I was born in the countryside of São Paulo in Brazil 78 years ago. When I was a junior high school student, I decided that my major was going to be engineering. My high school days were spent working during the daytime and studying measurements at night. Before long, I got a photography job on a recommendation from an acquaintance. My work days were often busy to the point where they would end around dawn. The first time I started to think earnestly about life was when I was 32, the age when I got married. My father died of cancer when he was 67. This was a massive shock to me, and the issue of death would not leave my head afterwards. Wondering what I should do about my crucial matter of the afterlife, which no one can escape, I started to search for a teaching that could save me. I was invited to many religions, including Christianity and the New Age group ‘House of Growth’, but they taught nothing. Nothing they said made sense to me. Thinking there was no resolution for death in religion, I gave up on my search and concentrated on my work again.
Ten years later, by some mysterious happenstance, the first Shinran Center in Brazil, Vila Mariana Center, was built on the very same street where I was working. My friends invited me along to lectures, so little by little I started to join them. I was amazed to learn that Buddhism teaches the solution to the crucial matter of the afterlife, and I began to listen to Buddhism intently. The first time I met Takamori-sensei was when he came to Brazil for the first time. It was thirty-two years ago. Takamori- sensei talked about the teachings of Master Shinran with a voice like thunder, and the more I listened to Master Shinran’s teaching, the more it made sense. I was quite moved by the true teaching, which I had not once been able to hear in other religions. Further, at the time I was fortunate enough to have the chance to be Takamori-sensei’s chauffeur.
One day, I showed him around São Paulo City. I told him that some missionaries were visiting my now late mother’s house, and despite his busy schedule, he suddenly decided to join them and create a bond with my mother as well. I was but one of many Shinran followers, yet Takamori-sensei talked in such a friendly way with me, as if we were family. This is a memory I can never forget.
Since then, Takamori-sensei has visited Brazil to spread Buddhism seven times, crossing 12,000 miles of ocean with each visit. One particularly memorable instance was the time when he came to Brazil for the 10th anniversary celebration of our center. At the time, doctors had prohibited him from speaking in front of many people because his physical condition had deteriorated through exhaustion.
Takamori-sensei visited us in Brazil in spite of his poor health. He said, “I want to see the faces of Shinran followers in Brazil. Even if I can’t speak.” I suggested he cancel his lecture as I was really worried about his health and well-being. He said, “What about everyone’s crucial matter of the afterlife?” thereby sternly correcting my lazy attitude towards Buddhism.
As I saw his own tremendously serious attitude towards Buddhism, I came to be aware of how important Buddhism really is. “Leaving behind sick children, now I must return. Though I travel far away, here my heart will forever stay.” Takamori-sensei is so thoughtful to worry about all of us and our afterlife. I truly, truly cannot help but deeply appreciate it.
I really wonder why I have such a bond with Buddhism. Why is it that I was granted the chance to listen to Master Shinran’s teaching even though I live in Brazil, which is so far away from Japan? Why is it that I had the rare chance to meet with a true Buddhist master? It’s wondrous. Master Shinran “rejoices at the benevolent workings of Amida since the distant past.”
It is none other than the combined immense efforts of Amida Buddha, Master Shinran, and Takamori-sensei that has enabled Brazilian followers to nurture their bonds with Buddhism. I am thankful from the bottom of my heart. Today Brazilians who understand Japanese are on a decline. Takamori-sensei has been working hard to translate his books into Portuguese in order to share Master Shinran’s teachings with the Brazilian people of the future amid his already unimaginably heavy schedule. This year, You Were Born for a Reason is finally going to be published in Portuguese. We Brazilian followers have been waiting for many years to have a Portuguese version of You Were Born for a Reason. This book will be an eternal treasure to save the now 200 million Brazilian people and all the future generations of the world that are to come. We want to share the true teaching of Master Shinran with all people that are going through suffering and pain.
Takamori-sensei has nurtured our bond with Buddhism for so many years. I am sure now that sharing the teachings is the best way to repay my debt of gratitude to him. After the Celebration of Master Shinran’s birth this year, I received a card from Takamori-sensei: Why do we live? Spare no effort. There is no tomorrow.
I pledge here and now that I and other followers will thoroughly convey the true purpose of life together. I eagerly await my next chance to attend your sermon, Takamori- sensei.
Hiroshi Ito, Speech at the 55th Anniversary
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #34 | 2013, How was I able to Meet with Buddhism in Brazil?
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