“It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn”

The pain I had was like glasses piercing my whole body. It wouldn’t stop even after taking more than 40 pills and injecting some type of medicine into 300 parts of my body. “I want to die!”

All I could do was to endure the pain biting into the towels hard. Unstoppable pain attacked my whole body but the cause and treatment is still unknown. Fibromyalgia was the name of the disease. I was hit by the disease, right after I decided on my profession and entered the Professionals Chapter in Shinrankai. I experienced a hell on earth and I was thrown into despair. The horrendous pain snatched my normal life away. Even though I was a medical student, I could not hold a textbook or even grip a pen. I was losing the ability to do things that we normally take for granted.

It was terrifying. Ah, the Buddha’s teaching was right. I never knew how painful it was to be betrayed by my health and my future, which I had complete faith in. What will this disease stop me from doing next? What do I have to lose next? Please, don’t steal anything more from me!

Yet my plea fell on deaf ears, and finally I found myself unable to walk. My cane changed into a wheel chair. My physical strength was completely drained, and I felt faint because of the medicine. Yet for me, the lectures that were held every Sunday were my only hope. I wanted to listen to Buddhism. Drawn by an incomprehensible power, I was sitting in this Two-thousand- Tatami-Mat Hall. Everyone is on a boat that is heading towards the basin of a waterfall: death. Although I thought I wanted to die because of my suffering, that was just one of the trivial things that can happen on the boat. What awaits me is incessant, immeasurable agony that I can’t possibly imagine through the suffering I was experiencing then. This is precisely why there is a great ship, Amida Buddha’s Vow, which will resolve my crucial matter of the afterlife and save me into eternal happiness. No matter how painful my life is, I cannot die until I am transferred onto the great ship of Amida. I must keep living no matter what. Deeply impressed by the lecture, my will to live surged back as tears fell down my face.

One day, I met a doctor who said she could cure my illness. I have to have this treatment! I put all my hopes in it. So what happened? Well, just look at me! Now I can stand up and walk on my own two feet! I wasn’t able to study for a long time, so everyone said it would be a miracle if I passed the National Examination for Medical Practitioners. Nevertheless, I could catch up earnestly and passed the test. Finally I was able to claw my way out of the depths of despair. Why was it that I was able to come this far despite being crushed time and time again?

It was because of Takamori- sensei’s amazing encouragement at a time when I was in terror from pain and only surviving because I could listen to Buddhism. “It’s always darkest before the dawn, so don’t give up.” These words became a ray of light in my heart. My mother devoted all her energy to supporting me while I was worn out and at the mercy of the pain.

She massaged me all night when the pain tore my body to pieces. I know how hard it is for a mother to watch her daughter grow weak, but because she was always smiling, I was able to smile too. Father, Mother, I’m so sorry for thinking that I wanted to die. Thank you for giving birth to me and bringing me up. Because of you I was able to encounter Buddhism and am now blessed with many Buddhist friends, who are gathered in this Two- Thousand-Tatami-Mat Hall. Yes, I am ill. I am not completely free from the pain, and there are many things that I cannot do. People around me probably think I am unhappy. But Takamori Sensei says, “Life is suffering, but the suffering of those who know the purpose of being born as a human being will be repaid.”

We Shinran followers do not live to suffer. We live in order to move towards the purpose of our lives. I am a Shinran follower. There is no one happier than me. One year has passed since I became a physician. Patients who tell me they want to die because of their illnesses remind me of how I was in the past.

Wishing for them to gain a bond with Buddhism, I hand them the book You Were Born For A Reason with the message “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Since I know just how horrible it is to suffer because of an illness, I feel there must be something I can do to help. As a Shinran follower and physician who knows the infinite preciousness of life, I know that we must overcome any kind of suffering. I will do my best to move toward the light until I am saved from eternal darkness and I can welcome the true dawn.

Miki Harada, Intern Doctor, Toyama

The Winning Talk of the Gotan-e Speech Contest

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #29 | 2013, “It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn”

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