Nick Crabb, a Peace Partners volunteer living in Japan, recently interviewed Max Whittle, an integral member of the Kifubon project since its inception. We are very pleased to present Nick’s interview in full. Following the interview is some information about Kifubon in the UK.
To help create a culture of empathy and compassion, the Kifubon Project has now donated over 15,000 books to a variety of settings in Japan and the rest of the world. I spoke to Max Whittle about the Kifubon Project, how it is run and the challenges it has faced.
Hi Max, what does "kifubon" mean? And what does it mean to you?
Well, "kifubon" can be translated into the sharing of books in a society, and I suppose the theme of the Kifubon Project is the sharing of knowledge that's of value to humanity as a whole. Bunya publishing, who run the project, have the motto of "books for 100 years". The project therefore focuses on books with long-lasting messages of peace that people will still want to read even as times and technologies change. The project takes books that have value and creates a system for sharing them. People who enjoy one of the project's books can pay for one or several books to be donated to schools, hospitals, prisons etc., and help spread the book's message of peace. One book can stay where it's donated for decades and have a huge reach. For example, over 15,000 books have been donated in total, with about 30 to 40 people reading them, so hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from these books.
Could you tell us about the author of these books?
Prem Rawat, who is a peace activist that has addressed international audiences of over 15 million people and who's talks have been translated into over 75 languages. Prem's message has touched me personally and had a positive effect on my life. He has been travelling for more than 50 years, and I have travelled with him and seen how busy his schedule is. It has been Prem's quest to educate people about peace and how it's a daily choice we each have to make so we can all live in a kinder world. The Kifubon Project is another avenue for Prem to spread his message.
What are these books about?
Splitting the Arrow, which is titled "Peace is Possible" in the UK, was the first book Bunya publishing produced with Prem. This book contains short quotes and stories, and teachings from Prem's addresses through the years. The opening short story is called the Pot with the Hole, which was so popular it became a standalone book and animation.Of course everyone has their own interpretation, but for me, the core message of these books is that peace is not about countries coming together and signing a treaty etc. Instead, peace is something that manifests within a person. When this happens, the person needs an understanding and awareness that they are experiencing a feeling of well-being, of harmony and of things being right. However, this only sets them up, and they still have to choose to be more kind to others. Making this choice allows them to share their peace, not by them preaching, but by their mood and their positive effect on other people. If you scale this up, then hopefully you achieve more harmonious schools, workplaces, societies, countries and even planet. You cannot start from the planet and scale down with treaties. In the times we are living in, achieving peace of any kind can seem impossible, so we need to concentrate on ourselves and what we can do to bring ourselves to a peaceful and harmonious state. This is not an easy task, but it's not an impossible one.
How can people donate money to the Kifubon Project? How does the process work in Japan?
Originally, Bunya publishing received donations mainly from within Japan, but also from outside, via the Kifubon homepage. There are now other Kifubon projects that have taken up the mantle in different countries.
In Japan, books are donated to hospitals, prisons and orphanages, as well as nurseries, schools, high schools and universities. In particular, boards of education have ordered large numbers of books, as they consider the messages of empathy, compassion and mutual understanding to be part of their curriculum. Further, bullying is a huge problem in Japan, with bullies and those bullied lacking a level of comfort and respect for themselves. We have sent books to schools across Japan, and in many cases received messages of thanks from them.
Sending books to so many places sounds like a massive undertaking. How is the project structured and run?
The set-up is simple with Bunya publishing running a website for the two books, Splitting the Arrow and the Pot with the Hole. People can then donate the books to institutions, as well as suggest new institutions or avenues for the project. Bunya have a warehouse for storage and an internal communication network to send books where they are needed. Bunya publishing also have a PR representative when sending the books to new places or institutions.
What kind of challenges has the Kifubon Project faced?
At the beginning of the project, there was a lot of red tape. Of course you cannot just send books into an education system or prison. You need permission, at the very least from the people running the institution and sometimes from the government itself. In Japan, our PR representative visited the board of education and those running prisons in the government to get approval. We've since used this process for all the institutions that we send books to. Once in place, the process is relatively simple.
Another challenge is that Bunya publishing has to package and send thousands of books, while also making a profit and ends meet. However, we receive letters thanking us for the books. We received one such letter from a person in prison, who could not see a way out and had lost hope and the will to live. They saw a blue book in the library and took it from the shelf. As they read the book, they became filled with hope. They then signed up for an Inner Peace class, where, by coincidence, they saw a video of Prem Rawat giving teachings on peace. For the first time in a long time, they breathed some hope. Letters like these are our reward for the whole system working, and make everything worthwhile.
That's a very moving story, and I'm glad that some of the peace comes back to you and the great work you do. Thank you very much for your time Max.
In the UK the Kifubon project is called Bedrock Books. So far nearly a thousand books have been donated to prisons, family refuges and children's hospitals in the UK. The new title 'Peace is Possible' (an English language version of Splitting the Arrow) will be published in the UK in the summer of 2019. Prior to publication and once published, there will be several ways to support the UK Kifubon project. To find out more write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to donate one or more copies of this forthcoming book via the Kifubon project, you can do so now as Bedrock Books will be pre-ordering copies of the new title. Please go to the funding page for Bedrock Books.
Find out more about UK Kifubon projects here.