The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Campus Now > Messages to Their Second Century (May)

Campus Now


Messages to Their Second Century

Emotion, Hope, and Ingenuity - Three Words for a Richer Life

Mr. Taido Matsubara
Former Chief Priest of Ryugenji Temple

We had the opportunity for Mr. Taido Matsubara, who is now over 100, to look back at his university days at the beginning of the Showa period (1926) and tell us about his wonderful days with friends and the teachers he respected.

Teachers Who Were Born in the Meiji Period and Taught Life Lessons

- Mr. Matsubara, you entered Waseda University from Waseda Senior High School, but what was your reason for choosing Waseda among multiple academic centers?

While going to Takawana Junior High School, I had the opportunity to hear a speech by Mr. Okuma, a statesman and the founder of Waseda University. His speech in which the sentences ended with the emphatic phase "aru n dearu" was intriguing, and I thought, "I want to go to Waseda!" I proceeded on to the university's School of Humanities and Social Sciences via Waseda Senior High School, and I didn't go to Keio University which was very close to my house.

- What kind of atmosphere did Waseda University have during the 1930s?

It was right at the time of the worldwide economic depression, and the whole country was suffering. There were many students from agricultural areas at Waseda, and some of them were paying their way through school and driven into a financial corner. Also at that time, left wing thought was popular, and all of the early faces, such as Ikuo Ohyama and Tsunao Inomata, were at Waseda, too. People would take down the university's sign and hang a sign on which was written Communist Party University. Looking back on it now, I think it was nearly an emergency situation. Marxism was one popular thing among young people, and I too was doing things such as listening to the classes of teachers of left wing thought between my humanities classes and reading all of Marx and Engel's writings.

One day while I was out, I heard that the Special Higher Police came to my house and forced their way into my studying room. A police officer tried to take a Marx book that was on my desk, and my father prevented him from doing so by saying to him, "If you're going to take one of them, take all of them. If you can't do that, you should pull me away." He was a very understanding father. At that time, I was told by my father, "The young people of today are forgetting their bodies and going only with their heart. The body and heart are one, so don't you need to think of the front and back as one?" This became a great hint as I led the rest of my life. Also, left-wing thought goes well with Zen ideas, so it also helped me in my understanding of Zen.

Each Individual Person is Like One Mesh of a Net

- Are there any teachers or lectures that left an impression on you?

In our days, there were no teachers who stood behind a podium and lectured. They walked among the students or sat down in empty chairs, and I feel it was a very frank atmosphere. Not only the students but also the teachers were unrefined.

One teacher that I respected was Mr. Shoyo Tsubouchi. I often took his lectures on Shakespeare. He was a very unique teacher who would create "personality" while reading his lines. Speaking of Mr. Tsubouchi, when the Duke of Connaught visited Japan, he was requested to give him a lecture, but he refused using illness as a reason, but in actuality, he was giving a speech at the opening ceremony for the Okuma Auditorium. The way he didn't yield to authority was a great pleasure to us, and we felt it was very Waseda-like.

I also owe Mr. Yaichi Aizu a lot. Now, this would probably be a problem, but he was a Waseda-like teacher who would call his student somewhat negative words for "you" such as temei or omae. He was very kind and lent me many books while I was doing my graduation thesis. It wasn't limited to Mr. Aizu, but at the time teachers would give us travel expenses for seminars in the countryside and shared pleasures and pains with their students.

I also never forget the lectures of the poet Yaso Saijo or tanka poet Utsubo Kubota. Mr. Kubota's lecture on the Tale of Genji was a wonderful thing. Also from time to time, the students would spur him on, the conversation would digress, and he would share a recent tanka poem with us. In his final lecture, he wrote, as a farewell gift, this poem in beautiful characters on the blackboard.

Hodo mo naku Utsuriyuku beki ie to mizu shoji no yabure wo tsukuroi ni keri.

Soon, the unseen house to be moved to, the ripped shoji door's mending completed At the time, I took it as a poem about the etiquette of cleaning and changing the shoji, a door made of Japanese paper, when you move, but later I came to understand the deep meaning infused in this poem. It means just as we change houses, we quickly move from life to death, and our life is over, but we should correct our mistakes. The teachers who were born in the Meiji period (1868 - 1912) taught us many useful life lessons.

