Bells ring out for New Year’s Eve on a cold, cold night... Under the cover of darkness, a figure delivers treasure from mailbox to mailbox of all the houses of people who are suffering. This was no robber. As a matter of fact, it was ME!!! The treasure that I put in the mailbox was more valuable than gold coins. They were fliers for an animation showing, the supreme virtue of Namu Amida Butsu condensed within them.
On midnight of New Year’s Day, the fight had only just begun. As the proverb says, “The early bird gets the worm.” If I had started from January, it would have been too late. I wanted to put a lot of energy in during December. So, I decided to hold an animation showing on December 22nd at my local community center. The place was well known in the area and convenient for transportation. Up to 100 people can be accommodated there.
Though it was cold that day, I waited for about an hour. My heart was pounding out of high anticipation. However, ten minutes before the start, no one had come. As I waited there all alone, I gradually started to feel lonely. But finally, just before 10AM, Shigeko Tanaka came! “Thank goodness! Someone came!” I was relieved.
But still, in this huge hall that could seat 100 people, there were only 2 people… When the animation started, my eyes welled up with tears and the image of Master Shinran became blurry. However, precisely because there was only one person there, I thought I needed to explain the teachings of Master Shinran very carefully as this person must have a deep bond with Buddhism.
The Priest at the Funeral Didn’t Expound on Any Teachings
Shigeko’s mother had passed away just two weeks before the animation showing. She said she had received fliers about ‘Why We Live’ time and time again, but this was the first time she actually felt she wanted to know what it was all about. She came so she could listen to Master Shinran’s words.
“I’ve been wanting to listen to this kind of thing,” she said. “Unfortunately, the monk at my mother’s funeral did not say anything about the teachings of Master Shinran.”
Shigeko, who had woken up to the truth, held a 35th-day Buddhist memorial service in January the following year. She suddenly posed some questions to the same monk who had come to her house. “What is Amida Buddha’s Vow?” He appeared startled for a moment, and his expression grew stiff. “Well... uh... Christianity is... blah, blah, blah...”
Shigeko was disappointed. “What is he talking about!?” The other people there were unable to bear the sight of the monk being so flustered, so someone said, “The Vow is just the Vow!” “That tells me nothing. I want to hear about this in clear terms,” Shigeko thought, and so she went to the 2,000-Tatami-Mat Hall. What she listened to there was a lecture on ‘the Rich Man and the Beggar’.
“I felt as if Takamori-sensei was talking directly to me. I wept as I listened to this lecture on the ‘Rich Man and the Beggar’,” she said, expressing her appreciation. As she said she wanted to know the reason why we say “Namu Amida Butsu” in front of Buddhist altars, her eyes began to brim with tears.
After that, she continued to visit the 2,000-Tatami- Mat Hall, and she became a Shinran Follower the week after a lecture in March. I could not help but feel that she was being led by Master Shinran.
After half a year, she said this: “I met Buddhism thanks to a flier. Now it’s my turn to distribute fliers so everyone can have bonds with Buddhism.” She had transformed into a true Shinran Follower. Gradually, the weather improved and beautiful spring days arrived in April.
Now the Audience Has Grown to More Than Ten Times
Last December, there had only been two people at the viewing, but now about twenty to thirty people come along! Among them, there is one man that sits at the very front and leans forward as he listens. He listens with all his heart, morning and afternoon. Two weeks after attending a lecture, he visited Fukui Shinran Center to join a Webinar in April, and then he applied to become a Shinran Follower. He joined the Myogo Granting Ceremony during Gotan-e.
Thanks to Master Shinran in the animation video, Kazuyo Otomo became a Shinran Follower. In the four months since then, she has been working hard to deliver fliers. She suffered a cerebral infarction five years ago, so she cannot move her left hand – she is delivering fliers with just her right hand alone yet she moves faster than I.
On the phone, she says to me, “Where will we go today? How many fliers will we distribute? I can hand them out anytime – morning, noon, or night!” She encourages me when I feel like slacking off. I cannot help but think that she was sent by the Supreme Buddha. Even now, I remember the rainy days when I'd go and distribute fliers.
Thirty years ago, the late Kinue Goto would make the more than one-hour journey to my house by bicycle to cultivate my bond with Buddhism. Her clothes would be soaked through with rain. I won’t be surpassed by Kinue! I would like to express my gratitude for the perseverance and great effort that Takamori- sensei has shown throughout these 55 years. I will move towards the light along with Master Shinran of the animation video. “There is no tomorrow. Do all you can do today.”
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #35 | 2014, “Today is My Last Day...”
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