Celebration of the First Year as a Chapter Leader

Shibuya Dharma Center

by Ms. Yoshie Nagumo

This testimony was delivered during the ceremony of Shakyamuni’s Attainment of Buddhahood at the Great Sacred Hall on December 8, 2014.

Ms. Yoshie Nagumo delivers a religious testimony at the Great Sacred Hall.

Good morning.

I am truly grateful for this opportunity to talk about myspiritual experiences on such a wonderful day.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Great Sacred Hall, and President Niwano guided us to celebrate this year as the start of the second half of a century. A year has passed since I was assigned the role of chapter leader and took a first step forward in this memorial year.

In the beginning, I was worried about whether I would be able to fulfill the role of chapter leader, because I didn’t know anything about what the role required. Really, I felttoo anxious to do anything; but the minister taught me to regularly return to New Year’s guidance by the President, as well as his monthly guidance in the magazine Kosei, and confirm whether I was following the guidance. At the Shibuya Dharma Center, we read the monthly guidance in the magazine at 9 a.m. after every sutra recitation, and sharehow we put the teachings into practice in our daily lives. First of all, I thought I would like my chapter to value the President’s guidance, as we do at the Dharma center. So I read the New Year’s guidance entitled,Let Us Convey Our Joy. In it I found these words: “It is fundamental that we pass along to those who are with us, with all our hearts, the things that we have become aware of, that have moved us, no matter how incomplete or imperfect we may be.” I was so moved by these words that I thought of them as the President’s gift to me, an inexperienced one, and I was greatly encouraged. Since then, always keeping his guidance in my mind, I have worked on the Dharma mission alongside our members. But a year has gone by in a flash. When I was given this opportunity to talk about my religious testimony, I looked back on the past year, and realized that I was able to receive many merits and was given the opportunity to improve myself. This brings megreat joy.  

We celebrated both the 55th anniversary of the Shibuya Dharma Center and the 50th anniversary of the Great Sacred Hall this year. On this occasion, we tried to meet with all our Dharma center members and guide them, as an expression of our gratitude. We performed the practice ofguiding a hundred members from each chapter to participate in the group pilgrimage to headquarters. Less than 20 percent of all members live within the area of our Dharma center, and all the rest live outside. The situation made it difficult to visit those members’ homes. I thought not more than fifty people would participate in the pilgrimage, no matter how hard I tried to increase the number. So the figure of one hundred seemed incredible to me, and it made me feel overwhelmed. Frankly speaking, I thought it was impossible. The minister gave me guidance, saying,You should not try to gather a hundred people, but each of you fifty people should perform the practice of becoming a Dharma parent, by guiding and bringing a person to participate in the pilgrimage.” I should have accepted the guidance honestly, but I couldn’t, because I was attached tomy own thought. So our guiding activity didn’t make the progress I wished for.

Then I thought that I should change my attitude, so I deeply reflected on the meaning of a group pilgrimage for a hundred members. I found myself saying, “This is impossible, and that is also impossible.” How ungrateful I was to say so. I am now enjoying deep happiness because Founder Niwano and President Niwano gave us the Buddha’s teachings in an easy-to-understand manner. How much gratitude had I expressed for that? I truly felt sorry about my lack of awareness. From the bottom of my heart, I pledged myself to share the teachings with as many people as possible.

Then a change began to take place in my chapter. An area leader came to me and talked about her suffering. She visited a member’s house many times, and the member finally began to open her heart and share her distress with us, but the area leader did not know how to respond. This made the area leader depressed. I listened to her carefully, and she realized that she had a stereotypical view that she should always have something positive to say to a member. She was able to change her way of thinking, and realizedthat all she had to do was to listen to the member’s suffering with an open mind.

The area leader felt relieved and regained her smile, saying, “I look forward to meeting this member.” She immediately went to see the member, and carefully listened to the member. Because the area leader understood her so well, the member was liberated from the distress. Though thus far the member had refused to participate in theactivities of Rissho Kosei-kai, she changed her mind and accepted our offer to participate in the pilgrimage along with her family. As the joy of the area leader was conveyed throughout the chapter, several remarkable things happened. Someone was able to offer a prayer at a member’s familyaltar for the first time, and another was able to meet a member who had usually had not been at home. My chapter members and I realized that when our heart changes to one of joy, joyful phenomenon will naturally follow. Thanks to our goal ofMeeting all the members of the chapter,” a hundred members attended the ceremony, and all happily took their seats on that day just as we promised to the Buddha. They all smiled joyfully.

