Roles Given by the Buddha Help Me Grow

Taipei Dharma Center

by Rev. Hsiu-Fang Chien

This Dharma experience speech was delivered at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo during the ceremony of the monthly memorial day for the Founder on March 4, 2016.

This Dharma experience speech was delivered at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo during the ceremony of the monthly memorial day for the Founder on March 4, 2016.

Everyone, please guide me. My connection with Rissho Kosei-kai began with my father’s joining Rissho Kosei-kai. At the time, my grandfather was the principal of a school in Taiwan, and my father used to go and play in the school grounds when he was a student. In those days, Taiwan was under Japanese rule, so Japanese soldiers were stationed at the school. Among the soldiers, there was a man who treated my father kindly. He gave my father his name card, and he and my father exchanged promises to see each other in Japan someday.

Thirty-five years later, in 1980, when my father took a business trip to Japan for the first time, he remembered the soldier’s name card. Although a long time had passed, my father was able to meet him again. The soldier was Rev. Takao Ogino who was a board member of Rissho Kosei-kai at the headquarters at that time.

As he was asked by Rev. Ogino, my father participated in hoza, or the Dharma circle, at the Great Sacred Hall, and he was touched by seeing that experience for the first time. He asked Rev. Oginohow he could join Rissho Kosei-kai, and he became a member. After his return to Taiwan, my mother heard about Rissho Kosei-kai from him and soon also became a member. My parents started the Dharma dissemination earnestly. My father served as a liaison between Taiwan and Japan and coordinated things like asking the headquarters to send lecturers to Taiwan. My mother, who became a teacher, guided many of her fellow workers to Rissho Kosei-kai.

In those days, I regarded Rissho Kosei-kai as my parents’ faith, but not my own. But, after my mother was killed in a traffic accident in 1987, my father gave priority to the Dharma dissemination rather than his job, and spent most of the day at the Dharma center. In order to support my father, I also visited the Dharma center and lent hand with general affairs. Later, I was appointed as a head of the Youth Group and then a chapter leader, but I didn’t understand the teachings deeply and fulfilled the roles just out of my feelings for my father—I wanted to aid him with his role and to help him accomplish his wishes.

In 2007, my father passed away. At the time, I served as a chapter leader, and I thought I would like to quit my role because my father had died. However, Rev. Teruo Saito, then minister of the Taiwan Dharma Center, said that he would like a Taiwanese, not Japanese, to become the next minister and he wanted to recommend me for the next minister. I received this role only because I thought I had to fulfill my responsibility, not feeling much gratitude for it.

When I began my role as a minister, I faced a variety of challenges, one after another. One day, I served as a facilitator of hoza with about sixty to seventy members. When I gave the Dharma consultation to one member, a senior member said to me, “You are still a greenhorn and you are not entitled to give guidance to someone.” Other members followed her as if to say to me, “Don’t be presumptuous.”

Since I experienced such humiliation and felt frustrated, I talked about my pain and distress to my brothers, who were also leaders of the Sangha. I wanted them to give comfort but they said, “You are still not entitled to give the Dharma consultation to anyone, so you should just sit quietly like the Buddha,” and “It is no use complaining to anyone about your physical fatigue and sickness. No one feels pity for you.”

I had a very difficult time in those days, but bore up while holding back my tears. I thought, “I would like to quit Rissho Kosei-kai and live an easy life,” and “I originally started to help my father with Rissho Kosei-kai. Since he has already passed away, it doesn’t matter if I leave Rissho Kosei-kai.” I started to arrange my personal belongings in order to leave the Dharma center. However, some days later, something happened the next Sunday.

A certain member came and asked me to explain about a passage from “Virtues,” chapter 1 of the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings, “We submit ourselves to the one / Who has completed all hard things.” Another member asked me to explain about the four conditions for mastering the teachings of the Lotus Sutra that are taught in chapter 28 of the sutra “Encouragement of the Bodhisattva Universal Wisdom.” While answering these questions, I realized, “It is not easy to practice and spread the Dharma,” and “It is important for me to practice the teachings of the Buddha, not just wishing for the accomplishment of my own desires.”

On the morning before the sunday I planned to leave the Dharma center, I noticed the calligraphy on the sides of the altar, which says, “Tranquil and calm is this land of mine— / Filled with human and heavenly beings.” In that moment, my heart was filled with some warmth, feeling like the Buddha was telling me that I could necessarily be protected if I was to keep religious faith and do good things. Then, I made up my mind that this should be the way to follow.

Therefore, I thought deeply about President Niwano’s guidance again and again—“Let us revere the buddha-nature,” “Those who share the Dharma are nothing other than the practitioners,” “Let us communicate with people or deal with things from the standpoint of the parents,” and “Let us praise others.”

