I weighed only 1,600 grams (3.5 lbs) when I came into the world prematurely. I was born in a rural part of Saitama in the Chichibu Mountains. The only incubator available was already occupied by another baby born before me. So my mother wrapped me in silk wadding and used hot water bottles to keep me safe and warm.
I was one and a half years old before my family realized—thanks to my uncle—that I had been born with a disability. After that my parents did all they could to get information about my condition. Whenever they heard about a place that offered a treatment, they’d take me there no matter how far it was. Even after I got big my father would carry me on his back, sometimes having to change trains or buses to get there.
There were times when there was no train or bus to take us over mountains. So I’d hang on to my father’s back as we’d take a motorcycle to get there. In the middle of winter we’d bundle up in many layers of clothes and press against each other to stay warm. There were times when the fierce wind bit into us mercilessly, making us both cry in pain as we rode through the cold.
Although we were really poor, I don’t remember ever going hungry. I was always taken care of, and for that, I am truly grateful to my parents.
The treatments back then weren’t covered by health insurance. A single test would sometimes cost half of my father’s monthly salary. Although we were really poor, I don’t remember ever going hungry. I was always taken care of, and for that, I am truly grateful to my parents.
I heard about the Shinnyo-en tradition thanks to a cousin on my father’s side and decided to start practicing in December of 1986, when I was 24. That’s how I started going to the temple. I’m basically very shy and introverted. So until I was sure another person really understood me, I’d hold back. I’d keep my distance, just observing people. I was pretty closed off to others. That’s how I was at Shinnyo-en.
But in 1991 I was given the opportunity to offer a bouquet of flowers in appreciation to Her Holiness at the gathering for people with special needs. I have to use a wheelchair now, but back then I could manage on crutches. When it came time to offer the flowers, Her Holiness stood up and started walking towards me. I thought, “I’ll wait till she comes close…and then give her the bouquet.”
I was given the opportunity to offer a bouquet of flowers in appreciation to Her Holiness at the gathering for people with special needs.
But instead, as she approached she started encouraging me to step forward. “Keep going. You can do it,” she said. When I would take a step forward, she would take a step back. I couldn’t give her the bouquet right away as she had stepped back to her original spot. I had to keep walking until I reached her, while she waited patiently for me.
“I’ve never encountered such kindness,” I thought. It was really hard for me to walk toward her, and it took me a long time, but it was okay. Until then people had been kind to me, but in a different way. People had done whatever I asked of them. I was passive and so used to having others help me that I took it for granted and lacked initiative. But Her Holiness was different. She stood at the predetermined spot and patiently waited for me to try to do it on my own. Such kindness made me so happy. Since then, people have told me that I am more cheerful and friendlier than I used to be. I feel it started on that day.
In December of 1994, when I was 32, I got married to a man I went to school with. We’ve been blessed with 3 children. I struggled to share the Dharma with others, but in April of 2013 I could enroll in the Chiryu Gakuin Dharma Program. The chance to study together with Dharma friends was an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life. In March of 2016, in the 80th year of the Shinnyo Path, thanks truly to the loving care I received, I graduated from Dharma school. With a bright smile I will continue sharing this path and make sure it is passed on for the generations to come. I make this firm vow to the Shinnyo Parents, the Ryodoji, Her Holiness and our Dharma Protectors. I would like to end my story with this verse composed by Shinjo:
With a resolute spirit, will I continue on the path with others.
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French practitioner Guillaume Riou shares his very personal story of practicing Shinnyo‑en, and how the simple act of praying for a cousin’s premature baby opened his heart to an estranged family member, and helped to heal the whole family.
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