By Naomi Yakawich
Swami Shantatmananda, Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission in New Delhi, India visited Japan for the first time on September 24, 2018. The Mission has partnered with Global Peace Foundation (GPF) India in leadership and interfaith initiatives.
His visit, hosted by GPF Japan, represented by Mr. Aya Goto, and Mr. Hideo Kawabata, CEO of Fuji Suiso Kansha, included participation in seminars and visits to various partner organizations to strengthen international peacebuilding partnerships.
Throughout his visit, including at an evening seminar at the Yokohama RINRI Corporate Membership Organization, Swami Shantatmananda spoke on the significance of the unifying ideal and principles of One World Family (in India known as Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam) and developing personal growth through selfless service and the heart of genuine humility in having the opportunity to serve others. Other contributors to the seminar included Mr. Yasuhiko Okudera, the Chair of the Yokohama FC, a professional soccer team who shared his understanding of leadership and volunteer activities.
Taking a bullet train to Morioka, Iwate, the partnership group was joined by Japanese actors, sports figures, business leaders and those of the medical profession for a tour of the prefecture and special visits to three orphanages to encourage the facility staff and orphans.
During his visit, Swami Shantatmananda also visited a public elementary school in Tokyo to experience the Japanese school culture and participate in a valuable exchange on the issue of morality in education with the Vice Principal of the elementary school. In his own native India, the Swami has made significant contributions to moral education in many schools, and yet his visit to the active classrooms moved him when he witnessed the disciplined pupils’ routine to serve school lunches to their peers.
Swami Shantatmananda would go on to visit Meiji Shrine and Shibuya Town before going to Ginza at the center of Tokyo to deliver a speech on “Global Ethics and Volunteerism” for the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s appearance at the Chicago Parliament of the World’s Religions, a significant interfaith gathering over a century ago.
Swami Shantatmananda shared key points of Swami Vivekananda’s speech in Chicago in 1893, which included the proverbial story of “the frog in the well that knows nothing of the great ocean.” He emphasized that we need to help others not because we are superior and they are inferior but rather that we need to appreciate those in front of us because we are privileged to “develop good relations with them as our brothers and sisters as well as children of God.”
Mr. Kawabata also spoke on his intention to support children in education to raise them to be able to support their families, communities, and societies in the future. A Japanese Noh actor, several sports athletes, and business owners also shared their perspectives on volunteer activities and leadership at the seminar.
During the remainder of the trip, the group traveled to cultural sites in Kyoto, including famous temples, the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima and the beautiful Itsukushima Shrine, located in the ocean.
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