Born in the Village of Devout Shin Buddhists

I was born in Torigoe Village in Ishikawa Prefecture, which is well-known for the uprisings of the Ikko sect in the historical Kaga Province. The Ishiyama War was a 10-year war between the powerful warrior Oda Nobunaga and Honganji in the 16th Century. Shinran Followers in Torigoe Castle, which is the fort of blood and tears for protecting Buddhism, resisted against Nobunaga to the bitter end, when all three hundred of them were martyred.

I was born into a devout True Pure Land Buddhist family who lived near to that castle. Back then, all the families in Torigoe Village were followers of True Pure Land Buddhism. If a villager became a believer of another religion, they would be ostracized and have to leave the village. That is how ardent the villagers were. When I was very young, my grandmother would tell me the story of the Osha Castle Tragedy or of Master Shinran’s life before I fell asleep.

However, even in this village of devout followers, what the priests in the temples taught was that those who but recite the Nembutsu will go to the Pure Land when they die. My mother felt something was lacking in the preaching in the temples.

When my mother was in her eighties, she found out about the Buddhist monthly booklet Todoroki from an ad in a newspaper. She became a subscriber. In this booklet she saw Master Shinran’s teaching of Heizei gōjo, attaining crystal clear salvation in this life, written in no uncertain terms!

Having been awakened to the true teachings, she started recommending that I read Todoroki at every opportunity, thinking, “I have to make Yoshiko read this!” However, while I’d reply, “I will read it some time, so please put it there,” I would be thinking, “I don’t want to follow what my mother says.” Inwardly I was rejecting it.

On the 25th of March 2009, our house burned down and I lost my beloved father before my very eyes. Two months later, my mother also passed away. “We may have radiant faces in the morning but in the evening be no more than white bones.” The harsh reality of impermanence left me speechless and at a loss.

In despair, I spent every day sorting out the things they left. While doing so, Todoroki, the Buddhist booklet, caught my eye. My mother’s joyful voice from when she was still full of life resounded in my head: “I have to make Yoshiko read this.” I couldn’t help but keep reading and reading then and there, unmindful of the time.

Then these lines from Shoshinge, the Hymn of True Faith, caught my eye: “Kimyo Muryoju Nyorai. Namu Fukashigiko.”

I thought, “What do these lines mean? What was my mother trying to share with me? I want to know. I want to know what Shoshinge means.” So I ordered all the back issues of Todoroki. I couldn’t help but read everything from the first article on Shoshinge. “Kimyo Muryojyu Nyorai. Namu Fukashigiko.” This means, “I, Shinran, have been saved by Amida Buddha! I, Shinran, have been rescued by Amida Buddha!” I thought, “We will be saved into absolute happiness while alive? So this is what Master Shinran teaches! This is what my mother was trying to share with me!”

Unable to stay still, I took myself over to a study session in Kanazawa City. I couldn’t help but keep going to listen to Buddhism. I attended a lecture by Takamori- sensei in the 2,000-Tatami- Mat Hall, and I became a Shinran follower four years ago, on the splendid day of the Congregation to Celebrate Master Shinran’s Birth.

The more I listen to Buddhism, the more I come to know how wonderful the teachings of Master Shinran are and how deep my debt of gratitude towards my parents is. It is taught, “You have a debt for your father’s compassion. You have a debt for your mother’s mercy. That is because everyone was born into this world with their own karma as a cause and a father and a mother as conditions. Without a father one cannot be born, without a mother one cannot be brought up.”

“Father, Mother. Now I’ve realized that you bore and raised me in order for me to encounter the true teachings!” If my mother had not subscribed to Todoroki and recommended that I read it, I wouldn’t have had the bond with Buddhism that I have now.

“Father, Mother, thank you so much. And I’m sorry. I wanted to listen to the teachings of Master Shinran with both of you while you were alive in this 2,000-Tatami- Mat Hall, but now this has become an impossible desire. I, Yoshiko, will continue to listen to Buddhist truth, which you shared with me in exchange for your life, until I reach the finishing line.”

The more I listen to the truth, the more eager I am to share it with people. I feel I cannot help but cry out to people that these are the true teachings. Currently I am working for a cafe. Since I want to share Buddhism with customers by whatever means I can, I give Todoroki to more than ten customers each month. I also put my heart into posting flyers advertizing the animation showings one by one.

“Those who know of the existence of the Vowship of Amida’s great compassion are fortunate. Those who seek the Vowship of Amida’s great compassion are more fortunate. Those who have been taken aboard the Vow-ship of Amida’s great compassion are the most fortunate of all.” My parents left me the true teachings. I will move forward towards the light, listening to Buddhist truth until the point of salvation.

Yoshiko Asano

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #41 | 2014, Born in the Village of Devout Shin Buddhists

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