This Dharma Journey talk was presented on August 5, 2018, when the ceremony of
the eightieth anniversary of Rissho Kosei-kai’s foundation was held at Rissho Kosei-kai of Sakhalin.
Ms. Boku delivers her personal spiritual experience at Rissho Kosei-kai of Sakhalin.
I was born in Dolinsk, the south area of Sakhalin, as the youngest daughter out of nine siblings—five brothers and four sisters. Currently, three brothers and the eldest sister have already passed away. I never helped with doing housework such as cleaning or cooking, and coaxed my parents into buying anything I wanted—I was such a selfish youngest child.
In 1978, when I was nineteen years old, I married a man whom I had met during the birthday party of one of my friends. After our marriage, I lived with my husband’s family members. Since I could not do any housework, I was often complained about and scolded by my mother-in-law. I used to cry many times at night where nobody was around, burying my face in my pillow. Ten years after I begun to lead such life, my mother, who was worried about me, bought a house for my husband and me. Since then we lived separately from my mother-in-law. Since I had good relations with my husband—we were not specifically on bad terms with each other—I expected that our life would be a little bit comfortable.
My husband, however, had been messing with drugs from around 2001 on. I was greatly troubled by this. Although we had always gotten along, we now quarreled with each other. I was worried that this might exert a bad influence over our little children. In 2002, we ended up getting a divorce.
It was on September 15, 2001 that I became a member of the Rissho Kosei-kai Sakhalin Hoza, when I first became bothered over my husband’s drug habit.
At that time, we didn’t have our own training center. So we would in gather at members’ houses for activities. Ms. Kim Don Sun, one of my elder sisters, was already a member of Rissho Kosei-kai. She was then doing her duty as staff member of the General Affairs of the Sakhalin Hoza. Before I joined Rissho Kosei-kai, she often asked me to drive some of its members to a house where they were scheduled to gather. In those days I thought that my sister and her fellows may have been members of a suspicious group so that I used to drive them to their gathering place, jeering them behind their backs. Back then, I never expected that I would become a member of Rissho Kosei-kai one day in the future. But I was worried about my husband’s troubles, and what was most crucial for me was something that happened one evening, when my late mother appeared in my dream, saying that she was hungry. This was why I become a member of Rissho Kosei-kai.
Ms. Don Sun often told each of us, members of the Sakhalin Hoza, that we could express our feeling of gratitude to our own ancestors when we offer foods at the altar with our sincere hearts and minds. As we heard her words, we came to realize that we are ‘living in the present’ thanks to our own ancestors. We could therefore believe that Rissho Kosei-kai is not a suspicious organization, precisely because this faith values our ancestors. Since then, I have paid careful attention to how she would guide others. What I found was that she was always so polite and kind to all members and was considerate of them equally, regardless of whether or not they were performing their duties. I came to feel that I wanted to follow her example.
I could learn many things since I became a member of Rissho Kosei-kai. Through my own practices of doing duties at the Sakhalin Hoza, of guiding others to the Dharma, and mentoring other members, I realized the importance of putting myself in the other’s place and conducting myself accordingly. Most importantly, I encountered people who suffered from more serious issues than I ever did, and this allowed me to become aware of the preciousness of happiness I was being given by the Buddha’s arrangement. I also studied the way of seeing things through hoza sessions.
At the time when I was living with my husband’s family members, I had trouble with my mother-in-law. But, thanks to her, I came to be able to do housework, cooking in particular. And also I became a mother of two lovely children through the encounter with my husband. I could realize the feeling of gratitude toward both of them.
Undoubtedly, I am caused to live thanks to our ancestors. Therefore, what I can do in return for them is that I offer foods to them without limit, so that they can ‘eat’ them as much as they want. I came to have a grateful heart toward the innumerable ancestors of my parents’ families, as well as the late mother-in-low and former husband who died in a traffic accident after our divorce. Because of this, I started to practice the RisshoKosei-kai teachings, making the home altar the center of my faith.
With the aspiration of sharing the wonderful teachings with as many as people possible and of becoming happy together with them, I strived for further efforts for the practice of guiding others to the Dharma and mentoring members. In 2008, I was given the Buddha’s arrangement to receive Gohonzon at the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai in Tokyo, and I was so glad.
Now I have a married daughter and a son, Maksim. I live with him. Shortly after I became a member of Rissho Kosei-kai and the locally-bestowed Gohonzon was then enshrined at the home altar, the altar was seen by Maksim as a child as a ‘thing’ that could make his dreams come true if he wished for something he wanted. Around that time, he wanted a personal computer, so he put his palms together in reverence in front of the altar. It was the first time for him to do so.
When Maksim had grown up, he asked me that for what purpose I set foods at the altar. I answered, saying, “It is to offer regular religious devotionals to our ancestors, including the late grandfather and grandmother, so that they would not suffer from being hungry. And, while I offer the sutra recitation to them, I can feel like I’m able to have a conversation with them. Especially, when I have some hardships, I can feel like our ancestors are hearing me.”
