Jane, and I just came from America to attend the ceremony in Tokyo and greet everyone. After the passing of our mother, my brothers and I met and talked about the old days, and my appreciation of them grew a lot. I believe my mother helped us to become closer through her spiritual cords with us. During our conversation, as we looked back at the old days, we realized that something beyond ourselves, such as our ancestors, pushed us to do God’s work. We found within an old record that one of our ancestors created a creed for the Imai family to follow in which the importance of living truthfully and serving society was emphasized. We felt our ancestors had been guiding us to be and do good. This includes our mother, who is now dwelling on the other side of life. Our ancestors help us even after their deaths.


It is also true that we can help our loved ones who are dead through our spiritual cords. Janice Eshleman is a very active member of our Pennsylvania Center. She still feels very close to her grandparents even after they left this world. She feels their love and is grateful for the guidance they give her when she needs them. During one of Janice’s trips to Misono she attended the Ancestor’s Ceremony in Meishusama Hall. While quietly waiting for the ceremony to begin, her grandmother suddenly appeared to her and asked what she was doing in Japan at such an event. The family was not Japanese and the grandmother saw no reason for Janice to be there. But by the end of the ceremony, the grandmother thanked her granddaughter and told her that she understood more clearly what Janice was doing with Shumei. Then, a few weeks later, the grandmother appeared again before Janice in a dream and spoke vividly to her. She talked about the pain and anguish she had experienced by people’s prejudice and ignorance. Janice’s grandmother fled Hungary with her family as World War II approached. Their first refuge was in Paris, where they hid their Jewish heritage and started new lives. Later, they settled in America where their family’s origins remained abandoned. They had lived in denial and shame. But now the grandmother’s spirit was more at peace with the Light she received through the Ancestor’s Ceremony. She thanked Janice for what she is doing for her ancestors in this world. Janice remains very grateful that she was able to help her ancestors.


When you work in a garden or on a farm, you begin to develop spiritual cords with the plants and soil you nurture, and to the rocks, birds, and insects as well. You may not realize it, but you are creating a type of family with all the elements in your garden. Not only do you look forward to seeing them, but also I am sure they look forward to your visits.


Nature has the power to heal us on a deep spiritual level. Recently I was speaking with a man named Mark Rice who was teaching gardening to violent, troubled kids at an institution in Los Angeles. He was delighted to see how peaceful and content they would become when planting vegetables and taking care of them. Maybe it was the act of nurturing something to life that made the difference. Maybe it was the deep silence that emanated from the plants and the soil. Maybe it was the spiritual cords the kids were developing with the various elements of the garden. Whatever the case may be, the kids were noticeably benefiting from their contact with nature.


I do not know about you, but as for me, I feel God as much in nature as I do in a church, or a temple, or a Shumei Center. The beauty of a newly sprouting plant, of early morning dew on the leaves of vegetables, of sunshine through the branches of trees, and the mysterious depth and colors of clouds and sky, all these things bring joy to my heart. Through our spiritual cords with all the elements in nature, we receive healing energy and become more peaceful.


One of the most important spiritual cords I have is the one that binds me to Meishusama. is connection helps me to share the Light in the form of Jyorei. Meishusama helps me to be connected with Kannon, and with God, and it has been helping me to learn and grow throughout my spiritual journey.


I am humbled to have received significant assignments within the Shumei organization. One of them was being appointed the director of Shumei America. Within this capacity, I listen to our members’ success stories as well as to their purification stories of pain and sorrow. Sometimes I do not know how to comfort or encourage them. My heart goes out to them and I weep with them. At these times, I ask Meishusama for guidance, wisdom, and courage through the spiritual cord I share with him. is spiritual cord is vital to me. erefore, I do my best to keep this connection strong by constantly expressing my gratitude to Meishusama. Daily chanting, sharing Jyorei, performing hoshi and reading Meishusama’s writings help me become closer to him.


Some of you may already feel that you have a close relationship with divinity. If so, that is great. No matter how you support this closeness, the important thing is to be strongly connected with a higher power.


All of us are connected through spiritual cords with the divine, spiritual leaders, teachers, family, friends, enemies, animals, plants, money, cars and many other things. Countless spiritual cords surround all of us. ese cords form a Spiritual Internet. Messages are always flowing back and forth amongst everyone. It is up to us how to make use of them. It is up to us how to make ourselves, and the world around us, happier and better. As Meishusama says,


Gratitude breeds gratitude. Discontent spawns discontent. For a grateful heart rises straight to God while discontented heart finds the evils spirit of hell.
—Meishusama, “You Are What You Think,”
The Essential Teachings


Instead of receiving nothing but negative energy, we can send happy, grateful, positive energy to people, animals, plants, and things around us. Then positive energy tends to return to us, and our lives become better. This is what I learned from Meishusama and this is how my life became happy and fortunate.


