“A typhoon warning has been issued in Chiba prefecture.” When I was casually browsing the news articles section on Yahoo Japan’s website, that headline suddenly jumped out at me! Chiba prefecture is where I had lived and worked for about a year before coming to the U.S.A. I encountered many nice people there and had very good time. I would consider Chiba like my second hometown in Japan, so when I saw that headline, it made me a little bit worried.
I sent a message to my friend in Chiba, who is also a minister. Chiba prefecture is prone to typhoons. When I lived there, I did experience typhoons, but fortunately, no damages occurred. Therefore, I didn’t expect that it would have a big impact on my friend’s area. However, the situation was different from what I had imagined. According to her, she and her family couldn’t sleep at all because of the loud noises of the strong winds. They had feared that their house might be destroyed by the big typhoon. Then, the next morning, after the typhoon had passed and gone out of the area, she found her house to be in shambles! Luckily, her family and the family’s temple were safe even although the roof tiles had fallen and crumbled!
I read that a powerful typhoon landed near Tokyo, and made landfall near the city of Chiba, shortly before 5:00 a.m. on September 8th. It is considered as one of the strongest typhoons recorded in that area. People in my friend’s region had to survive without electricity and water for about 3 days in spite of hot and humid period of summer in Japan. Her family stayed in their car because they could not use any electric devices such as air conditioner and refrigerator and it was too hot to stay in the house. I heard by September 13th, approximately 280,000 households are still allegedly without electricity in another region of Chiba. This typhoon damaged many houses and blew off many roofs, especially from old houses.
What were your thoughts after knowing about this news? Some of you might think that it is none of your business because it happened outside of this country. Others might be worried because they have a friend or family in Japan. I have many close people there and I cannot imagine how hard their situation currently is. There was little information regarding this occurrence and many people were confused. So, all I could do was to make sure if they were safe or not and encourage them by sending messages.
In Shinran Shonin’s time, people were in turmoil everywhere because of the war, natural disasters and famine. He considered what he could do for suffering people and tried to save them by sending the virtues of his chanting Three Pure Land sutras one thousand times. However, he reflected upon his attitude and thought saving the suffering people were wrong. So he stopped chanting sutras on the 4th day.
He realized that he was also one of the people living in the impermanent life. We have fragile lives and depend on fragile things. If one is unlucky, we can also lose what we have and even our own lives now. When these natural disasters or severe incidents occur, we tend to make a distinction between the victims and the non-victims even if you are worried about them. Shinran Shonin also probably might have made the distinction like that unconsciously and tried to save them by chanting sutra. However he realized Amida Buddha’s compassion already reached into each of our lives and reassured us here and now without needing to send the virtue of his chanting sutras. So, Shinran Shonin stopped chanting sutras for them, but continued to deepen his own understanding of the teachings of Dharma as if it was his own by trying to stay by their side and imagining their sufferings by hearing their sufferings.
What can we do for them as one of the same travelers who lived in Nembutsu? I believe it is important for us to ask for our own way through the Shinran Shonin’s attitude and his words.
How many of you can imagine life without electricity and water in the hot and humid period of summer? How many of you can imagine a house without a roof? Unless the situation appears to us, we cannot realize how hard it is or how precious our lives are.
We always tend to miss the important part of life, such as that the incident in Chiba prefecture can happen to our homes. Of course, I think it is important for us to take actual action to support them, but the most important thing is that we should think of it as if it were our own. Living in the impermanent life, we can lose what we have now, such as money, love, reputation, house and even our own lives. We take for granted what we have now in this fragile world, but we shouldn’t. The incident in Chiba made me realize that each of us live this life only for the moment.
I extend my deepest sympathies to the victims of Typhoon Faxai and hope for a rapid recovery for both the people and the areas affected by this disaster. Namo Amida Butsu.
I really appreciate that Rinban Sakamoto and members of the San Jose Betsuin are working very hard to start a support fund for the affected temples in Chiba.