Thank you, Aya
Aya was a three-year-old girl who just started potty training. Although she was not doing well most times, leaving the toilet dirty and such, she was sometimes able to tell her mother, "I have to pee!"
Aya's mother was not too concerned about Aya still wetting her pants. But one day, when Aya wet her pants again and again, after the fifth time, her mother pulled Aya to the toilet. "Why can't you come here?" she scolded. Aya's mother had been proud of her daughter because Aya was always ahead children of her age, so this problem made her feel ashamed. Aya's mother also felt irritable because she was three months pregnant and ha morning sickness. Just after she scolded Aya, she felt sick and crouched on the toilet. Aya then raised her face to her mother and started crying while gently stroking her mother's stomach.
Suddenly, Aya's mother realized her daughter's kind heart:
Aya knew that her mother was pregnant, but Aya also kenw that she usually felt sick when cleaning up the toilet after Aya used it. Of course, her sickness was due to morning sickness and not Aya, but Aya wouldn't know anything about that. Aya must have felt bad, thinking she was causing her mother and the new baby pain, so she hesitated to go to the bathroom because she might make a mess and make her mother clean up again.
Aya was being considerate of her mother and the baby. But because of her shame for her daughter's behavior, her mother had misjudged her little daughter's warm, thoughtful heart. When she realized this, she held her daughter and said again and again "I am very sorry and thank you." Aya's mother was certain that it was Kami-sama who taught Aya to have such a good, kind heart; and it might be herself who needed to grow up and be a good human and a kind parent.
As Aya's mother said to herself, "Let's do our best from now on with sincere and grateful hearts toward Kami-sama," Aya's face brightened with a smile.
It was a cold day, with a strong northerly wind blowing. News spread that our son was in a traffic accident. A car driven by a college student struck our son's bicycle when our son darted out in front of it. My wife hurried to the scene only to find our son already taken away by ambulance and his demolished bicycle left behind. Frantically, she chased after the ambulance.
Right outside the operating room, my wife spent hours filled with anxiety, fear and anger. After some time, the doctor informed her that our son suffered a heavy blow to the head, a broken left femur (thigh bone), seven broken ribs, and a punctured lung. The doctor went on to say that our son was in critical condition and his survival depended upon getting through the night.
I received the news while I was far away on a business trip. Without knowing any details, I jumped aboard a night train. Later on I learned about the seriousness of our son's condition.
The night was like a bad dream. At six o'clock the next morning, I took a taxi from the train station to the hospital. Fear that our son may have already died swept over me. While fighting the urge to run away from this terrible reality, I arrived at the hospital. With her head downcast, my wife sat on a bench outside the intensive care unit.
As I was about to address her, a few doctors came out of the intensive care unit and said, "Are you his father? Good news, he will be all right. He has also regained consciousness, so please go on in to see and talk to him." While thanking the doctors, I thought of my mother who was at home. I was almost certain she had been up all night praying. The moment I heard her soft, tired voice on the other end of the payphone line, the tension that built up inside of me was released and I could no longer hold back the tears that overflowed.
Narrowly escaping death, and suffering from headaches and full body contusions for days to come, our son would not let go of his mother's hand, even for a moment. During our son's hospitalization, the college student, who drove the car, came to visit him. As he gazed at our son wrapped in bandages, he said with remorse, "I am very sorry." Then, despite much difficulty breathing, our 11-year-old son in fifth grade responded, "Me, too." I was surprised at these unexpected words. Appearing overjoyed to hear these words, tears welled up in the college student's eyes. No one had told our son to say that, nor did he carefully think of a response. The fact that he could utter such kind, caring words to someone else when he was in excruciating pain, moved everyone. I saw Kami in our son. The scene is etched in my memory.
The pure heart of a child, who neither accuses nor resents others, taught me an important lesson -- no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, Kami allows us to live, and to live is to be blessed with Kami's heart. Neither parents nor doctors raise children and sustain their lives; only Kami.