In 2011, Maksim was involved in an incident and would be sent to jail in a few days. I was so worried about him. For him, I devoted myself in offering the sutra recitation of the Threefold Lotus Sutra every morning and evening. And on the day before the court decision, the Sakhalin sangha members, too, held devotional services together with me. But he was sent to prison after all, and nothing changed for the better. I was disappointed that things were not going as expected. So, one day I decided to visit a Christian church, accepting the invitation of one of my friends, who is a Christian. At the church, I was told that if I prayed to God, my wish would come true and my son would be out of prison soon. I visited the church about for half a year to pray for my son. But I could not change reality. Then I thought over the things, and the teachings I learned through RisshoKosei-kai came rushing back. I said to myself, “The matter of Maksim must be a message from the Buddha, wishing me to become happy. So I should strive for the Dharma again.” I determined to join the sangha of the Sakhalin Hoza again.
At the Sakhalin Hoza, there were sangha members there who accepted me, understanding the hardships I suffered. In fact I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore. But, Ms. Don Sun encouraged me by saying, “My son passed away by a traffic accident when he was sixteen years old. Your son is alive, isn’t he, and will come back to you in five years.” And the sangha members also said to me, “You should welcome Maksim brightly as his mother when he returns from the prison. Maksim would be delighted at seeing your healthy appearance.” They were worried about me and empathized with me and Maksim as well, as if our matters were their own. By their continued, kind support, I decided to further strive for the Dharma. Since then, I continued to practice the Dharma through guiding others to the teachings, participating into training sessions and seminars held at the Hokkaido dissemination Area, and joining the group pilgrimage to the organization’s Tokyo headquarters.
As to Maksim, his questions of law for which he was sentenced at the court were commuted and, as the result of this, he came back home ahead of schedule. I greatly felt at ease seeing my son becoming gentle again.
Last year and this year, I participated in the seminar of the Hokkaido Area in April. Especially this year, a major change had happened in my mind. There were several reasons for it, but the most major reason was that I was moved by the attitude of the members of the Hokkaido Area. They were always polite and kind, and contacted others with a smile and compassionate mind. By their behavor, I thought that they may have had no troubles and sufferings in their lives. However, during my participation in the practice of mentoring other members and hoza sessions, I came to understand that my thought was wrong. I realized that they are striving for the practice with kindness, warmheartedness, cheerfulness, mutual support and cooperation, despite their own sad experiences. At the Sakhalin Hoza, I had few chances to have a Dharma connection between my suffering and the teaching, by expressing my true feelings. Because sometimes, when my experience would spread as a rumor, I could not share more at the hoza sessions. Some different stories that spread behind my back hurt me deeply. But through this practice of the hoza sessions at the Hokkaido Area, I could share my feelings without hesitation toward my son for the first time.
“My son has changed a great deal and I feel at ease now, but I am dissatisfied with my son’s girlfriend. This is my greatest problem. As for me, I wish he could have a Korean woman for his girlfriend who would take good care of him.” I talked about my worries. Ms. Tsubouch, a chapter head of the Sapporo Dharma Center, gave me her guidance saying, “If everything worked out as you expected, you would miss out the good chance to practice. The current situation is necessary for you as your practice. Please share your unpleasant feelings at the hoza session. You will not accept her, but please welcome her with a smile for considering of your son’s happiness.”
When I returned home after the seminar at Hokkaido, surprisingly, my son had offered water and sweets at the altar on his own, though he paid no notice to the matter of Rissho Kosei-kai until then! One of my wishes came true. But, I was so embarrassed that I appreciated him without letting my delight show. Anyway, I was so glad from my heart. It was the first step for him to walk the way of Rissho Kosei-kai.
Moreover, my son invited his girlfriend and another friend to become members of RisshoKosei-kai. To tell the truth, today the three of them are going to enroll Rissho Kosei-kai all together. I cannot tell you how happy I am. When my son decided to enroll Rissho Kosei-kai, he told me, saying, “When I was in trouble, you offered the sutra recitation of the threefold Lotus Sutra for me every morning and evening with tears in your eyes. I had brought much trouble to you, and now I feel ashamed of my harassment. From now on, I would like to continue to learn the teachings more.”
Later I heard that Maksim wished to make me glad when I returned home from the seminar at Hokkaido, and wondered how he could give delight to me. Then he remembered that I always place importance on the altar, so he decided to make offerings to the altar.
For drafting this my Dharma Sharing speech, Ms. Boku Aiko, the area leader of the Sakhalin Hoza, was so committed to me. My parent in faith is Ms. Don Sun and her parent in faith is Ms. Boku Aiko. Therefore, I deeply feel gratitude for Ms. Boku Aiko.
Fortunately, I had an opportunity to accept the certification of Dharma Teacher on this October at the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai. I would like to vow to strive for further effort to the practice of mentoring members in order to share my joy of accepting the certification and the teachings of the Buddha, to increase the number of new members, and leading members to come to the Sakhalin Hoza, though they have hard time to visit. Recently, the youth members are coming to the Sakhalin Hoza, I would like to develop warmhearted relationship among sangha members supporting an encouraging the activities by the youth members, and bring the teaching of learning and practice which I learned at Hokkaido into my daily life.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
Ms. Boku (front row, center) poses for a group photo with members of the Hokkaido Division and Sakhalin.