My Jyorei Journey

When Henry first came knocking at my door back in 1990, I couldn’t understand much of what he said. For my first Jyorei, I just stood there awkwardly in the doorway. Afterward I thought, “Did he say he wants to come back tomorrow, or did he say every day?”


Every day but a few he was there, and every day he kept begging me, “Come to Center!” Center? What was that? I’d become very reclusive in my habits, depressed and lonely. Still it took Henry a whole month to get me to venture out and mingle with other people. When at last I did, his plea became, “Please join, please join!” No, Henry, I said; maybe later, Henry.


Then it was the day before his birthday; soon after, he’d be returning to Japan. “Please, Gerardo!” he implored. “It’s so im–POR–tant!” No, Henry, no, no, no. He left that day looking very crestfallen. Watching him go, I felt something in me collapse. “Oh…why not?” I thought. “If it’ll make him happy….”

The next day I received my ohikari. Henry’s birthday became mine, as well.


As I grew more familiar with the Center, Sensei Alan Imai taught me to use the computer. Every day after that I buried myself in the computer room, a recluse once again. But I was feeling more hopeful about life. Often as I did my writing, the children would be yelling and banging around downstairs. I wondered why I wasn’t bothered by this. I’d always looked on children vaguely as a nuisance, but now it seemed I even missed them when things were quiet down below.


One Sunday we were having an important Sampai. As Sensei Eugene Imai started giving us Jyorei, the children were all unsettled, chirping and rustling about. I remember smiling to myself; I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.


All at once a strange kind of feeling came flowing out of my heart area, unlike anything I’d ever felt before. That was all I could comprehend at first. In slow motion, I then identified it as a good feeling—in fact, a wonderful feeling. Next, to my amazement, I realized that it was originating from somewhere else, not inside of me. At that point I remember backing out of myself so I could see what was going on. Then the answer came. What I felt was God’s love; God was loving the children through me.


For a long time after, things went on pretty much as before. I made some new friends and began feeling more comfortable in life. Still I had no idea my Jyorei journey was underway.


I remember one gloomy, rain–drenched day when a few of us gathered at the Hollywood Center on our way to have the very first Jyorei session at our new Pasadena Center.* When the storm washed me in through the Hollywood Center back door, I found one of our youngsters seated there, quietly waiting. “Ohhhhh!” I groaned. “What do you think of all this rain?” For a long moment she was silent, seeming almost to go into a trance. Then suddenly she brightened. “Rainbow waterfalls!!!” she announced. We both laughed, and the world was transformed. All the rest of that day I felt happy and uplifted in the rain.


In 1998 we were visited by a group of Japanese children who gave us a stirring outdoor presentation of their many talents. By coincidence, on the evening before, I’d been treated to a delightful lecture about all the world’s animals given at garden–side by one of our local children. Both times I was deeply touched. The second night, after the talent show, I drifted to my car reviewing a flock of happy memories, got in, inserted the key, and suddenly found myself weeping uncontrollably.

“Why on earth am I crying?” I asked the car. The answer came from somewhere else. For the first time in my sixty-seven years on earth, I wanted children of my own.


On my Jyorei journey, I learned to know intense grief as well as extreme happiness. It was grief that finally forced me out of the computer room. Realizing that I simply had to be with people, I started showing up uninvited at all of our meetings. In this way I managed to keep myself functioning, but also, to my surprise, I found that I really liked being there with the others. And deep inside, through all that was happening, I began to sense a kind of sea change in myself.


I remember so many things from along my way. There was the time I walked in the back door at Hollywood and was greeted by one of our children who I thought was still too young to talk. He came up to me holding one of his hands aloft in the Jyorei position and proudly proclaimed, “My mommy is doing this!”

There was also the Sunday morning when, as I sat in the Hollywood sanctuary near Sampai time, one of our youngest marched in bearing a toy rabbit that was virtually as tall as she was. She circled around and appeared in the aisle beside me, then stepped closer and, giving me an intensely serious look, plunked the rabbit down in my lap.


In my mind, to this day that rabbit still receives Jyorei with me and all the rest of my Shumei family—the family I have gained and grown up with on my Jyorei journey.