There were also strict teachers. Mr. Genyoku Kuwaki, a professor of the history of western philosophy, was one teacher who I never saw smile during my time at the university. While many teachers came to class 20 minutes late, Mr. Kuwaki was so strict with time that, for our class at 8 am on Monday, he would come to class before the student and would lock the classroom when class started and not allow anyone who was late to come inside. On one Monday morning, we had to go to Jingu stadium to get tickets for the final Waseda-Keio baseball game, and not one student came to class. The next Monday when we went to class, the lecture was one section ahead. We asked, "Did you go on with class even though no one was here?" He responded without cracking a smile, "I gave the lecture to the desks and chairs. They were very good listeners." I couldn't tell if he was joking or not.

As I get older, I remember the things the teachers said one by one. I wonder if that isn't what true learning is.

- What do you think is required of Japanese in the current world?

What I'm sensing is that people today, young and old, are arrogant. Now, when I reread Pascal's Pensées, there were many points that should be reflected on. Pensées says, "Humans are the weakest in nature," "Only humans know death," and "They are leaves which rustle in the wind, but they have the ability to think." The humble feeling that the universe and nature are more amazing than humans, learning from all things, and thinking are important.

After the war, Japanese were taught, as part of the policy of the occupying army, to advocate the self. However, if each one of them advocates the self, they will clash and trouble will occur. Therefore, how about thinking in this way? Because in an organization each person is like one mesh of a net, you cannot remove just one. The way each mesh lives while giving life to the others or gives life to others while giving life to itself is the relationship of the whole and the part. A person is nothing more than one mesh in a net, and there is no such thing as the self there. What is important is mutual cooperation and consolation, not if it's good for me then no one else matters.

- Please give us a message for all of our readers.

Emotion, hope, and ingenuity - I recommend living by these three words.

First, concerning emotion, if you think everything is common, there is no development. When you are 100, you are emotionally moved just by waking up in the morning and being alive. Then, I think today I want to write this or read that. I heard this story from a friend. A detective was asked by the station chief, "Were you thankful or emotionally moved this morning?" When he answered honestly saying, "No, I wasn't," his boss chastised him saying, "How can a person who's doing an important job like being a detective have no emotion!" Then, I heard my friend intuitively remembered Basho Matsuo's "When closely inspected, nazuna in bloom, under the hedge." If you ask me, I think that the more you refine the heart's receiver, the more you can be moved by any small thing. If you always have a sense of learning anything, you can also postpone getting old and senile. In order to train the heart's receiver, what is necessary is reading. I believe at the root of all crimes is a lack of ability to think. Shouldn't people today strengthen their ability to think by reading and writing?

Next is hope. Don't give hope only to yourself but also to others. Being useful to other people will become your purpose in life. When you face adversity, become ill, or are placed in a negative situation, think of being useful to people, because the part of you that knows pain can console other people from the heart, and this saves both you and the other person.

In order to realize your hopes, what is needed is ingenuity. Please try to think about how to change a negative situation into a positive one. I think you will find purpose in life by changing negatives to positives. The encouragement and comeback of people who have been ill or failed in life can cheer up people who are in the same circumstances. We say "always rise after a fall," and even if there are setbacks, if you hold onto something and grab a hint to your recovery, you will become a stronger person, because there are some things that can only be known if you've fallen once. Enrich your life with the "three positive words."

Taido Matsubara

He was born in Tokyo in 1907 and graduated from Waseda University's School of Humanities and Social Sciences in 1931. He then studied at Zuigenji Temple's Zen Training Monastery and in 1951 became the Myoshin Branch of the Rinzai school of Buddhism's dean of religion. He was the head priest of the Ryugenji Temple in Mita, Tokyo until 1977. The book he wrote when he was 64, Hannya Shingyo Nyumon or "Introduction to the Heart Sutra," became a major best seller, and up until this point he has authored more than 130 books. Even currently having surpassed the age of 100, he works on writing. Among his recent works is Jinsei-wo Yutaka-ni Ikiru 12-sho "Omakase Suru Kokoro" - de Raku-ni Naru or "12 Chapters for Living a Rich Life, Be Comfortable by "Leaving Your Heart to Others" (Shodensha).