This spiritual journey was delivered in the ceremony of the memorial day
for Rissho Kosei-kai’s cofounder, Myoko Naganuma, at the Great Sacred Hall on February 10, 2015.
Rev. Nozaki shares his spiritual experience in front of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni at the Great Sacred Hall.
Good morning, everyone.
As you can plainly tell by hearing my voice, I cannot pronounce words distinctly, due to a problem with my throat. The cause of the trouble is not clearly known. About five years ago, a defect appeared in my vocal cord muscles. Despite the surgery, I have not recovered completely. To be honest, not being able to speak well is very difficult for me. I am hesitant to talk with others. When I say something in the train, people around me give me strange looks. When I offer sutra recitation, I recite it silently. I am on assignment as the head of a group at the headquarters, but sometimes I feel lonely because I may not carry out my role well. On the other hand, my trouble speaking properly has one benefit. When I talk to people around me, they listen attentively and come close to me, so that they may understand what I am saying. Because I cannot speak well, all I can do is to listen to them. Then, they express their gratitude for how intently I listen. Indeed, I should simply be thankful to be healthy, but I suppose that my health problem may help me maintain gratitude for the fact that someone cares about me.
After I had lost my voice, I was awakened by just few words. After the surgery, my throat did not recover. My wife was worried about me, and told me that on a TV program, she had seen someone who had been suffering from the same symptoms as me. This person had undergone a special operation in a hospital, and was cured. So she suggested to me that I should have the same operation there. Since I also wanted my problem treated, I informed my boss of my intention to have an operation. He said to me, “Even though your trouble is liberating you, you’re going to remove it?” This was all he said, but it was enough for me to accept my situation.
My eldest son was born in 1992, the year following the ceremony for the Inheritance of the Lamp of the Dharma from Founder Nikkyo Niwano to the next president Nichiko Niwano. The baby was due on April 8th, Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday. My wife returned to her hometown to give birth at her parents’ home. When I was informed that she had gone into labor a little earlier, I rushed to be with her. She had labor pains all night long, and my eldest son, Shoichi, was born early in the morning without giving his first cry. When I saw his face, I was overwhelmed with fear that he might have Down’s syndrome, rather than feeling joyful, as I should have. The fear deprived me of the ability to feel gratitude and to express it to my wife, and to know the joy of having a child. Two hours after the birth, Shoichi, whose face was dark, was taken to a general hospital by ambulance. I did not know what to do and just stood there in a daze. My wife asked me what had happened to our child, but I could not answer to her. I received a communication from the general hospital, and I went there to listen to the doctor explain what was going. As I had anticipated, the doctor said, “Down’s syndrome is suspected. I will examine him, but there is really no doubt.” The doctor continued, “Your child has a serious heart defect as a result of a complication, and he should be hospitalized in an intensive care unit (ICU) until his weight reaches eight kilograms.”
I tried to listen to the doctor’s explanation calmly, but my heart was filled with sorrow, and my mind raced, wondering why this had happened. When I squeezed Shoichi’s small hand in an incubator, I murmured, only saying “I’m sorry” to him. Even now, I feel sad whenever I recall that time.
President Niwano teaches us that we have three kinds of birth in our life—when we are born into this world, when we are reborn through the encounter with the Truth, and when we become one with the eternal life, that is, death. The birth of Shoichi gave me the merit of my rebirth through the encounter with the Truth.
However, it is only now that I can understand that. Thanks to the long time it took for me to understand, many encounters, and the guidance of President NichikoNiwano, I made some slight progress on the path to rebirth.
In the year of the Shoichi’s birth, President Niwano gave a Dharma talk at the annual guidance meeting for youth leaders. It was about a true way of liberation and the preciousness of life. His guidance moved me deeply. In those days, my view of religious faith wouldn’t allow me to accept Shoichi. No matter how much I practice the Dharma, Down’s symptom is not curable because it has a genetic cause. I understood that even with the syndrome, he is still my son, but I couldn’t find answers to my own questions: “Why does my child, not I, have to deal with such a hardship?” “What is the cause of this?” “No matter how much money I donate and no matter how many people I guide to the Buddha Way, Shoichi won’t change. So what is the purpose of my practice?” I lingered on these feelings and suffered. But my wife was different. She might have had the same feelings, but she was struggling to do what she could. It must have been the maternal power at work. We were permitted to meet Shoichi only thirty minutes per day from 2 p.m., but my wife went to the hospital at 10 a.m. and stood at the passage leading to the ICU. She continued to murmur, saying, “Shoichi, Shoichi, hang in there. You are a good boy.” However, I thought she was quite miserable and felt guilty, saying to myself, “I still hold on to the difference between my disabled child and a healthy child. What a pitiable man I am!” I started to go bar-hopping every night. It’s true that I had hated to face reality. One day, I went back home earlier than usual and recited the sutra. When I was chanting o-daimoku ten times, my wife came close to me and chanted together. At that time, I was at my lowest mental state.