One day, a member came to me and said, “A certain member who is a company president can’t do his job, because he is suffering from depression, and has lost weight. His mother is worrying about him, but she doesn’t know what to do.” I asked the member to take him to the Dharma center. From that day on, I had a conversation with him during lunch time (in a form similar to a tea party) almost every day. As the days went by, we talked longer; sometimes we talked about four to five hours. During the conversation, a cup of coffee was my lunch. Every day I carefully listened to him as he spoke incoherently, and tried to find the cause of his disease in the depth of his mind and heart.

Later, through my repeated listening to him, he became aware of a desire in his heart to treasure his estranged mother. He gradually recovered from his disease, eventually being elected chief director of the association of printing companies. Through my encounter with him, I learned how important it is for me to listen to others talk. At the same time, I came to understand the depth of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and developed self-confidence to liberate people. I also realized that my spiritual growth would lead to others’ growth.

Last year, we held a ceremony to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Taipei Dharma Center. In the days before the ceremony, I met with the Dharma center leaders, inviting guests and members who had practiced together. After long consideration, we thought, “We still have not taken a step toward outside the center for thirty years,” “We celebrate the birthday of the Dharma center, so we should take this opportunity to visit and see all the members,” and “If we miss this chance, we can’t expect when the next one comes.” After repeated discussions with the chairperson of the board of trustees of the Taipei Dharma Center, we resolved to take a step toward outside so that nonmembers may take this opportunity to encounter the Buddha.

I sought the approval of the leaders, and as a result, many members visited other members’ homes to share the teaching. They had confidence in visiting members homes. We shared the work of making paper cranes. Because paper cranes are a little complicatedto fold, only a limited number of members could do it. And so they made an effort to fold them late into the night, and their hands got rough and dry. They enjoyed the preparation work, however, and the Dharma center was always filled with laughter.

On the day before the ceremony, members from the Toyoda Dharma Center in Japan visited and helped us prepare for the ceremony. Some of them folded paper cranes together with Taipei members, and others handed out paper cranes and flowers in the rain to people walking near the Dharma center, while appealing to them to join the ceremony.

That evening, the rain gradually began to fall harder, and we all felt too uneasy to sleep. However, as the saying goes, “If we earnestly pray, it will be answered.” The next day’s weather got better gradually, and in the afternoon, it was sunny enough to dry off the park benches when we carried out an outdoor program.

What impressed me most during the ceremony for the 30th anniversary was that we members of the Taipei Dharma Center could make our existence widely known for the first time. All members were so touched with gratitude. I think this is because the Buddha witnessed our merits being accumulated daily by the Toyoda members, who came to celebrate, and the Taipei members.

Looking back on my life, I think that the Buddha had extended his compassionate hand to me while I was not conscious of it. If I had not been born in the Chien’s family, if I hadn’t had the karmic connection with my parents, if I hadn’t encountered with Rissho Kosei-kai, if I hadn’t walked this way through experiencing various roles, including chapter leader, I would not be here as a minister now.

I have realized that everything is as it is, thanks to the protection of my ancestors, the merits I have received, and the support from my family and fellow people, not to my own power.

Thanks to the role as minister, I’m always filled with joy now. Previously, I had acted for the sake of others, but it was only superficial. But I realized that I would be able to lead people to the state of true liberation based on the Dharma.

The Founder said in his Dharma talk, “Imagine a mesh of net with a thousand openings, and if you are one of them, then are you worth of only one-thousandth of the whole net? Far from it! All the other openings in the net support the one that is you, just as you support the rest of the net. Even if one opening in the mesh breaks, the whole mesh of the net will be affected. If you truly understand this interdependence, you must be able to consider what you should do for those around you.”

We should not underestimate ourselves. Everyone has his or her own role to play and is an irreplaceable existence. So let us do our best.

Today is the memorial day for the Founder and the day before the 78th anniversary of the founding of Rissho Kosei-kai. Fifty-two years ago today, the ceremony enshrining the Gohonzon was held here at the Great Sacred Hall. I appreciate President Niwano and all people, who have supported me, for the opportunity given me to speak about my Dharma experience on this auspicious day. I would like to walk the path, believing in the Buddha’s arrangements.

I would like to pledge myself before the Eternal Buddha to be diligent in the practice of the teachings in order to fulfill my life’s vocation as I wished to be born.

I would like to ask President Niwano and every one to guide me continuously.

Everyone, thank you.

Rev. Chien (center, second row) and Sangha members of the Taipei Dharma Center.