Why I have resolved to dedicate my life to the teachings of Master Shinran.
When I was little, I would often catch grasshoppers in the fields or go fishing for crayfish at the riverside. After I entered elementary school, I would still play until nightfall. I enjoyed my everyday life. However, I didn’t like marathons. Every winter, I would feel gloomy when the school marathon race drew near. I was amongst the 10 slowest students until I was in fourth grade. However, under the instruction of my fifth grade homeroom teacher, I started to run little by little every day, and I successfully reached the top 10 in the school marathon race of that year. Where there's a will, there's a way. This experience made me realize that I can overcome the things I am not good at if I keep planting small seeds.
When I was in the sixth grade, I became the head of the school track and field club and I participated in marathon races in various regions every week in winter. I got a gold medal for the first time in a marathon race at Shobu Town in Saitama Prefecture. I cried out of joy. That moment is still so vivid. I started to believe, “If I make effort, I can make progress.” At the same time, I found as I was taking part in marathons that no matter how far I ran, there was no goal in a true sense. After a race finished, I would start running for the next race. Even if I had defeated a rival, I would be defeated by her in the next race. I kept running and running, and my suffering from this was endless.
In junior high school, I devoted myself to badminton practice. As a result of my steady practice, I won the city championships every time and I lost myself in the joy of drawing attention. However, whenever I took part in the prefectural championships, I would lose by a wide margin, and the person who defeated me would also lose in the next match.
I devoted myself solely to badminton for three years of junior high school. However, there is always someone better. When I thought of the Kanto Area championships, the national championships, and the world championships, I wondered how valuable it was that I was winning the city championships.
In high school, I joined the rowing club, which was said to be quite challenging. I did so because I thought that I would attain great joy if I pushed myself through the biggest hardships. The training was so hard but worthwhile, and I took part in the national championships. However, when I retired from the rowing club, I just thought, “At last I can stop doing.”
A teacher told me that I could enter the University of Tokyo, and so I studied from morning ‘til night, aiming to pass the entrance exam. As a result, in the spring of 2006, I entered the University of Tokyo. After finishing the university entrance exam, I thought about what I should do next. At that time, I suddenly thought, “Will I just run around a track again?” If I compare my life to running on a track, after the first lap of running marathons in elementary school, the second lap of badminton in junior high school began. Rowing in high school was the third lap, my upcoming campus life would be the fourth lap, the next lap would be work and the next lap would be marriage. Then there was the next lap, and the next lap… In this way, I was just doing all I could to seek out new things after new things. I felt that I was actually running in endless circles without a real aim.
It is great to make effort: this is the belief I got from my experience of running marathons in elementary school. However, where is the destination that I should be striving to move towards? What is the purpose of studying, working and living? Not knowing the purpose of life, I was confronted by a pitch-black destination. It was at that time that a person came up to me at university and asked, “Are you interested in the purpose of life?” That was my first encounter with the teachings of Master Shinran.
“Amida’s inconceivable Vow is a great ship that carries us across the sea that is difficult to cross.” There is a great ship that can bear us across life's sea of suffering, in joy. “Amida’s unimpeded light is the sun of wisdom that destroys the mind of darkness.” The purpose of life is to eliminate the dark mind, attain the mind of light and enter a state where one will have no regrets no matter when one dies. I was drawn in by Master Shinran’s powerful declaration and just had to hear more.
I had just kept on running and running on the endless wheel of suffering. My life then changed drastically into a life in which I live looking ahead towards the purpose of life. When I achieve the purpose of life, all of my efforts, including pain and sorrows, will be rewarded. I realized that all people absolutely must know and achieve the purpose of life.
I firmly decided, “I want to dedicate my whole life to being a Shinran Follower who believes and shares the purpose of life with people.” I will share the teachings of Master Shinran with all people that do not know the purpose of living and are going through suffering and agony.
Shuko Kato, Buddhist Teacher
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #51 | 2015, Is My Life An Endless Marathon?
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