Parliament of the World’s Religions

Vol. 46

Although I have been experiencing extraordinarily various experiences in my life so far, I was truly amazed by the following experience.

There is a conference called “Parliament of the World’s Religions” founded in 1970. Representatives from various religions from all over the world join the international non-governmental organization (NGO), and to aim at cooperation for peace by doing dialogue and symposium. This “Parliament of the World Religious Conference” are held once in four years and this year was in Toronto. A sudden call came from my best friend who was preparing for this conference, who said “there will be various religions, over 200 of world religions but no one will come from Shinto of Japan. I have not heard back from the International Shinto Foundation for the UN. Even I have been calling them all the time. I replied “because you still have time, I will look for a shrine and priest foe you who can speak English and manage to come from Japan”, but she said she was extremely in a hurry because the deadline was next week.

I wonder if you are Japanese, you have memories of going out to the festivals held at the shrine of your area. At that time, have you noticed often that the shrine and the temple are standing next to each other? Because the shrine is a Shinto and the temple is a base of Buddhism, it is originally completely two separate religions. It is strange to see that these exist next to each other and coexist. Buddhism and Shinto culture that were supposed to be totally different were mixed and the state of being fused.

This is actually very strange in the world, but it is very common in Japan.

I always thought, “There are no other countries where two distinctly different religions coexist peacefully for centuries”. “This might be the way to lead to the world peace” I said. I was really surprised, but my father and mother raised me with the teachings of Shinto, and for the elementary school I was put into a school of the Shinto system of the dormitory style. This school was closed crushed at the end of the war by USA.

I always accept everything from the universe as a message from the universe, and my way of living is always to answer “YES” at any opportunity, so I decided to accept this mission anyway.

Usually they talk to the leaders of each religion, because of this, I was so surprised but at that time it was just before I plan to visit Japan for a week, so I immediately called Mr. Guuji the head abbot of Tenkawa Shrine in Nara. I also thought it was better to do in a discussion form with Shigeru Nakagaki of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.

Tennkawa Shrine is in Yoshino mountain in Nara Prefecture, deep in the mountain, the official name is “Tenkawa Dai-Benzaiten-sha”. It is known as the shrine of Art, the place where Sarasvati of India is enshrined, and also known as the god of water. I was ordained in 2016 as Shinto Priestess there.

It has been said that Tenkawa shrine is known as “a place where, unless you are called by the God you cannot visit easily,” and in the past, it took about 3-4 days from Kyoto. Now we have four tunnels, so we can get there from Kintetsu Yoshino line Shimoichi station (after about two hours from Kyoto), for about 40 minutes by car. I was originally brought there by a person for the first time in Heisei 2 (1990). When arriving I felt that “here is the place where real Shinto is so alive centuries and centuries”, I was overwhelmed. At the time of arrival, Kakisaka, head Guuji (abbot) was absent, and his son Masataka who will be the next shrine’s head Guuji was there at that time and did the rutual of Shinto for mw. He said, “I am indebted to your brother.” When I asked why,he explained that It was my brother and film artist Hitoshi Tatsumura visited Tenkawa Shrine many times for “the Gaia Symphony” to create a series of movies and photographed all the festivals. What does it mean to me who did not know anything about this connection? If you are interested please see the Gaia Symphony, series of remarkable 8 films of Soul Searching in Nature.

Shinto culture and way of thinking is soaked deeply into the spirit of the Japanese people, and even Japanese who believe in any other religion, Shintoism can be said in ourselves a hometown in a sense. Since then, I feel that Tenkawa Shrine is my home and I will drop in always every time I go to Japan.

Originally published as Vol. 46 in Weekly Biz, November, 2018; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz



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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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