On Saturday, June 13, the Japan Center of Stony Brook University (JCSB) held its 15th Annual Essay Competition Award Ceremony. Unlike ceremonies of previous years, which were held at the Charles B. Wang Center, this ceremony was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
JCSB President Dr. Iwao Ojima delivered the opening remarks and introduced distinguished guests Ambassador Kanji Yamanouchi, Consul General of Japan in New York, and Kevin Ogawa, President and CEO, Canon USA. According to Dr. Eriko Sato, chair of the JCSB Essay Competition, 167 essays were submitted from 55 schools for the 15th competition, and seven essays were selected by a committee of judges headed by Chief Judge Sachiko Murata to receive cash awards ranging from $500 to $3,000. Additionally, each winner received a camera from Canon USA, a major sponsor of the event.
The winning essays can be found on the Japan Center at Stony Brook website.
Sailesh Srinivas, a junior at Stony Brook University, won the College Division Best Essay Award of the competition. He was presented with a $3,000 check, an award certificate and a Canon camera. In his award-winning essay, “The Walking of Mountains,” Sailesh states that he was, one day, intrigued by the aphorism, “If you doubt mountains’ walking, you do not know your own walking,” written by Zen Master Dōgen in his Mountains and Waters Sutra, and describes his attempt to understand its meaning and apply its significance to his life.
Srinivas hoped that his Sensei would guide him through the process of finding the answer to his search. In her interpretation, Sensei explained that a human being is no different from a mountain in that as each moment passes, the physical form of each is changed. However, she stressed that this form’s essence or Buddha nature lies beneath its physical form. She described this essence as having the characteristics of emptiness, being without ego, being connected to all beings as one and remaining unchanged.
Srinivas learned that “though things change, they are never gone.” He concluded, ”Zen teaches us that the real, or Buddha nature, lies within our hearts, the center of our being,” and Buddha teaches us that the human heart “holds all of our potential to become actualized and free from ego.”
Srinivas’ favorite subjects are Japanese Buddhism, organic chemistry, Islamic studies and physiology. He enjoys playing tennis, spending time with friends, exploring areas of the world and drinking tea. He hopes to be a pediatrician in the future.
Congratulations to all winners on their insightful essays that explored the effects of Japanese ideas and culture on their lives and society.
For more information visit the Japan Center at Stony Brook website.