Material Support Only Provides Temporary Salvation.
I was born in Oita prefecture. Along with my 3-year older brother, I grew up with plenty of love from both our parents. Since I loved studying English, as a young child, my dream was to become an interpreter. The world is vast, I thought, and is full of various cultures and ideas. Getting to know people from different parts of the world would broaden my view drastically.
All I heard on the news were terrible incidents about suicide and murder. Despite having money and material wealth, grown-ups seemed to be pressed for time, communication was scarce, and they seemed spiritually poor. But when I was in 9th grade, my cram school teacher who used to work as a professional interpreter, said to me: “Interpretation work was like being a machine. From English to Japanese, from Japanese to English, all I did was translate without incorporating any of my own thoughts.”
These words left a strong impression on me and made me reevaluate my future path. Even if I were able to master another language, what was I to do with it? Language is merely a tool and will lose all meaning if the most important purpose was lost, I realized. I started to wonder what it was that I wanted to do with my life.
Then, I decided I wanted to work for the UN and try to help others and to live for the sake of others. I would work around the globe ― my dream only grew bigger. Anyone who wants to become a UN official needs advanced linguistic skills as well as knowledge and working experience in a specialized field. Dealing and resolving global issues was another thing I wasn’t quite confident about.
I need a compass to lead me through life. In the hopes of finding it, I visited Australia for one month in my 11th grade year. Vast, green farms spreading out below the sky. The white beaches and the truly blue ocean. The star-filled sky. Animals I’d never seen before in my life. Everything was new and the days passed in joy, but I came home empty-handed, unable to find what I had truly hoped to find.
All my friends were moving forward towards a specific goal. But I, on the other hand, felt stuck unable to find the direction to go towards. And although I was planning to live my life for others, I found myself guilty of envying my friends of their success. How could someone like me, who can’t feel happy for someone so close, make people suffering in foreign lands happy? I became obsessed with self disgust.
I confided the anxiousness and irritation I felt inside to friends and teachers, but it didn’t clear my mind at all. High school days soon came to an end, and I entered Kobe University, International Culture department, in order to find that something I could truly devote myself to. It was there that I met Master Shinran’s teachings. Having met the teachings of the Buddha, which completely saw through my mind, I was moved and surprised over and over again.
It was the lecture on Lamenting the Deviations, chapter 4 that struck a chord with me. Providing the poor with economical and material support only provides temporary salvation. For a while they may feel satisfied, but the pain of hunger and sickness will soon return. Even if you can provide them with clothing, food, and housing, suffering strikes right back only taking on a different form. The twentieth century, in which neither the development of science nor the economy brought us true happiness, is a proof of that. The root that keeps us tied to suffering, whether you have money and wealth or not, is the Dark Mind.
And it came clear to me that to be saved by Amida’s Vow which promises to eradicate the Dark Mind and give us eternal happiness is the path of life.
I found the path I can happily devote my life to and have no regrets at the end. 800 years ago, Master Shinran clearly taught the only path for all human beings to be saved. I may be filled with greed, anger, and ignorance, but I can convey unchanging happiness by sharing the true teaching. I made up my mind that this is the only path of life for me.
I am determined to follow in the foot-steps of Takamori-sensei, and to march forward on the supreme path towards salvation.
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #48 | 2015, Why Did I Decide to Become a Buddhist Teacher
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