“I have only 200 yen in my purse. Please come home, darling.” My mother was crying down the phone to my father. This is my first memory as a child. At that time, my father was addicted to gambling. He seldom came home. My family was in extreme poverty, and the quarreling was endless. It was mayhem. I couldn’t stand being at home, so when I was in junior high school, I often stayed over at friends’ houses, wandering from one place to another, and finally I went off the right path. I smoked, joined a motorcycle gang, constantly got into fights and shoplifted, and was absorbed in gambling such as pachinko, horse racing, and mah-jong. I was suspended from school many times. My father would hit me and my mother would cry, but I blamed our poverty and my parents for my delinquency and would not listen to them at all. Even after I graduated from high school, I still played around downtown all night, and indulged in gambling. Yet I was not able to fill the emptiness in my heart.
In order to settle my heart, I got married and had two children. However, the debt I had accumulated from gambling led to a divorce, and I haven’t been allowed to see my children ever since. I got married again in spite of strong opposition, but the marriage ended in less than half a year. I didn’t know which way to go. I was just struggling and suffering in total darkness. Meanwhile, I was invited to a religious organization, Soka-gakkai. They said, “The faith we have is almighty and has the power to make all our wishes come true.” So I joined the organization, but it only deepened my suffering.
“If you leave this organization, we’ll put a curse on you!” They scared me out of quitting. Where are the true teachings? I looked for religions that would save me. I visited more than ten religious organizations, from Shinto-based new religions to Mormonism, and listened to their lectures. However, they just talked about their own religious experiences or praised their founder. No one actually taught the doctrine itself.
One day, I visited the headquarters of the Shingon school of Buddhism. I told a monk that I was said to be cursed. The monk said, “Oh, in that case, we could perform incantations to protect you against evil. We have two courses. One course costs 5,000 yen, and the other costs 10,000 yen.” “Well, then I’ll take the 10,000 yen course… NO!”
Is this really Buddhism? There is no teaching at all. It was so stupid of me to have been looking for something that doesn’t exist. I went downtown after dark again, wandering for temporary pleasure. Then, last April, I got an email. Somewhat sceptical, I joined the Buddhist lecture I had been invited to, which was held in Ms. Sakurai’s home. Ms. Sakurai also gave a speech at Gotan-e last year. The topic of the lecture was ‘The Law of Cause and Effect’. I was shocked. All the suffering I’ve faced until now has been caused by my own deeds!
That was the first time I had heard the teaching. At that moment, a ray of light came into my dark mind. Ms. Sakurai said to me assertively, “Do you want to leave Soka- gakkai? I can go with you to talk to them.” So I quit Soka- gakkai without hesitation, and attended the lecture in the 2000-Tatami-Mat Hall the next week.
“I, Shinran, do not convey newly-created teachings. It is solely the teaching of Sakyamuni Buddha that I believe and I spread.” Takamori Sensei taught us Buddhist teachings exactly as Master Shinran did. My soul trembled with excitement. Here they are actually conveying the teachings! This is the very path along which I should proceed. My life as a Shinran follower has begun. I get up at the same time every morning and do the chanting, and on holidays, I go out to listen to Buddhist teachings. When I talk to my friends, I talk about Buddhism. What a great change! Moreover, even though I have been smoking for 20 years, I quit smoking yesterday. I could have been in jail right now, but instead I am here giving a speech in front of the characters of ‘mujodo’, the supreme path. Let’s go straight, on the supreme path, to true happiness. The path is shining with Master Shinran’s teachings. I will walk this supreme path, and I will expound the teachings. No matter how insincere they may look, no matter how much they play around, all people have deep emptiness in their minds and are looking for the right path to take. Let us tell them that the supreme path is right here! Only we Shinran followers can do that. Surprised by just how much I have changed, my colleagues have come to read Takamori-sensei’s books ‘You Were Born for a Reason’ and ‘Something You Forgot…Along the Way.’ I’ll do all that I can now to move forward step by step.
Toyoaki Yoshihara,Second Place Winner Speech in Gotan-e Contest
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #30, The Path
Source image: https://pixabay.com/en/mar-beach-lighthouse-nature-sky-2353179/