The minister always said to us, “Since the direction of achapter is determined by a single thought in its leader’s mind, it is important to always tune the mind in to that of the Buddha.” I finally understood the meaning of her words and thought, “If I honestly accept the minister’s guidance without letting my ego get in the way, this thought will be conveyed to all the members in my chapter.” We achieved the goal of a hundred members participation in the pilgrimage, and I had had the joy of guiding members, which made me feel more confident. I’ve been walking in delight on the Dharma mission alongside my chapter’s members.

There is a group leader in my chapter who is very vigorous. She was a mischievous child and had lived a rambunctious life, wandering around from one place to another. She had caused a lot of trouble to her family and people around her, making them worry. For that reason, still she has not been accepted by her family. She used to speak harshly to fellow members of the chapter. She was diagnosed with cancer this year and was really depressed. However, she made a miraculous comeback following surgery, lengthening her lifespan. Then, for the first time in quite a while, she received a role as a member of the waiting staff during the period of the Oeshiki Festival. The assignment made her very happy, but she caused trouble during comprehensive training for all the members at the Ome retreat center. I listened what she had to say. She complained to me that someone did and said such-and-such a thing to her. She just blamed others, and wasn’t able to look into herself. So I thought to myself, “After surgery for cancer, you said to your fellow members that you had become a new person, but how can you say you have really become a new person?” I was dumbfounded. However, when I looked back at myself, I found that I also had a similar disposition in my mind. I had the feeling that others were to blame, and I suffered because I did not know how to control such feelings when they arose.

It was around this time that my son and his wife were confronted with the crisis of divorce. She and her parents said that the cause of the matter lay in my son, and claimed that I as a parent made a mistake in bringing him up. At thetime, I could not accept their accusations at all. The feeling that they were to blame welled up in my mind, and I had nothing to do. I was very distressed, experiencing emotional turmoil every day. I visited the Dharma center every day in tears, and Sangha members had listened to mesympathetically and accepted my sadness. Thanks to their warm-heartedness, I realized that the mother of my daughter-in-law was suffering more than I was. Without seeing my own faults, I had clung to stereotypical views that the mother of my daughter-in-law should be a certain way, and that my daughter-in-law should behave a certain ways. I recognized that they were not wrong, but that my own perspective was imperfect. Then I got to know the virtue of my daughter-in-law and her mother, and I spontaneously embraced my daughter-in-law.

It took me a long time, but I was able to accept this matter as an arrangement by the Buddha, allowing me to become a warmhearted person. Thanks to the teachings of the Buddha and the relationship with my fellow Sangha members, I learned that there were many merits in the midst of my suffering, even though at the beginning I did not notice them.

Through this situation, the young couple was able to have an opportunity to talk with each other so that they could become a true couple, understanding each otherdeeply. And my husband and I were also able to talk with each other so that we could spend the rest of our lives showing consideration and care for each other. I thought of them as the gifts of the Buddha. Furthermore, I thought the Buddha had given me a chance to reconsider the parent-child relationship, because that relationship had been weak.

When I looked back, the experience of that group leader and my own overlapped. She tried to control her anger that welled up in her mind. I found her mindset to be the same as the one I used to have. When I felt this way, I started tofeel the great efforts she had made in her life; I thought of her like my own child. It brought a lump to my throat, and I thought, “I want to walk along together with her!” At that moment, I came to feel that the gap had vanished between me and the woman who I thought of as a troublemaker. In addition, I was filled with a sense of oneness that we were born with the same karmic relationship.

In my chapter there are various kinds of people. Some members have a lot of suffering, and others have their own individual unique characters. I now have come to have theviewpoint that all of them are living with all their might, just like the group leader. I understood the trouble had been an arrangement by the Buddha in order to awaken me as a novice chapter leader. I have been taught that every phenomenon occurring before me is a sermon by the Buddha especially for me. I finally realized that the real nature of this matter.

