“Finally, I Know!” The Meaning of My Life
A Woman Who Stopped Short of Double Suicide with her Mother
“I want to kill my mother and then kill myself.” This is what my heart had been screaming until last year. I had been living with my mother for 30 years, and my life with her was just painful and miserable. I was raised without a father and in extreme poverty.
When I was a child, my mother and I lived in a hut. The rent was only 500 yen. We spent nights by candlelight. In elementary school, I was bullied because I was so poor, and when I was a high school student, I had to work part-time to earn our living. Meanwhile, my mother got into a car accident involving a car belonging to gangsters, and they came to our place every day, threatening us for money. Scared, I couldn’t go anywhere, and our electricity and gas were cut off. We managed to survive through it all anyway, eating dried noodles uncooked. Moreover, Mother applied for many kinds of credit cards under my name without asking me. By the time I found out about this, the credit–card debt had accumulated to 12 million yen. I couldn’t afford to pay the debt.
To make things worse, Mother developed dementia. She would scream, wander around outside the house, and throw a kitchen knife at me. She sometimes regained her sanity and said, “You shouldn’t have been born. I’m sorry.”
“That’s not fair for you to say such a thing to me now! I didn’t ask to be born and I wouldn’t!” I shouted in response. Why was I born as a child of such a woman? I don’t want this life any more. I decided to commit suicide by drowning myself in the river, and I waded into the water until it came up to my neck, but I was simply unable to take another step forward. The painful sea knows no bounds. However, Buddhism saved my life. In junior high school, I learned Prince Shotoku’s words, “All in this world is false; only the teaching of Buddhism is true.” There may be truth in Buddhism, I thought.
I visited many Buddhist temples. However, not a single teaching could be heard in any of them. One time, I heard of a three-day Buddhist lecture for one thousand yen. Full of anticipation, I went along. The lecture title on day one was “The value of volunteer work.” “Is that Buddhism?” I thought. On the second day, the subject was “Prince Shotoku and Buddhism,” but the content was about historical law. “Give me my money back!” On the third day, I didn’t attend the lecture because I thought it would be a waste of money to travel there.
Grudge Turns into Gratitude
“Where can I listen to Buddhism?” In January, when I had almost given up, I found a website announcing a Buddhist study meeting. “They’ve actually written Buddhist teachings on here!” I was surprised. Then I came to know about the Shinran Group and found Takamori Sensei’s name on their website. I’ve heard of him! He’s the author of You Were Born For A Reason!
In high school, I read the book in the school library. I couldn’t quite understand the content at that time but I remembered his name very clearly. “I’ve found it at last!” That was the moment when a brilliant light came into my life of darkness. And so in June, I attended a lecture here in The Two-Thousand-Tatami-Mat Hall for the first time. I felt like I had been here before, and without noticing it, I whispered, “I’m back.” The lecture title was “Why we live.” There is a great ship that will bear us cheerfully across life’s sea of ceaseless suffering. That’s it! That is what I have wanted to know! My heart was crying out in excitement.
On the way back home from Toyama, I couldn’t help thinking of my mother. How much hardship she must have gone through while raising me all on her own! Gradually, the icy hatred I felt towards her melted away and instead I was filled with warmness of gratitude towards her. Finally, I have found the meaning of my life. Thank you, Mother. I’m glad I didn’t die back then. All the struggles and pain I’ve been through have been rewarded since I encountered Master Shinran’s teachings. Only one who has wept at the darkness can laugh at encountering light; only one who has been buried in the depths of the sea can know the joy of floating on the surface of the water.
Now I know the purpose of life as a human. Mother, I have never been so happy in my life. She gave me a life and nurtured it. Now it’s my turn to protect my mother’s life. Amida’s inconceivable Vow is a great ship that carries us across the sea that is difficult to cross, and his unimpeded light is the sun of wisdom that destroys the mind of darkness. I hope I can convey the true meaning of life to my mother.
Miki Yamashita, Speech Contest at Ho’on’ko
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #23 | 2013, "Finally, I Know!” The Meaning of My Life
Source image: Free Wix Images