My Once-Hated Mother-in-Law Turns Me into a Bodhisattva

Korea Dharma Center

by Mrs. Ji Ok Bun

This testimony was delivered at the Korea Dharma Center on August 23, 2016.

Mrs. Ji Ok Bun delivers her spiritual experiences at the Korea Dharma Center.

I currently serve as an area leader. I was born in 1949, as the third of seven siblings. After I got married, I was blessed with two sons. The second son has already married and has become independent, so I live with my husband and our older son. My husband, who became seventy-six years old this year, works as the superinten- dent of an apartment house and serves as a village chief at a community center. He is healthy, but I suffer from headaches. My first encounter with Rissho Kosei-kai

was because of my intolerable headaches.
One day, I had a headache due to an unknown cause

and the pain was getting more severe day by day. I suffered from such severe pain that I couldn’t sit still, and the pain could not be cured, even though I saw several doctors. I changed from one hospital to another, searching for medical treatments. Because I had used Western medicine and the Chinese herbal medicine at the same time, however, I became jaundiced and I hovered between life and death because of liver disease. Someone told me that the site of my house was bad, so I moved.

In the fall of 1993, while dealing with that situation, I visited Korean Rissho Kosei-kai for the first time guided by my neighbor Ms. Lee, who was an area leader. But, the impression of the center wasn’t very positive to me at the time. The building and its atmos- phere were so different from the traditional Korean temples that I couldn’t feel that I could believe in this faith, so I threw away the prayer beads into a trash box when I was on my way back to my home.

Thereafter, however, the chapter leader visited my house many times to lead me to a religious life. The former minister told me that if I would believe in and practice the teaching, I would surely receive a good result. So I decided to perform a special prayer and practice the hoza activities for a hundred days. Out of an ardent desire to cure my headache, I visited the Korea Dharma Center every day, but I didn’t want to listen to someone talk about his or her trouble that was not relat- ed to me. I was able to complete my hundred-day prac- tice of the Dharma without missing a single day.

I also visited the Dharma center on the first day of the month as well as on the Uposatha Day Ceremony and would hold the devotional services for ancestors. As a result, even though my headache did not dis- appear, I came to feel appreciation for being alive now. One day, in the hoza, the former minister’s Dharma guidance gradually penetrated through my ears into my heart, and I realized my physical condition was getting better.

Thanks to my headaches, I had the opportunity to encounter Rissho Kosei-Kai, and what I had learned in hoza became my treasure. The former minister told us,“We are most grateful that we are sustained to live and we are alive now in impermanence,” “Everything is within ourselves,” and “If we change, others will change accordingly.” She taught us sometimes kindly and sometimes strictly, so that we could put into prac- tice what we learned in our daily lives.

Before learning the teachings of Rissho Kosei-kai, I was selfish and strongly believed I was right. I got mad when things did not go as I wished, although I wanted to have everything my own way. Because I had the head- aches, my husband and children were always concerned about me and tried to fit in with my needs. However I had been living without realizing my family’s consider- ation for me. If I hadn’t been able to encounter Rissho Kosei-kai’s teachings, I would have lived without feeling this deep appreciation for my family.

When I was twenty-three years old, I married my husband, who is eight years older than me. As soon as I got married, I began to live with my mother-in-law, and my conflict with her also began. She was strong-minded and hated being bested by others. She argued with others about something she didn’t like, and when an argument occurred in the neighborhood, she was always there. When quarrels and dissension arose within our family, her anger sometimes didn’t recede until my husband and I went down on our hands and knees and apologized to her.

Furthermore, she handed out kimchi I had pickled to neighbors without my permission, and she invited them to our home and had a drinking party. If at that time I was the person I am now, I could have expressed my appreciation for her kindness to neighbors, “You are so nice to the neighbors. Thank you very much.” But in those days, I couldn’t stand her, no matter what she did.

Also she always ran up tabs on the things she shopped for, so I used to go to the shops to pay off her tabs at the end of each month. My husband loved and cared for her. Every day he bought some sweets for her, and every time she ate a fish, he would bone it and put its meat on the rice so that she could eat it easily.

When I complained to my husband that I couldn’t put up with her attitude anymore, he rejected what I had to say and said, “If you find it so hard, why don’t you start a new life by divorcing me?” When I had a talk with my own mother, she said to me, “You have to be patient.” I heard later that actually she had been very worried about me and hoped I would come back home.

When I became pregnant with my first child, I had toxemia of pregnancy due to stress, and my family members gathered in the hospital. Then a doctor said to us, “I can save only one life, the baby or the mother. Which one do you choose?” My mother-in-law said, “I’ll give up the life of the daughter-in-law,” and it ended up in a big argument with my own mother. I heard about this later. The doctor said to me, “You cannot have another child,” but I was able to give birth to my second son safely.

When my first son was five years old and second son was three years old, I started to work because my husband’s business was not doing well. Even after I started working, I did housework well and prepared the afternoon snacks for the children, so I was proud that I was not dependent on my mother-in-law.

However, she became bedridden because of geriatric diseases when she turned eighty-three. My husband did his best to care for her. I also devoted myself to doing so, but I was only acting from the feeling that I should perform this duty as her daughter-in-law. Honestly, I thought I had shown enough devotion to her and I would be able to be free when she passed away. Howev- er, after I learned the Buddha’s teachings, I realized that I had never tried to understand what she felt.

She lost her husband at the age of thirty-nine and fled from North Korea to South Korea with three children. She had to have a violent temper in the cruel situation of war so that she could survive with her three children. I understood her feeling a little bit. My husband was the oldest son, and his mother was blessed with him as a result of her prayer to the Buddha. He told me that his father passed away when he was seven years old. He had taken good care of his mother, because from his childhood he saw her go through many hardships to protect the children. His devotion to her was famous in the neighborhood.

Just as he showed devotion to her mother, he has taken good care of me now. I had been filled with anger before, so I did not go so far as to notice his kindness. I think I must have been jealous of her. I take this occa- sion to repent for my deeds toward her. And I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my own mother, who has always been concerned about and supported me; I apologize to her for making her worry.

In April 2016, President Niwano paid a visit to the Korea Dharma Center. Thanks to his virtue, ten families in the area for which I am responsible have newly entered Rissho Kosei-kai. They have various religious backgrounds, but most of their sufferings concerned their children. After they became members and the post- humous name for all the spirits of ancestors were installed in the Dharma center, the Buddha showed them positive phenomena in their lives, as skillful means.

A certain member’s son found a good job, another member’s son was promoted in a company, and still another was able to obtain repayment for money he had lent. Almost every day I received many such welcome reports from the members. And they were pleased that Kosei-kai members warmly stayed close to them like a family.

The members are obediently practicing the teaching of the Buddha. Seeing them reminded me that I had unconsciously forgotten obedience. I reflected on that. My children in the Dharma teach me the importance of giving thanks to the teachings and firmly recognizing the Truth. Now I see each of them as venerable and precious. I am living in the same town with them, so they are always watching me. Here, I vow to show them how I practice the teachings in my daily life.

In May 2016, the World Sangha Assembly 2016 was held at the headquarters in Tokyo. We received warm- hearted hospitality, and I deemed my exchanges with many people, as the same sangha walking together a path of the Buddha’s teachings beyond such differences as nationalities. This still remains within my heart as grateful experience.

I devote myself to fully conveying this wonderful teaching to many people and to being diligent in the practice so that we may become happy together with them.

Thank you very much.

Now Mrs. Ji Ok Bun, an area leader, fulfills the role of chanting leader during sutra recitation.