On the day of the Oeshiki Festival, I saw the groupleader enjoying her role with other members in a lively way. I was very happy to see that scene.

Twenty Mongolian members participated in the Oeshiki Festival with members of the Shibuya Dharma Center this year. It rained heavily that day. But the Mongolian members welcomed the rain, because it is regarded as a blessing thatwet the grassland in their country. So they took part in the parade with great joy, even though they were drenched to the skin.

Twenty-four years ago, I was working on the Dharma mission by visiting non-members houses randomly to introduce Rissho Kosei-kai, and I visited the Embassy of Mongolia in Shibuya where I live. I handed a copy of the Japanese-language magazine Kosei to a staff member of the embassy who was on the other side of the gate. My relationship with Mongolia started at that point. Later a lot of embassy staff and their families, and government officials came to visit the Dharma center. Among them, the first person that became a member was Dr. Choi Luvsanjav, then presidential adviser for linguistic policy. He wassincerely concerned about the future of Mongolia, whichhad been just democratized. At such a time, he encounteredRissho Kosei-kai, and he was impressed by the magnificence of the Lotus Sutra and the greatness of the Founder. He strongly wished to transmit the teachings to Mongolia. Learning of his enthusiasm for dissemination, Ibecame determined to help him to share the teachings no matter what might happen. At first, I thought must somehow manage to help them in their efforts, since I had guided them to become members. At the time, the members at the Dharma center would not accept all my offers to support the Mongolian members. But later, with muchsupport by the members of our Dharma center, the Mongolian members held an inauguration ceremony for the new building of Mongolia’s branch, the Ulaanbaatar chapter, which now has more than a thousand households. The ceremony was held in the presence of President Niwano last June.

 By the compassion of our minister, my husband and I were given a chance to participate in the ceremony. Attending the ceremony, I shook with delight.

It was after my marriage that I had an encounter with Rissho Kosei-kai. Because I did not understand Rissho Kosei-kai well at the beginning, I would strongly reactagainst my husband. That was the kind of person I had been, but now I could guide the Mongolian people to the Buddhist faith and become a Dharma parent. I always think of the Mongolian members. I was surprised to know that it made me think, “How deeply parents are concerned about their children!” I always wish and pray that the Mongolian members will be able to share the precious teachings withothers bravely.

In the past twenty-four years, my attitude of wishing for the happiness of others has been cultivated, and now I have clearly realized that such a mind has the potential of expanding infinitely. It’s all thanks to the Buddha, Founder Niwano, and President Niwano. I thank them.

I thank my husband and his late parents for my opportunity to encounter with the teachings. Before leaving for Mongolia, I conveyed my feelings to my husband. He told me, “Let us go to Yamagata Prefecture, where you were born, to convey our gratitude to your ancestors and theirhometown.” At that moment, I realized that he hadembraced me deeply like my parents, though he is my husband, and my heart was filled with gratitude to him.

When I went to Mongolia, I knew that before the inauguration ceremony for the new building of the Ulaanbaatar chapter, Mrs. Zorigmaa Shuger who is my Dharma child and her husband also visited a temple in their local area, which is the origin of their religious faith, to express their gratitude as we had. The couple devoted themselves to establishing the Ulaanbaatar chapter. I also knew that they pledged to each other that they wouldsupport each other in their lives together. When I heard that, I thought, “Though we are far apart, our hearts are at one with one another in mind.And my body and mind shook,and tears welled up in my eyes. It was a significant beginning of the year for the branch of Mongolia, which had held the inauguration ceremony, and also for me, who had started my first year as a chapter leader.

Seventy years ago, a divine revelation declared, The Lotus Sutra will spread all over the world from Rissho Kosei-kai.As was declared, the teachings are indeed spreading to the world. I vow to discipline myself strictly, associate with others kindly, and devote myself to the Dharma mission so that I can walk as the Dharma teaches in order to realize a peaceful world.

Everyone, thank you very much today.

Ms. Nagumo (center), visits a Mongolian member of the Ulaanbaatar Chapter (on her right), with the minister of the Shibuya Dharma Center (right), another chapter leader (second from left), and a Dharma center member.