The following religious testimony was delivered at the International Buddha’s Birthday Celebration (Hanamatsuri) on April 27, 2014.
Mr. Kevin Adams delivers his testimonial during the International Buddha’s Birthday Celebration (Hanamatsuri).
Good morning. I am very joyous this morning to be here, and I want to share and express that joy with all of you not only for the occasion of celebrating this Hanamatsuri, but also because of my Buddhist practice within my life. Please allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Kevin Adams. I am from the United States of America, but I live here in Japan. I have been practicing Buddhism for many years and I have been a member of the International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Kosei-kai for three years. I got to know Dr. Gene Reeves through Facebook, and he introduced me to IBC.
In earlier years before I came here, my practice was quite different, but since I became a member of IBC of Rissho Kosei-kai, my practice has become more centered and focused on taking refuge in the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni and the Dharma which he taught of the Lotus Sutra. Through my practice I have been steadily increasing my faith and knowledge of the practice and applying the teachings of the Lotus Sutra to my daily life.
Just earlier last month Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the completion of the Great Sacred Hall and the installation of the Statue of Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni. The World Sangha Representatives Meeting was also held at the same time, with representatives participating from many different sanghas around the world.
My company doesn’t give much time off to its employees and I thought at first I wouldn’t be able to attend this four-day event but through my constant faith, my devotion to the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni and Rev. Suzuki’s persistent encouragement, everything seemed to fall into place and I was able to receive permission from my company to take a few days off to attend this wonderful event.
As one of the World Sangha programs, Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Rissho Kosei-kai, gave a special lecture about the gift of our lives under the title “Making True Happiness Your Own: What the Founder Truly Wished For.”
The lecture compared our deep personal connections each one of us has with other people who are involved in our lives to an Ekiden. Ekiden is a relay marathon running event which is held on New Year’s day in Japan. Each runner on each team runs for a certain distance carrying a baton, until that runner eventually meets the next runner whom the baton is then passed, and in this manner the baton is passed from one runner to the next until the last runner receives the baton and completes the final part of the marathon.
But talking about a marathon, or a journey, such as a life journey, traveling through life, each and every one of us is like the members of our individual family Ekiden relay teams. We are each runners carrying our own batons. In fact, each and every one of us has our own family Ekiden team which includes your brothers, sisters, and your parents, cousins, uncles, and aunts and grandparents. Each and every one of us has a role and a part to play on each of our family Ekiden teams.
On the 5th of last month, we travelled from here to a local retreat center which is called the Oume Retreat Center. Our first and also our last evening at the Oume Retreat Center, during a special Odaimoku chanting session I had a very special spiritual experience. While chanting daimoku, we were guided on sort of a virtual trip into our own lives.
My spiritual experience caused me to realize the deep personal connection I have with everyone I know, from my colleagues, to my co–workers, to my friends and family and also to each and every one of you here at IBC as well. I have heard many times about how we each have a deep connection with other people in our lives including our ancestors. But until now, I have heard this, with my ears and I have realized this superficially in my brain . . . but I have never felt it or experienced it like I did on the fifth of March at the Ome Retreat Center.
I experienced with my whole entire body and mind the realization of my part in my own Ekiden team. I felt as if someone had grabbed me by the hand and said to me, “Kevin, we are going on a trip, a trip back in time to your life all the way.”
This virtual trip started from where I am now today and I went back to my military days, and back to my University days before that. Scenes of my high school life flashed before my eyes, my mind and my body was filled with all different types of emotions and feelings. Still further we went back in time, now I saw myself in junior high and then, there I was in elementary school again. Scenes and situations and circumstances from my life flashed through my brain just like a movie.
I started to realize that each situation, each circumstance that I found myself in was my own fault, my own doing and my own responsibility. Some of the scenes and situations were positive and a lot of them were also negative. I saw parts of my life that I didn’t like and that I was ashamed and embarrassed about. I saw parts of my life that I now wished I would have changed to more positive results, I saw parts of my life where I had been so foolish.
The trip continued on, to before elementary school to when I was just an infant playing with my mother and sister and then finally . . . yes finally, there I was swimming as a fetus in amniotic fluid within my mother’s womb, safe and sound from the outside world as my mother protectively carried me inside her womb before she handed down the baton to me. My own life marathon as a member of my own Ekiden team was to soon start from that time.
I now realized at that point, that even then, as I swam and bounced around in my mother’s womb, that even then, and even I had the Buddha Nature. I just didn’t know it yet. I wasn’t aware of it yet. After experiencing this virtual trip and seeing the different parts of my life flash before my eyes, it made me deeply aware of the personal responsibility that I have for my own life and for my own practice as an IBC member.
This deep realization is my gift. This gift isn’t a physical gift but it is the deepest, most profound life altering and life changing gift that I have ever received in my life. Because of this deep realization, it will help me to transform and change my life to the dynamic life that it should be. I want my future and my practice to be so dynamic and bright that I am going to have to wear sunglasses!
After experiencing all this, I was amazed since immediately afterwards things changed for me at my company where I work. I was approached by some high level supervisors who informed me that they are confident in me and that they want to give me a chance and an opportunity to fulfill a new management position within my company. A position of managing the workplace and the employees which are there. It is a position which comes with a lot more management training and skills as well as with many new responsibilities. I am also aware that these supervisors are placing a lot of trust in me to fill this important role in my company.
I am working hard to adjust myself to a newly changed work environment and I have the same work attitude that Founder Niwano had in his youthful days, which is an attitude of working hard with sincere mindfulness and accepting any difficult tasks with great appreciation. This attitude arose in the founder from his deep appreciation of the Buddha living in his mind and heart and I now have a great chance and opportunity to practice this same attitude and apply it to my own life as well.
I am determined to win the trust and the respect of all my new colleagues, co-workers and the employees which I will now supervise. I am joyous and also grateful to the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni as I know he has blessed me in many different ways and because of my sincere practice and devotion to him has resulted in the arrangement of my being able to receive this new work position.
Thank you very much and please enjoy the rest of today’s Hanamatsuri.
Mr. Kevin Adams (second from left) takes part in a seminar during the World Shanga Assembly.