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A Jewel Shining in the Pitch-Dark Cosmos

Editor’s note: Rev. Giei Sasaki was the 2023 International Ministers Orientation Program (IMOP) minister. Rev. Sasaki holds the position of Bishop at the Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto, Japan, where he is involved in training students, and has the special title within Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha of “Shikyo,” which literally means “conduct training” in English. “Shikyo” is the second-highest academic position in Jodo Shinshu studies. Rev. Sasaki teaches at Ryukoku University and the Central Buddhist Institute.

Rev. Sasaki will submit future columns on occasion and the BCA Wheel of Dharma is honored to publish them.


A Beautifully Blue Oasis 

“As I looked down, I saw a large river meandering slowly along for miles, passing from one country to another without stopping. I also saw huge forests, extending along several borders. And I watched the extent of one ocean touch the shores of separate continents. Two words leaped to mind as I looked down on all this: commonality and interdependence. We are one world.”

— John-David F. Bartoe, Research Manager forthe International Space Station at NASA's Johnson Space Center

These are the words of an astronaut who flew aboard a Space Shuttle that was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

From the window of the space station at an altitude of 400 kilometers, the Earth appears like a brilliant blue jewel shining in the pitch-dark cosmos, with the great rivers, forests, and land harmonizing each other, which could be said is forming one world. 

The Earth that orbits the Sun, which emits tremendous energy, is said to be a planet whose diameter is only 1/109th that of the sun. Even the sun is simply one of the many ordinary stars within the vast universe that contains an ocean of stars which includes many giant stars that are even hundreds of times larger than the sun. We are living in a tiny solar system oasis in the unfathomable depths of space. 

Our Irreplaceable Star 

It is said that the Earth is estimated to be 4.6 billion years old and the start of human evolution began some 5 million years ago. Suppose the Earth is 365 days old. The age of human life would only be a few hours old. Over such a short time, we have achieved remarkable advancements. But at the same time, we never stop pursuing our own profits while destroying nature and fighting against each other.

For what are we living for? It might be a good opportunity for us to consider this with the image of the Earth, an irreplaceable blue planet, in our mind. The sense that we are living in the same world could easily be lost while we are taken up with our daily routines, and it may be difficult for us to relate to each and every tragedy that is constantly taking place somewhere in the world. 

Many astronauts including the aforementioned have expressed that “We are one world.” What should we learn from this? 

Let It Spread, the Feeling of Fellowship 

Sakyamuni Buddha, who shared the principle of impermanence, taught that all things are constantly changing and nothing remains in the same state. The same goes for the Earth as well as ourselves. Seeing Earth from the spacecraft, it could be said that the astronauts were greatly impacted by the beauty of how every life lives and supports each other while all things and matters constantly change. 

The following quote can be found in the “Record of Rennyo Shonin's Words and Deeds”: “Since we all are the object of Amida Buddha’s compassionate working, we are enabled to receive the same Shinjin (entrusting heart) from the Buddha. In this sense, everyone in this world is our brother and sister.” 

What is meant by this is that those who recite the Nembutsu are aware that they are embraced by Amida Buddha’s great compassion in which they are able to be together with those who have gone to the Pure Land before them. 

When he said this, Rennyo Shonin must have felt deep empathy toward all people who live their lives earnestly, though it may not always be easy and smooth without averting their eyes from their own bonno, human desires. 

Now is the time for us to destroy the stupid obstruction that we, human beings,created ourselves and share the feeling of fellowship that we all are irreplaceable fellow living beings. This feeling is none other than the image of the brilliantly blue gem shining in the pitch-dark universe in which all rivers, forests, and continents come together as one.


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