While desperately chanting o-daimoku, I found myself thinking that Shoichi and my wife should disappear. I can’t remember how long I continued. Finally, I began to hold a grudge against my ancestors and denied Rissho Kosei-kai. I was exhausted by my own disgusting mind. After the recitation, I hung my head low in front of the home altar. Then my wife said to me, “Shoichi has a disability, and he will have difficulties in the future. Then, who, other than us, will protect him?” Her words completely shattered my mental state. She was exactly right. I compared Shoichi with other children. I treated my ancestors, Rissho Kosei-kai, and wife as if they were to blame, thinking, “Why did this have to happen?” After all, I was just escaping from the facts. I keenly realized that with these thoughts, I had made myself suffer. At that time, I could finally accept Shoichi as my son. I attained a better state of mind, and when I looked over the things after the birth of Shoichi, I found that when I visited local Dharma centers for collecting data, I had heard members’spiritual experiences about their disabled children. Hearing their experiences, it seemed to me that the voice of the Buddha was saying to me, “You don’t need to worry.” Later I asked my chapter leader, “Do I need to reflect on my ungrateful attitude to my parents? Am I injuring my parents’ faith?” Then she said, “No, you aren’t.” If my chapter leader had answered in the affirmative, I would have been obsessed with that guidance and might have not been able to move forward. I think that the chapter leader’s words were the expression of the Buddha’s compassion. When I thought about it, I realized how much the Buddha, my ancestors, and the Sangha were thinking of my family, and my heart was filled with gratitude to them. During that time, the Buddha prepared a wonderful encounter for me. It happened when I was interviewing a member. She said her daughter was born with serious cerebral palsy, and she held grudges against the doctor, her own fate, and everything in the world. However, while she had been taking care of her child, who was unable to do anything by herself and to show any reaction, she realized, “My child leaves herself up to us whenever she eats, and takes a bath. She had never complains or grumbles. Without complaining or grumbling she just accepts what we do. She may have been born in this world in order to practice ‘patience’ of the Six Perfections, because in her former lifetimes she had already practiced ‘donation’ and ‘keeping the precepts,’ the first two of the Six Perfections.” Moving past the idea of whether or not her child was disabled, the mother considered her child with cerebral palsy to be a precious life, born in this world to perform religious practice. Hearing her words, I could not stop weeping. I thought, “What wonderful thoughts she has!” Before that moment, I had been considering Shoichias my own child. Thanks to the mother, however, I could change my previous viewpoint concerning my son, and learn to accept him as a precious life. I thought this refers to what President Niwano teaches us: a true way of liberation and preciousness of life.” It reminded me anew that Rissho Kosei-kai is full of members’ wonderful experiences based on faith.
Shoichi will have the third surgery this year. He is chubby and is so cute that I am reminded of a panda. It makes me feel happy that I can hug my twenty-three-year-old son with affection. One day, before leaving home for work early in the morning, I saw my wife and two sons sleeping in the room where the Buddhist altar is installed. My wife was snoring a little with her mouth open. My sons were sleeping with their bodies outside the Japanese futon. The scene of them peacefully sleeping made me feel warmhearted. I felt that when I leave for work in the morning, the other family members can remain sleeping because my family is happy. On that day, I donated a million yen. It was a donation not intended to change something or perform practices, but to express my gratitude from the bottom of my heart. I realized that in Rissho Kosei-kai there is also a practice we perform because we feel grateful. I felt refreshed to know that we have various ways of practice.
Founder Niwano often taught the Four Requisites in chapter 28 of the Lotus Sutra in his later years’ Dharma talks. I like the first one very much: “The first is to be protected and kept in mind by the buddhas.” When I am faced with something seemingly inconvenient from my point of view, I am able to feel that now I am loved by the Buddha. I can improve myself a little so that I can become a person who considers that “a predicament can be a good opportunity”, as taught by the Founder. I feel happy that I am a born member of Rissho Kosei-kai, where we truly encounter the wonderful Buddha, his teachings, and the Sangha. It gives me a supreme joy that I have been born in this world and able to encounter with the Founder, the President, and the President-designate. In addition, I feel happy that I have been assigned the role of collecting data, conveying it to many people through the media, and preserving the records for future generations. It is possible only here and now to preserve the present recordings. As the President taught us, it is the spirit, “Continue our diligence after diligence. Continue our diligence until we die, and we will carry out diligence after rebirth.”
I have a dream. It is to realize the divine revelation that the Cofounder had received, “The spirit of the Lotus Sutra shall be spread worldwide by Rissho Kosei-kai.” I have taken the role in the media group at the headquarters. I would like to pledge myself to take a new step forward so that I may, through my role, help the wishes of the Buddha, the Founder, the Cofounder, the President, and the President-designate be realized.
Everyone, thank you very much for your attention.
Rev. Nozaki makes a video.