Buddhist Monks at Eiheiji Temple Raise an Alarm over Nuclear Power
Some priests at Eiheiji Temple, which is one of the head temples of Soto Zen (school) in Fukui Prefecture, hosted a symposium on denuclearization on November 2nd. On the other hand, the Noda Administration has resumed operation at the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant (Kyusyu Electric Power Company) and reconfirmed the export of nuclear power generation system to Vietnam. Supporters of nuclear power plants are now hitting rewind, but the symposium with citizens and Buddhist monks might trigger a change in our way of living.
The elegant image of Guanyin, the Mercy Goddess, on the wall scroll in the middle of the stage was attracting the attention of the audience. There burning incense sticks and candles were in front of the picture, and the sound of reciting the sutras was filled with the place. The symposium – Cherish Our Lives ~ The Way of Living that We don’t Choose Nuclear Power Generation~ began.
About 300 people including priests got together at the place. The speakers were Mr. Kenichi Hasegawa, 58, the cattle farmer in Fukushima, and Tetsuen Nakajima, 69, the chief priest at Myotsuji Temple in Fukui, who has kept on leading the movement against nuclear power generation for more than 40 years.
Mr. Hasegawa told about lives in Iidate-mura village, Fukushima after the accident, showing images on the screen. “When I measured radiation dose around my house, the meter indicated over 100 micro Sv and went off the scale. Nevertheless, the government forbid me to say anything about the high levels of radiation to people and invited some experts who just kept saying, “It’s safe,” and they never let people evacuate.”
He made a heartbreaking decision to destroy his cattle and leave his hometown. He has lost everything he has built for 35 years of his life. One of his friends, who was also a cattle farmer, hang himself, leaving the dying message, “If there had be no nuclear power plant…” An old man at the age of 102 killed himself because he did not want to act as a drag when his family took shelter. As Mr. Hasegawa was talking, some people sobbed in the audience. “Pigs are eating bodies of starved cows. That’s the actual condition in Iidate now,” said Mr. Hasegawa.
Next, Priest Nakajima pointed out the “sin” of the nuclear power plant which has made more than 470,000 workers exposed to radiation for 40 years. He claimed, “At the root of this problem, Japan has walked the path of modernization by making “Escaping Asia for Europe” its national policy without looking at the negative side. We should start with transforming our societies away from being wasters of energy.”
Mrs. Yoko Watanabe, 62, a participant at the symposium in Fukui, said, “Many meetings for anti-nuke have been held here and there, but today’s one is meaningful because it’s held by a Buddhist temple.” There are, however, many nuclear power plants along Wakasa Bay, and lots of Soto Zen believers work at those plants. That is why, most people involved in the nuclear power plants said in a passive tone about denuclearization.
Some journalists asked the relation between Eiheiji Temple and the nuclear power plants at the news conference after the symposium. There is an episode about naming the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju and the advanced thermal reactor Fugen. Both reactors are in Fukui Prefecture, and Monju and Fugen are names of Bodhisattvas. The previous chairman of Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation has visited the temple and said, “We named the reactors Monju and Fugen because we want to get the power from those Bodhisattvas.” At that time, the Zen Master at the temple replied, “That’s nice.” Journalists asked the temple, “Does it mean the temple accepted the nuclear power plants?” Priest Matsubara answered to the question, “No, we don’t think so. But it is true that we have not done anything about the nuclear power generation. We have realized that the nuclear power generation goes against life on the earth.”
Priest Wajo Kansya in Fukuoka Prefecture, acclaimed the symposium, saying, “It’s unprecedented. I think Eiheiji Temple did a great thing.” He leads denuclearization under his wife influence, who published a book on anti-nuke after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1987. He said, “The movement of rethinking about the nuclear power generation has begun in the world of Buddhists, not only in Soto Zen. I have a high degree of expectation for the movement.”