Going Toward the Pure World

I am a Shinran follower, and also a Buddhist priest of East Hongwanji temple. My parents belonged to a Hongwanji temple in Fukui. I was born as a third son in 1956.

My uncle and his wife in Hokkaido couldn't have any children, so they adopted me. My uncle, who was an earnest teacher, and his wife raised me with plenty of love and affection as if I were their own child. My uncle and his parents were also Buddhist priests, so every summer we visited members' houses. When I recited Shoshinge, Hymn of True Faith, in a loud voice, I often felt flattered to hear the attendants say “We're happy to hear your chants, you little priest.” I remember my father and mother looking very proud of me.

However, when he was in his forties, my father got a kidney disease, which required him to go on dialysis. One day, he was glad to hear that I had been accepted by a high school, but that night I witnessed something quite different from his usual demeanor. He raised himself from the bed and began to recite Nembutsu single-mindedly with his legs folded under him. I was frightened by my father's appearance. His voice resounded in the room all night, and he passed away the next morning. He was 46.

What happened to my father then? Everybody said, “That was a great ending for a Buddhist priest. Your father surely went to the Pure Land.” However, I was suspicious about that. Then my mother also got a kidney disease and she died at the age of 68 after extended suffering. What worried me most then was where my mother's soul had gone. I myself became anxious about my afterlife.

Full of expectation, I entered the Buddhism priesthood at the head temple of Hongwanji in Kyoto. However, I couldn't hear any sermons. All they explained was how to hold ceremonies. I felt empty and all I got was… a clean-shaven head.

I once asked my relative priest about the afterlife. He answered plainly, “There is nothing in the afterlife.” I couldn't believe a Buddhist monk could say such a thing. Then I asked another priest, and he said playfully, “Unless you die, you will never know the afterlife.” Finally, I asked a famous missionary from the head temple what is the crucial problem of the afterlife. He answered, “How to live in your afterlife is most important.” What!? “Afterlife” means the world we go to after we die, doesn't it? I was worried about death. I was serious. What an insincere answer! I got really disappointed in the Hongwanji temple.

Struggling to find something I could truly believe in, I started an NPO about the environment. However, the more I devoted myself to my work, the more I realized there are so many contradictions and egoism. Not a single ounce of truth was found. Waves of anxiety and anger arouse in my heart. My mind was like a ghost ship swaying in the middle of a dark ocean.

One day, I received a flier about a lecture on Master Shinran's teachings. I went to the lecture hall filled with expectation. I learned that the only one goal of Buddhism is solving the crucial matter of the afterlife, and that it is the purpose of my life. “This is what I have been looking for!” I had a difficult time finding the truth, but I realized that everything was meant to guide me towards Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha's boundless compassion, and Master Shinran's endeavor to let people know about it. Thinking of these, I couldn't sing Ondoku- san because of the tears that were gushing from my eyes.

Never in all my lives in aeons past did I know the strong power for liberation. Were it not for the true teacher Genku, this life should have ended in vain as well.

My parents and relatives all work for temples. Now Hongwanji temple is just resting on their old traditions. They distort the teachings of Master Shinran and lead members to fall into the world of suffering. They have been slandering our missionary work and distributing fliers saying “Shinrankai is a new cult!” They don't realize what a horrible sin it is to slander Buddhism.

How terrible it would have been if I had not met the true teacher of Buddhism. I am really happy to know the True Pure world, though I was nearly ending my life as a fake-monk in a Hongwanji temple. I have only one mission: to convey the true Buddhism to those who follow false teachings and have wrong beliefs. As a first step, we must build a new Castle of Buddhism in the northern part of Hokkaido, where I live. In order to fulfill this dream, I will devote all of my life to Buddhism.

Let's go toward the Pure World. Relying on the calling that draws me in!

Masahide Wada, 1st Prize Speech

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #18 | 2012, Going Toward the Pure World

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