A speech contest was held on the second day of Gotan-e. The lead-off speaker, Seiji Kitagawa, appealed greatly to the audience, and he ended up winning the contest. Here's a summary of his speech.
“I hate religions. Only weak people need to rely on them. At any rate, we all have to die!” This is how I thought 18 years ago. At that time I had a girlfriend whom I was thinking of marrying. However, she was hospitalized, and it turned out she was terminally ill with cancer. I tried to seek help in a religion that my parents had faith in. It was said to be able to cure any kind of disease through divine power. But my wish for my girlfriend to recover was in vain. She passed away in the hospital room with her hand in mine. She was only 27 years old.
“There’s no God or Buddha. I don’t believe in anything that’s invisible,” I thought. Nevertheless, I would offer flowers to her picture on the anniversary of her passing. In the picture she still looked beautiful. I wished I could see her again, even if only in a dream. On the day of the second anniversary of her passing, I wrote a letter to her even though I knew it wouldn’t reach her, and started talking to her.
At the time, I was crazy about gambling. I spent most of my income on it. When I lost money on gambling, I tried to regain money by gambling. I knew I should stop this, but couldn’t. I was what they call a gambling addict. To avoid the feeling of loneliness, I got more and more engrossed in gambling. In the end I amassed too much debt to pay through my salary alone, so I quit working for my company and decided to be self-employed.
When it came to work, I was very diligent and so my business did well. I paid back all my debt and I even started saving money. However, I couldn’t do away with my habit of gambling. The amount of money I spent for gambling reached astronomical levels. My savings turned to debt again.
One day I lost a huge amount of money through gambling. The money I owed to the creditor was beyond my capacity, and I was in a bind. One takes any port in a storm. I was so desperate that I strayed from the path of righteousness under the bad influence of a friend. I spent days in a cold cell, regretting my actions and filled with repentance. But thanks to the support of my family and friends, I was released on bail.
After I was freed, I worked diligently and paid back all my debts. I was now able to start saving money again. Yet a few years later, I found myself gambling again. It was during this time that through the Internet I came across a unique young man who was conveying Buddhist teachings using emoticons and who liked to zoom around the city of Osaka on his bicycle.
“Oh, so you went to the trouble of graduating from university but haven’t got yourself a proper job, huh?” I thought. Nevertheless, I developed an interest in this mysterious guy, and joined his study sessions. I was full of suspicion that he might force me to buy some expensive magic charm, but I joined his lecture anyway. Once I was there, I found myself wondering, “What on earth are you?” With this question on my mind, I concentrated on his talk. “One’s own cause brings one’s own effect.” “If you meet someone, there’ll be a time you have to part with the person.” “Every fruit I harvest is the product of what I have planted.” “And someday you’ll have to part with your loved ones.” That’s right! There’s no doubt about it. So this is Buddhism!
Some time later during one study session, I heard a quote from Master Shinran: “Under the right condition, I, Shinran, would do anything.” I thought that was exactly me: gambling and drowning in debt. Under the right condition, I would do any horrible thing. The memories of my past flashed in my head, and I was unable to continue taking notes because tears kept filling my eyes. I didn’t know this was Buddhism! I felt I would miss out on something precious if I didn’t listen to these teachings. I wanted to learn the teachings and share them with others.
I met Buddhism through an unexpected bond. Once a gambling addict, I now developed an addiction to listening to Buddhism. A man who once appeared in an ordinary newspaper now appears in a Buddhist newspaper. A person who once stood in a courtroom is now standing on the stage of the 2,000-Tatami-Mat Hall after being captured by the power of the Supreme Buddha.
My life has been turned around. Now the places I call my home and my office are Buddhist lecture halls. I’m always surrounded by Buddhist friends, so I don’t have time to do gambling anymore.
We have met Buddhism thanks to ties with Amida Buddha since the distant past, and now we’re together here in the 2,000-Tatami- Mat Hall. So, everyone, don’t you think it’s now our turn to help our close friends and family members develop bonds with Buddhism?
Each person has a different reason for starting to listen to Buddhism. Therefore, there are various ways of conveying Buddhism. There are things that only I can do, and things that only you can do; no one else can do these things. Today another unexpected thing is happening. My parents, who have been supporting me warm-heartedly despite all the trouble I’ve caused them, have come here to the 2,000-Tatami-Mat Hall.
“Of the five wonders,” taught Shakyamuni, “None is greater than the wonder of Buddhism.”
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #54 | 2015, Company Pres. Wins the Contest
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The Buddhist Village Times #54