West to East, and to Buddhism

The Shinran Followers in Brazil held Ho’on’ko in November. A new member, Tales Mendonsa, gave a testimonial expressing how grateful he is. Let’s hear what he had to say.

I was born in São Paulo 23 years ago. Since I became aware that I was a human, different from other animals, I had always been thinking about where this world came from. I was born to a Catholic father and a Muslim mother and they raised me to be a person who pursues the truth of his own free will.

The Journey in Search of “Why We Live” Tales Mendonsa (23)

“What do people live for?” I began a long journey to pursue the answer to this question through literature.

Then I moved to a small town in mid-west Brazil, where I had little access to various kinds of information and very limited opportunities for academic work. As time went by, the question of “why we live” was becoming a bigger and bigger issue to me. I was driven to enter the Department of Philosophy of a national university in Mato Grosso and learned philosophical ideas that changed the world.

Through the books of Greek, German and British philosophers, I was able to learn words that had a strong influence on the people and society. However, the void in the bottom of my heart was never filled and the question of “why we live” just deepened even after two years of study. Thinking that Western philosophy had no answer to the question, I decided to switch to Eastern philosophy. Eastern thought originated from Buddhism. I somehow felt that the answer might be in Buddhism.

However, there were only a few professors majoring in Eastern philosophy in the university. Having lost the path I ought to choose, I was at a loss as to where I should go. I took a leave of absence from the university and left the town. The place I chose was my hometown, São Paulo City, because São Paulo has the largest population of people of Japanese descent and I was certain that I could meet a Buddhist teacher in the town ?

However, it was not as easy as I had imagined. Without any clue to the answer to “why we live,” a year flashed by. I read as many books in book stores and libraries as possible, but not a single book answered the question. I asked an acquaintance if there was any place to learn Buddhist teachings. He introduced me to some temples, but no teachings satisfied me. I thought, “I have to learn Buddhism by myself. In order to do that, I should learn the Japanese language first. That is the only way to get closer to the place where I want to be.” ?

I entered a Japanese language school, and one year passed. One night, when I was walking on Paulista Avenue, a Shinran Follower, Hideo Yahiro, handed me a flyer. This encounter changed my life completely. Most of the time I decline to take flyers, but this time I took one because the flyer was written in Japanese. Moreover, the printed words, “Buddhist seminar for beginners” filled me with surprise and joy.

When I attended the seminar, I realized that the teachings were exactly what I had wanted to learn: “Buddhism.” From then on, I continued listening to lectures at the São Paulo Center and seminars by Buddhist teacher Jun Kitamura through Shinran Follower interpreters such as Chizuko Masago.

As I listened to Buddhism again and again, a sense of happiness enveloped me and joy filled my whole body. I have finally encountered what I had been seeking for so long: the one and only path to true happiness taught in the teachings of Master Shinran, which is true Buddhism. In October, I made up my mind to be a Shinran Follower and participated in the granting ceremony of the Correct Object of Reverence. I will continue listening to Buddhism intently.

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #48 | 2015, West to East, and to Buddhism

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