A child that can care for others with a heart of Kami, while undergoing suffering, is a child of Kami. Kami allows children to live and raises them. I always ask myself if I am interfering with the Workings of Kami whenever I look at the scars that remain on our son's face from that incident.
The following story happened when I was an instructor at a cram school.
One day, a grandmother of a student named Ken came to the school and said, "I am troubled by my grandson's bad behavior. He told me he does not want to go to school. However, he never skips a class here. So I came here to see what is going on."
As I was listening to her, I remembered the time when Ken started coming to this school. In the beginning, he spoke very rudely. Even when I praised him, he would coldly respond, "So what? Are you stupid?" I was puzzled about his attitude and later went to a Konko Church. The minister said, "It is important for you to be pleased with what he has done, rather than thinking about the trouble he causes. Don't flatter him, but you have to be delighted in what he is able to do."
As I listened to the minister, I felt sorry that I was not sincerely pleased with Ken's growth even though I praised him, and he probably knew that. Since then, I tried to keep my eyes on the students' developments and to gradually be pleased with their growth as if it were my own. Moreover, I noticed that Ken began to assume a position of leadership within the class.
After I told his grandmother about this incident when he began my school, she said, "I see. I will try not to regard Ken as a bad boy, but instead try to be grateful for his growth."
A few days later, she came back to the school looking happy and said, "After I spoke with you, I was able to be pleased with my grandson and now my eyes see his good points one after another."
Happiness Beyond Oneself
This story takes place at a famous garden visited by many tourists. On one visitor's day, as people were enjoying the beauty of the garden, it suddenly began to rain. Since many visitors were without umbrellas, they hurried to find shelter at the rest station or their personal cars.
A mother and young daughter were among the visitors seeking shelter. The young girl started crying because her hair and clothes were getting wet due to the rain. At that moment, the mother interrupted her crying by stating, "Look at these flowers and plants. They all look happy because the rain has given them energy." The young girl stopped crying and curiously looked at the flowers and asked with her fingers pointing, "Are all the flowers and plants happy?" She continued to talk with her mother as they both walked to the rest station for shelter.
There are some very important lessons to be learned from the conversation between the mother and her daughter. First of all, although the rain may inconvenience some people, there are those for whom rain is necessary, beneficial and happiness. In addition, we possess the spiritual eyes and hearts of Kami and thus have the ability to "feel" the happiness of flowers and plants receiving rain and through our spiritual eyes, we "see" that flowers and plants have precious lives as well. Finally, the lesson taught by the mother has now become a part of the daughter, who has learned to cherish the benefit that rain provides for flowers. The mother's lesson has broadened the daughter's awareness of the world around her. The daughter has learned that everything has life and has come to cherish the lives of other people and all the living things in nature. She is part of something broader than just her physical self.
Maria had been suffering from a mental disease called "Panic Syndrome" for the past 7 to 8 years and had attended every hospital with a good reputation for its treatment. However, her condition was getting worse and her health was failing. In addition, her husband was suffering from a hernia, her son had a weak constitution and her daughter had the same symptoms as her mother.
One night, when her condition had taken a turn for the worse and she was about to be taken to a mental institution, she begged her mother, "I don't want to go to the hospital. I want to go to the Konko Church." Her mother then took her there.
That day she stayed at the church, and the next day when her condition recovered, she entered the worship hall and requested mediation there. The minister then told her, "You may suppose that Panic Syndrome is only trouble for you, but it must have been arranged by Kami in order to help you." After hearing these words, Maria made up her mind that she had tried everything for getting rid of the pain and began her training to accept everything as "arranged by Kami."
At first, she decided to stop taking several kinds of medicine she had and offer them to the altar. She went to worship at the church every day along with someone from her family and as she prayed to Kami, she tried to change her way of living that had so many misunderstandings and mistaken ideas. After she began these efforts, several incidents occurred.
