In Solidarity with Ukraine
Reverend Matt Hamasaki, Resident Minister

Minister's Blog

August 2022

This month, the Sacramento Betsuin is putting on a fundraiser for humanitarian efforts to help the people of Ukraine. It will be on Saturday, August 13, at 2 p.m. called “Songs in Solidarity with Ukraine” and features performances of songs.

The event is free, but donations are welcome to go to the cause. The reason for this event is, of course, the ongoing conflict with Russia. The Buddhist Churches of America Ministers Association has put out a statement on the conflict as follows:

“Guided by the Buddhist principles of Wisdom & Compassion, the Ministers Association of the Buddhist Churches of America opposes the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Buddha taught that Greed, Hatred, and Ignorance are poisons, and we see all three fueling this war.

“Wisdom recognizes that all things are interconnected, and the fallout from this war will affect not only the innocent civilians and refugees but so many others as well, from the soldiers on both sides to the environment and to the entire world.

“Buddha’s Compassion recognizes that all life has value and happiness for all beings is the ideal. This is seen in the Metta Sutta with the aspiration, ‘May all beings be happy—May they be joyous and living in safety.’ Our founder, Shinran Shonin, expressed the wish, ‘May there be peace in the world.’ We are in favor of relief to the victims, and call for this war to end.”

To add to the statement, I believe that the ambitions of nations are the result of the ignorance of individuals. When we look at ourselves, we see that we care deeply about ourselves. We want to be happy and healthy. We want food, shelter, and things that bring us joy. However, we do not stop at the minimum nor are we ever satisfied.

The Buddha said that even if it rained gold coins, we would not be fulfilled. Human nature is to be voraciously selfish. And, on the contrary, the world and everything in it is finite. Thus, we come into conflict when we want something that makes another happy for ourselves because they will put up resistance. This seems quite common sense but, even so, we have not found a different way.

Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, said, “We are all militarists and imperials” when asked about a pacifist position. I think that this is built into not just the Russian culture but in American, Japanese, and many other cultures: to fight and take until we can rule the world.

Thus, we must search ourselves for the source of this conflict and uproot it at the cause. The Buddha said, “Searching all directions with your awareness, you find no one dearer than yourself. In the same way, others are thickly dear to themselves. So you shouldn’t hurt others if you love yourself.”

Ironically, by understanding how much we care about ourselves, we begin to understand why we should care about others. That if they love themselves as much as we love ourselves, how could we possibly impose on anyone?

Then comes the action from such a realization. It is wonderful that we have opportunities to give funds to those that need help, and I am proud of our temple for putting on such a show of solidarity. On top of this, we must continue to live in a way that does not hurt others, raise our children to live the same way, and make sure that those that represent us share those values. In doing so, we can create a nation and, hopefully, a world that believes that it is possible for all of us to coexist in a peaceful way.