It dropped from the sky just three days after the other one. The first was an atom bomb, the equivalent of 15 thousand tons of TNT that exploded above Hiroshima, Japan. The second was a plutonium bomb that fell on less than 200 miles away on Nagasaki. Never in the history of humankind had a single weapon—two it seems—created such mass and catastrophic devastation.
About half the population of these two cities died instantly as their bodies evaporated into nothing or their flesh was ripped or burned off. In the weeks and months that followed, others died from their burns, radiation sickness, malnutrition and other injuries. And for years, other victims, and their offspring, suffered a variety of cancers and birth defects.
By any account, it was horrible.
We will not discuss the justifications here; people all over the world can justify what they do to fellow humans in the name of whatever they are preserving or fighting for.
As we remember these events 70 years later, perhaps we can take away some lessons.
I heard on a news report this week that the Japanese people are not bitter. Hmmmmm, not bitter? How could this be?
Then I heard the name of the memorial at Hiroshima is not called a war memorial, it’s called a peace memorial. Wow. I don’t recall ever seeing a peace memorial in America, or anywhere else for that matter. In fact, if you Google “peace memorial,” the first several hits you see are for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Compare this to the attack on the twin towers in New York on 9/11/2001. Americans were incensed that they would a) be attacked on their home soil, and b) innocent civilians would be the target of the attack.
Home soil and civilians. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
On 9/11 just under three thousand people died (2,977) that day or from conditions that resulted. Even though the attack was the work of a handful of extremist terrorists, we’ve been killing Muslims ever since. Even today, most Americans are anti-Muslim because of the actions of a few.
In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, somewhere between 200 and 300 thousand people died.
Yet the country is not bitter?
I am struggling to understand why there is such a contrast. Surely is it more than time.
Certainly Buddhism teaches the importance of forgiveness. But so does Christianity! Here are compelling examples from both:
Kiyoko Tanimoto, a Hiroshima survivor who found it impossible to forgive, until…
I lay there buried alive under our house when the bomb hit our city. The bomb started great fires. The fires came nearer and nearer to us as workers tried to reach us. “Hurry!” they cried to one another as the flames came nearer. At last the workers reached us and pulled me and my mother out from under everything, before the flames reached us.”
Now later, as I thought of the pilot of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on our city, I cried, “I hate him. I hate him.” The people with marked faces from the effects of the bomb made me cry, “I hate him.” I saw people suffering a terrible, slow death. Again and again I cried, as I saw these people, “I hate that pilot, I hate him!”
I HATED HIM
Now some time later I was in USA and that pilot appeared in a meeting I attended. As I looked at him, I hated him with a bitter hatred.
But then I listened to what he told us of his experience the day when he dropped the bomb on our city. I heard him say, “When I flew over the city after we dropped the bomb, I cried, ‘O God, what have I done’.” I realized he found it difficult to speak of that day. He could hardly speak for tears.
As this happened I suddenly realized my hatred of him was wrong. It only made me unhappy also. As I did this, it was as if a heavy load fell off my shoulders. I cried, “God, help me to forgive him. Please God, forgive my wrong feelings towards him. Please give me Your Spirit to control my thoughts.”
I also told God, “I am sorry for all my wrong thoughts.” I believe Jesus Christ died for my sin. As I did this my life was changed.
I now help people that suffer from hating other people. I seek to help them to love everyone, as I am now able to do.*
Not specifically related to the Japanese bombings, I found the following muse on Forgiveness and Buddhism written by Anh-Huong, a Vietnamese refugee turned journalist:
In Buddhist teaching, happiness can only be recognized against the background of suffering. To be really happy, we should cultivate understanding and compassion. It is by getting in touch with the suffering that understanding comes and compassion arises. But sometimes when we suffer so much, we just can’t forgive. Or we don’t want to forgive. We are afraid that if we forgive someone for his cruel act, our suffering won’t be adequately heard. So we let these acts of cruelty continue. In the midst of our pain and fear, we remember everything except that the other person caused us to suffer because he has so much suffering in his heart. Like garbage and flowers, anger and love – as well as suffering and happiness – have an organic nature. A good organic gardener doesn’t see the garbage as his enemy. He knows that he can use the garbage to make compost to enrich the soil, and the garbage can be transformed into flowers. He doesn’t have a dualistic viewpoint. That is why he is at peace with the flowers and at peace with the garbage. Without the garbage, he can’t have beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables.
The practice of forgiveness is the practice of understanding and compassion. Understanding is the substance of true love and true compassion. If love is in our heart, every thought, word, and action can bring about a miracle. **
* I COULD NOT FORGIVE by Kiyoko Tanimoto. Retrieved from: http://www.socialstudieshelp.com/lesson_95_notes.htm
**The Power of forgiveness By Anh-Huong http://www.thepowerofforgiveness.com/pdf/Forgiveness_in_Buddhism.pdf