This is the story when I was studying in Kyoto. I’m sure you know Kyoto which is very a famous city in Japan and is the most traditional and cultural city in Japan. Nishi-honguwanji Temple which is the mother temple of Jodo Shinshu, my Buddhist tradition, is located in Kyoto. My university, Ryukoku University, is located behind the Nishi-honguwanji Temple. I studied Jodo-Shinshu along with Shinran-shonin’s thought at Ryukoku University when I was in undergraduate.
During my years in Kyoto, I was a teacher at a Saturday Dharma school and I went there every Saturday. Do you know Hino-Tanjo-in? It is the temple which marks the place where Shinran-Shonin, the founder of Jodo-Shinshu, was born. Fortunately, I could go to there to participate in a school and learn the Buddha’s teaching with many children who were from kindergarten to middle school age. That was a really good experience for me.
In this Saturday Dharma school, there was a boy whose name was Asahi. He was 6 years old at that time and has one younger brother and one younger sister. He was a really obedient child and with his kind and nice smile we became attached to each other. But his father didn’t live with Asahi and his family. His parents had divorced a few years before and his mother took care of him and his brother and sister. I heard his father lived in a distant place. Since I was familiar with his situation and I liked his honest character, I enjoyed being by his side at Saturday school.
Right before Christmas, I asked him casually, “what kind of Christmas present do you want?” Then, Asahi replied back with a sincere response that I can’t forget even now.
He looked at me with serious eyes and voice and said,
“To tell you the truth, I would like a Poke-mon video game, but I really want playing card that I can play together with my whole family, …my father, mother, brother, my sister and me”.
When I heard that, I wept for his sincere and heartfelt response. Here he was, just a 6 year old boy, a little boy, who not only wished to be happy himself, but happiness for his family. I think that Asahi’s kindhearted and sincere wish was the closest heart to Buddha’s compassion. To wish for the happiness for one’s family, surrounding people and all people is probably the closest heart to Buddha’s compassion.
However I wondered if I have the same heart that Asahi-kun had. The answer was “NO.” When I reflected myself through Asahi’s compassionated heart, I realized that I am a human who exist only as self-centered beings. Although I lived longer than Asahi and studied Buddhism which is supposed to makes our desires less, my mind and heart was not purer than Asahi. Rather, mine was much darker one which is full of passion and desire.
Then, I reminded Shinran Shonin’s hymn like the following:
Although I am without shame and self–reproach
And lack a mind of truth and sincerity,
Because the Name is directed by Amida,
Its virtues fill the ten quarters.
I thought I could lessen my self-centered thinking by living with the teachings of Buddha, but I realized that to live with the teachings is to become to know how I am selfish and am difficult to be saved. But, at the same time, we come to know how we can turn the self-centered mind into unself-centered mind which can consider about the others as much as possible. If we deeply reflect ourselves through the teachings of Buddha, we would be so depressed because of our own self-centeredness. However we know the cause of problem, so we can learn how to live with the problem. And, what we lead us to these processes is Amida Buddha’s working. In my case, it reached me through Asahi’s compassionated heart.
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浄土真宗本願寺派 大見山 超勝寺 衆徒。翻訳家。ハーバード大学 神学部研究員を修了し、帰国。現在は、執筆活動や通訳・翻訳を通して、日本仏教を世界に弘める活動をしています。