Don Giussani with Shodo Habukawa

“Monsignor Luigi Giussani is a Part of Me”

In 1987, Professor Shodo Habukawa invited Fr. Giussani to speak to his monks. After twenty years, he who is now Supreme Chief of the Shingon Buddhism, remembers that first embrace.
Shôdô Habukawa

In this life, I will never forget this remarkable day, the 28th of June in 1987 at one o’clock, when Monsignor Luigi Giussani appeared in front of my eyes in a dazzling clear light, the characteristic light of the beginning of summer.

For a little time, we embraced each other in silence; no word was needed. The strong emotion of this first encounter has remained, unforgettable, in my body.
After a short break, we went to visit the treasure house Reihokan, where, amid the many exhibits, a scroll of the thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva captured the interest of Monsignor Giussani. I explained the meaning of the thousand arms of Kannon Bodhisattva, the numberless ways of saving sentient beings from their suffering, and I heard that after that Monsignor Giussani always kept an offered picture of this Bodhisattva with him.

In the evening of that day, we went to my affiliated University of Koyasan, where we met for a dialogue with the then–University President Dr. Takagi Shingen, the ex-President Dr. Matsunaga Yukei, the attendant Dr. River, and the journalist Roberto Fontolan.

Old friends
Monsignor Giussani was well informed about the historical facts of Kukai Kobo Daishi’s transmission of the Esoteric Buddhist Teaching, Mikkyo, originated in India and transmitted by Kukai to Japan from China. Monsignor Giussani was also informed about Kukai’s foundation of a public university for Arts and Sciences about 1,200 years ago.

Different from the university for members of the aristocracy existent at the beginning of the Heian period around 800 AD, Kukai, looking beyond the members of the aristocratic society, founded a school open to all citizens with full study and life support. In Kukai’s holistic, all-inclusive spirit, the students were required to study national and foreign subjects.

In the Heian period, there was only the National University for the formation of officials.

In opposition, Kobo Daishi’s religious school offered an education for the common people.

This was the topic discussed during this first encounter with Msgr. Giussani, which created a common bond between us, giving the feeling of ten years of friendship.
After Monsignor Giussani returned to Italy, a letter came on September 19th with an invitation to participate in the Rimini Meeting [for Friendship Among Peoples]. Monsignor Giussani’s motivation was to offer the opportunity to study different cultures, for personal enrichment and better understanding of cultural differences, opening and enlarging the friendship among people. The Rimini Meeting was the manifestation of putting into practice this idea for one week, starting August 21st. More than 700,000 young people assembled at this giant encounter.

The following year, 1988, the then-President Dr. Takagi and ex-President Dr. Matsunaga of Koyasan University followed the invitation. During the conference, I recited an old poem as metaphor for our cultural exchange: “When the butterfly comes, the flower opens; when the flower opens, the butterfly comes.” I used this citation for the occasion of the cultural encounter between Christianity and its Christian culture and Buddhism and the Shingon Buddhist culture. I expressed our happiness for having started a friendship between the people of Italy and Japan.
In 1989, I was invited to present ideas on the mystic experience in the Shingon Mikkyo tradition. The assembly hall with a capacity of 10,000 people was filled with over-enthusiastic young and old people.

We participated in the yearly meeting until 2001.

After 2001 until today, Fr. Ambrogio Pisoni, a good friend of Monsignor Giussani, continues the exchange with the Koyasan University in the spirit of great compassion and unification.

The last meeting
In 1999, on August 23rd, I visited Monsignor Giussani in his home in Milan. This was the last day of our encounter. After three days, I spoke at the Rimini Meeting again about the mystic experience and friendship.

In this speech, I made references to Monsignor Giussani’s unification idea and related experience.

In Koyasan, every morning in our temple during meditation, we display pictures of Monsignor Giussani, who is now in Paradise with Fr. Francesco Ricci, with whom I had only short encounters. They have touched my heart and our dialogue continues without any limits. The marvelous landscapes of Italy and all the people who contribute continuously to our friendship joyfully manifest themselves in my mind. These brilliant shining images are impressed eternally in my heart.

On February 23, 2005, I received from Milan the unexpected sad message of the passing away of Monsignor Luigi Giussani. Since this message arrived, I always keep a photo of Monsignor Giussani with me to pray that he advise me on the way. I’m praying that our relationship remains eternal.