Fate Is Your Mission
[Excerpted from a 1996 Seikyo Shimbun]
Masakiyo was born with cerebral palsy. Often confined to a wheelchair, he has difficulty controlling the movement of his hands and legs. He also has speech impediments. When he was one year old, his mother Kiyoko joined the Soka Gakkai. She often carried young Masakiyo on her back. He now says, "Her back was hunched from carrying me." With her help, he struggled to learn to walk; they were both delighted when he finally succeeded.
He was often insulted, and felt alienated due to his disabilities. The Gakkai was a change from the usual hostility and indifference in society. The members encouraged and embraced him without discrimination. He took faith in True Buddhism and began to chant and practice.
"[The Lotus Sutra] enables living beings to cast off all distress, all sickness and pain. It can loosen the bonds of birth and death" (Lotus Sutra, Chapter 23, p. 286). According to the Ongi Kuden: "Our birth and death are not the birth and death we experience for the first time, but the birth and death that are forever inherent in life." (Gosho Zenshu, p. 773). This quote deeply impressed Masakiyo, inspiring him to write President Ikeda, asking, "How should I consider the disadvantage I've had since birth?" Several days later, he received a reply: "We consider our fate as our mission. This is what our faith is based on." From that moment on, Masakiyo determined that was how he would live his life.
After graduating from junior high school, Masakiyo was hired for a job, but soon laid off due to the recession. Having experienced the despair of being disabled, he made a determination to help others like himself. His actions towards that goal enabled him to eventually establish the Osaka-Kobe Liberation Center for people with disabilities.
On January 17, 1995, the Kobe earthquake devastated the Kansai region. Near the epicenter, Masakiyo confirmed the safety of his colleagues. Then he sat down in front of the Osaka-Kobe Center to indicate that it was all right. The first person he saw rushing to the scene to lend assistance was his local chapter leader. Soon after the chaos subsided, Masakiyo ignored his personal difficulties and searched for his twenty handicapped friends affiliated with the Center. He found that one had been killed in the earthquake and that many had lost their homes.
The disaster was particularly hard on the disabled survivors who still live in temporary housing units to this day (1996). To assist these survivors, Masakiyo lobbied the city office, the prefecture office, and even the Ministry of Health and Welfare on their behalf and has written newspaper articles detailing the post-quake living conditions of the disabled.
While helping his friends after the earthquake, Masakiyo learned that his mother had been hospitalized. By autumn her condition had worsened. Kiyoko, however, told Masakiyo not to worry about her and continue assisting people affected by the earthquake. The day after the YMD general district meetings, Masakiyo's first activity as YMD district chief, Kiyoko passed away. On that day, an old friend of his joined SGI, saying, "I was touched by the world of the Soka Gakkai; members were warm-hearted to me, even though I was handicapped." On the forty-ninth day after his mother's death (an important memorial anniversary for the Japanese), Masakiyo's younger brother also decided to join.
Amazingly, Masakiyo is unable to speak. He communicates by writing, holding a pen between the index and middle fingers of his left hand, and by using a teletype machine for telephone conversations. People around him are moved by his optimistic attitude towards life. At the temporary housing complex, he organized a Mochi-tsuki Rice Cake Festival, held last January. Masakiyo continually encourages those around him, "No matter what happens, it is important to have hope. Don't be defeated by this disaster, difficulties in your life, or yourself."
Sumida is YMD District Chief for the Hinokuchi, Nishinomiya area and Director
of the Osaka-Kobe Center for the Liberation of Handicapped People. He is