My Encounter with Buddhism
My third year of university was the compulsory academic year abroad, and I embarked on an intensive Japanese course at Waseda University, Tokyo.
One day in February of 2009, I was in the international students’ lounge when I was approached by a Japanese lady who introduced herself as Eriko. We sat down and began to chat. At some point, I mentioned that I was interested in Japanese religions, and she told me that she was part of a Buddhist club.
We met up again a few days later at Waseda’s Unicafe 125, where Eriko told me the story of logs and boards floating in the ocean of life. Intrigued, I continued to listen when we went to the clubhouse, which I would end up going to regularly to listen to Buddhism. I also watched the animated movies of Master Shinran’s life and The Tragedy of Osha Castle there.
In March, I went with the Buddhist club on their trip to Toyama to listen to Takamori Sensei’s lecture. It was the first time I had seen mountains outside of photos, having lived my entire life in a comparatively flat area of England, and I found myself enthralled with the picturesque scenery. I also greatly enjoyed the deliciously fresh sushi we ate upon arrival, falling in love with the taste of anago, and the buffet at the restaurant of 100 Flavours was just delightful!
The lecture itself was about the true self, and I found the logic and truthfulness of the lecture to be a breath of fresh air. In the lecture I learned that people are conceited and do not want to look at their negative side, and that they focus only on their positive traits. This was actually something that I’d noticed many times before in the way people would react to things I’d say about myself. Whenever I would point out a negative trait of my own, people would often freak out and tell me I was being depressing, even though I was only telling the truth. That Buddhism emphasizes the importance of being aware of not only our positive traits but our negative traits too struck me as being very logical and rational, characteristics that I had rarely been able to associate religious teachings with before.
Impressed with what I had heard, I continued listening to Buddhism in Tokyo, making friends with people in the club, and went to Toyama a few more times. Shortly before I left Japan in July, I visited Toyama one last time with Eriko. Missionary Sumie Ochiai looked after me and taught me more about Buddhism. As I had previously expressed an interest in doing Japanese-to- English translation, Sumie briefly tested my translation ability with an issue of BYoung before kindly making arrangements so that I could come back the next summer and translate.
It was a real honour to be able to work with such amazing, kind people for the three months that I spent in Toyama that year. I hope to return to Japan again someday to do some more translation!
Nichola Gant, England
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #08 | 2011, Seeing Myself Exactly As I Am
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The Buddhist Village Times #08