The Land that showcased a humanistic religion

I seem to have read this somewhere. There were a lot of passengers on a train. It was a third class compartment. Among them was a village farmer who was chewing on sugarcane. He was spitting the chewed out cane inside the compartment. Fellow passengers were disgusted at this unsightly act. A Japanese passenger was seated in front of him. He was scooping the chewed out sugarcane skin into a piece of cloth. The farmer was amused. He was enjoying his spitting out part more than tasting the sweetness of the sugarcane. The other passengers were amazed. The Japanese passenger got out at the next station, and brought back a can of paint, a pair of scissors, along with a roll of thread and a needle. He opened up the piece of cloth, cut the chewed out skins into attractively designed bits, colored them and threaded them with the needle into fabulous garlands. He sold them to fellow passengers and got out of the train in the next station with a hefty wad of money. I do not know if this is true or a made-up story. But it does highlight the work culture of the Japanese.

Several years ago, an international conference was being held at Mysore University. At the same time, there was also a cricket match being held. There was no television then. All India Radio had complete monopoly. The Kannada News broadcasting duo, Upendra Rao/Nagamani S. Rao, had a distinct Kannada speaking style that none in the present day television can match. If any of our current ‘News Readers’ are offended by this statement, they need only to seek out the old recordings, listen to the clarity of their vibrant voice and their clear pronunciation of Kannada words and try to emulate them as much as possible.

The youth in those days liked to listen to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Radio Station in preference to the All India Radio. They had a passion to listen to Hindi film songs in the ‘Vividh Bharati’ program broadcast by Ceylon Radio. A large number of Indian delegates attending the conference in the field opposite the Crawford Hall had their ears glued to the transistors listening to either the songs or the cricket commentary. But a delegate from Japan, sitting in a corner of the field, was reading the list of research papers that were going to be presented at the conference! This is a true fact that was reported in the newspapers then.

Japanese by nature are hard workers and patriots. Even though they have minimal research of their own, they are experts in applying the basic findings reported by American and European Scientists into realistic useful materials. They are the best merchants who have succeeded in generating a craze, even among the Americans, for goods that are ‘Made in Japan”.  The popular dictum, ‘Work is worship’ that we hear during ‘Basava Jayanthi’, is really more transparent in the lifestyle of Japanese people. They never stoop to sink the companies in which they work by resorting to violent strikes demanding higher wages. That is not to say that there are no strikes in Japan. But the way they do it is different. Instead of shouting anti-company slogans, they exhibit their protest by wearing black cloth bands on their upper arms and working longer hours than usual increasing the company productivity and then demanding higher wages. If they did not have that kind of work ethics, the recent Tsunami catastrophe would have left Japan in an irrecoverable economic devastation. As per the saying, “When things get rough, remember: it is the rubbing that brings out shine!” there is no doubt that they will soon recover and get their country back on its firm feet.

The reason that I have elaborated on the facts above is that one Mrs. Aya Ikegame, a Japanese lady had come to our monastery with her husband and had stayed with us for three days. This lady, who could speak in Kannada very fluently, had visited us a couple of times before also. She is doing research on the topic, “Citizenship after Orientalism” at the University of Edinburgh in England. The main purpose of her visit to our monastery was to study the manner in which we conduct our weekly   “Holy Court” (Sadhdharma Nyayapeeta) on every Monday. Her special interest was to witness first hand how the monasteries in Karnataka, even being religious by nature, transform and operate as civic institutions and impart social service.

Quite naturally, our discussions focused on the Tsunami devastations that happened in her country. To start with, we ascertained the safety and well-being of their immediate relatives. With a choking voice, she described how her sister was driving her car on the sea shore just about 10-20 kilometers from the Tsunami-hit site and narrowly escaped the tragedy. On enquiring if the newspaper reports of widespread looting, theft, and robbery in the wake of Tsunami in Japan were true, that Japanese lady very proudly clarified the patriotic current that pervaded among her people, the manner in which they co-operated, united, and put up a marvelous humanistic front. She also elaborated on the differences that exist between the city folk from cities like Tokyo or Osaka and the rural folk. The city dwellers had bought and stored supplies for their daily use in excess of their requirements while the rural folk had shared what little they had among other villagers. Even the city folk, who had amassed the daily supplies, responding to the call of the government, had returned the excess supplies they had to meet the shortage of those supplies in the open market. As everyone knows, thousands of people were swept into the ocean by the monstrous waves of Tsunami. But those who survived did not snatch away their assets. The cars that were scattered on the roads were not stolen. They did not even pump out the gasoline from the abandoned cars. They obtained permits from the government to empty out the petrol from those cars because of fuel shortage. They did not steal. A Japanese citizen living in the distant USA wrote that he opted not to bring his parents to USA thinking that it would be a selfish act under the existing situation. Instead he chose to visit his motherland and help out in the rescue operations. He wrote, “I do not want to just sit in front of TV and cry because I see their tears. But I want to be of some help to the people of my country in their suffering.”

Dear Readers, is this not true patriotism and display of humanistic religion?


Sri Taralabalu Jagadguru

Dr Shivamurthy Shivacharya Mahaswamiji



Translated by
Dr Annapur Shivakumar
Chicago, USA