Updated: May 23, 2019
Let me share with you a testimonial by a young Buddhist teacher, Yasuhiro Maeda.
I was born in Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture. My father was very quiet, and my mother was affectionate. I was raised comfortably with two brothers. My grandparents lived in Osaka City, so sometimes we went to visit them. They always took good care of me, so I used to look forward to seeing them. One day, when we visited them, my grandfather was not there. I heard that he had been hospitalized nearby, so we visited him. I was able to talk with him and I felt relieved. From then on, from time to time, we went to see him at the hospital. However, after a short while, he passed away. I was still 5 years old at the time, so I did not understand the meaning of death. I even thought I could meet him again in another place. But the place I went to with my family and relatives was a crematory.
When I saw him being put into the crematory I was suddenly filled with fear. That made me ask a question to one of my relatives next to me. “When will Grandpa be brought back to life?” I asked. He answered with a serious look, “He will never come back to life.” That was when I came to understand the meaning of death. It gave me a huge shock.
In the end, all that remained of my grandpa after coming back from the crematory was bones. I was startled by this awful transformation, and I could not stop crying because I could never see him again. I came to understand that I would become white bones like this at some point. That made me terrified of dying.
Afterwards, when I went back to my usual life, I forgot about what had happened at the crematory and had a good time every day playing sports and video games with my friends. However, before going to sleep, I used to become absorbed in thought about what will happen after I die. “When I go to sleep, before I know it, I become unconscious. But when morning comes, I wake up. So going to sleep is not scary at all. But what is it like to die? Will I just never wake up again? Or will I wake up in a completely different world? If so, what kind of world is it? I would hate to never wake up again. Plus, it would be scary to wake up in an unfamiliar world. So I do not want to die.” I would worry about the afterlife at night like this many times.
However, in the daytime, I would completely forget that concern and carry on as normal. When I was in junior high and high school, I had an interest in rock music. I went to karaoke frequently, and I also went to concerts. In high school I put together a band with some of my friends, and devoted myself to playing guitar. I immersed myself in something I loved with like-minded friends. Every single day was so fulfilling.
On the other hand, no matter how excited I got, there was an emptiness inside that I just could not fill and I would start feeling apathetic. The more absorbed I became in fun things, the bigger the emptiness I would feel afterwards. And I could not do anything about it. I want to accomplish something great. If I do, that would give me real satisfaction. Hoping to find it, I studied hard for my university entrance exams. As a result, I entered Osaka University. There I encountered Master Shinran’s teachings.
The purpose of life is to attain absolute happiness. Absolute happiness is the great joy of life that makes one shout, “How glad I am to have been born human!” “How wonderful it is to be alive!” My heart was screaming, “What am I doing? I have been trying so many enjoyable things so far, but even the intense pleasure I get from concerts and band performances has never made me feel glad to have been born human! If things continue at this rate in my life, I am sure to regret it in the end. I am eager to know absolute happiness. I cannot go to my death without knowing it.” I learned, “Death is the 100% certain future that no-one can avoid. What will happen when we die? If we just carry on with our certain future still unclear, we won’t be able to enjoy the present moment in a true sense.”
I thought, “Yes, that’s true! If I just let myself stay ignorant towards the afterlife, I cannot live a bright life with no regrets.”
“So why had I been unable to fill the emptiness inside me? That was because my afterlife is dark!” The afterlife, which I used to think about before falling asleep, and the emptiness I felt in high school were connected! This was eye-opening. Master Shinran’s teachings clarify that there is a path to resolve the crucial matter of the afterlife and attain absolute happiness. I could not help listening to Buddhism continuously.
In May of that year, I was able to encounter Takamori-sensei for the first time.
“Amida’s unimpeded light is the sun of wisdom that destroys the mind of darkness.”
When our dark mind is dispelled through the power of Amida Buddha, we will attain absolute happiness in this life. While alive, we are made certain to go to the Pure Land at the moment of death. “This is it! This is the very true teaching that I should devote my life to!” And so my mind was made up. Now I am determined to follow Takamori-sensei and convey Master Shinran’s teachings, in which he clarified absolute happiness, to all humanity.