For instance, her husband usually took their children to and from school, but on one occasion, it was inconvenient for him and she had to do it instead. Maria refused, shouting, "That's out of the question!" But immediately, she reconsidered and accepted it while saying, "It must be the work of Kami who intends to bring me up." She wouldn't be able to drive at all if a fit occurred, so she prayed single-heartedly to Kami when she took her children. By praying to Kami like this throughout her daily life, she was able to perceive Kami's workings and receive divine blessings to gradually increase the scope of her activities. Thus, she was able to thank Kami for the disease which would allow her to increase her faith.
After a while, when she recovered enough to visit the church and worship daily, an incident occurred when she was parking her car in front of the entrance. A robber suddenly pointed a pistol at her and commanded her to keep her car running. She jumped out of her car without knowing what to do and screamed loudly. Since the minister just happened to appear at the entrance then, his presence made the robber leave in her car without doing anything.
At that moment, the minister was afraid that even though she had received enough divine blessings to recover from the disease, she might stop practicing faith. However, after entering the worship hall with great composure and praying there, she said, "Even when this event happened, I could accept it without unrest. It's also arranged by Kami to help me,isn't it?" With that day as a turning point, her faith became more and more earnest, while the diseases of both her husband and children became better as her condition improved. Moreover, her whole family began to eagerly practice faith. Nowadays, she vividly shares that "Panic Syndrome was an arrangement made by Kami-Sama in order for me to grow in faith and without that disease, I could never have been awakened to the blessings existing throughout my whole life."
Putting Yourself Last
Our Founder, Konko Daijin, tells us that, "Put yourself last, and pray to save others first. Then Kami-Sama will take good care of you." (Gorikai II Tsugawa, Haruo 1:3)
Aiko takes a medication for cancer these few months. The doctor has difficulty to pierce the needle into her vein because the vein is so thin that the needle of the intravenous injection is not pierced smoothly. And the doctor more tries, her arms get blacker and the vessels get to be further hardened. So the vein makes more difficult to be pierced.
One day, when she was anxiously waiting for an intravenous drop, the doctor came and began to sterilize her skinny blackened vein worrying where he should have stuck the needle into. Looking at the doctor's uneasy face, Aiko prayed in spite of herself for his completion saying "Konko-Sama" at heart. Then she expressed unlooked-for words to the doctor, "I prayed to Kami-Sama for your work, so feel easy to pierce into my arm." So the doctor answered her voice, "OK. I'll try to pierce trusting your Kami-Sama." Then the needle was safely and smoothly pierced into her vein for the first time.
When Aiko worshiped at the church, she told her minister this story. "Looking at the doctor's anxious face, I completely forgot my anxiety and couldn't help praying to Kami-Sama for him. So I delivered about Kami-Sama unconsciously." And she told her minister with her smile, "I was so much happy that I could tell him about Kami-Sama openly."
Baby's Blessed Life
Tomoko had given birth to a healthy baby boy but just about a month later, the baby suddenly quit suckling her breast. Although he was fine drinking milk from a bottle, Tomoko's breasts began to ache from being swollen with milk and she started to worry that she would suffer from mastitis.
She went to worship at her Konko Church, taking the baby along with her. At the church, she made a request to the minister that she hoped the baby would resume breast- feeding so that she would not suffer from the pain of mastitis.
Upon hearing her request, the minister severely scolded Tomoko saying, "You should pray for your baby's life first." Tomoko did not understand why she was being scolded because she had prayed for her baby even before he was born.
She asked the minister, "What do you mean?" The minister answered, "Your request today concerns only your problem. You are not considering that it might be unsafe for your baby to suckle your breast. Your baby might die because of this." She was surprised to hear this because she had never realized that it might cause a crisis for her baby.
The minister continued, "Although he doesn't drink your milk, your baby is fine because he drinks milk from a bottle. You should thank Kami for maintaining your baby's health, and then pray for your baby's healthy growth."
Tomoko then gazed silently towards her baby with his eyes wide open and held him even closer to her. She apologized for her shortcoming and prayed for her baby's health.