Awakening to a Way of Living Life (Section I, Part 1)
Transcript from a talk (Translated from Japanese)
“Beyond National Egoism” and my way of living life
I prepared this talk assuming that you have read my book, “Beyond National Egoism?The Road to a Nation for International Peace and the Environment.” If the majority of you have not read the book, however, I can adjust my talk accordingly. Either way is fine, but personally, I would like to talk about something that was not written in the book, that is, the background of how this book was created. This is closely related to my life, and how I have lived life. I am excited to be able to give a talk on this topic.
The reason why I say this is because the book is basically about our society. The book is structured in a way that explains the present situation of our society and offers my proposal to address the situation. However, for me personally, this book arose from my way of living. In other words, what does it mean to live? What is a true way of living? By exploring these questions deeply, a concept of peace emerged. Perhaps, this topic is the most suitable for this gathering. Not only that, I think it is an important topic. I would very much appreciate your attention, and your criticism and guidance. So, I would like to begin my talk.
Probably, most of you at this gathering have each sought a true way of living. I am involved in agriculture and education, and I feel that discussion of the way of living would be the topic that
is most fundamental and of common interest for everyone here. Furthermore, I believe it is an important topic in which we should have shared understanding as we consider the contents of this
I will omit the details of my upbringing due to time restrictions. Until age 20, I lived a rather ordinary life. My father was a soldier in the marines. After the war ended, he farmed in the countryside of Kumamoto, and he had very little income. Our situation worsened and worsened, and from today’s standards, I was raised as one among the poorest people.
Reflecting back on my childhood, I can’t recall having had even one store-bought toy. I was raised in this kind of household, and I was shy and withdrawn. Apparently, my thinking was extremely
slow, and until fourth grade, my grades were always a low 1 or 2 out of 5.
You can do it if you try!
In time, the first turning point in my way of living came. One day, my fifth grade teacher said to me, “Nomura-san, please come here,” and called me over to a corner of the room. I was told, “You are able!” Until then, I was truly a classic example of a failure in school. Sometimes, I did not go to school due to school-phobia, so it is normal to think that the teacher’s remark was unbelievable. However, as I think back on how I felt at that moment, even now, I feel tears well up. This was my reaction at that time too.
When I was told, “You are able,” I thought, “Oh, is that so? I am able.” Without this simple-mindedness or innocence, my life would have been completely different, and in one sense, it would have been miserable. From there, I said to myself, “Well, I’ll give it a try,” and I began to study. However, I could not understand the lessons at school. In this sense, there were some things that were in vain. So, before class, I would study the topic on my own. I looked up each new word of the Japanese language textbook and learned on my own. Before class, I had already learned the lesson. Somehow, I devised this way of studying. I was told, “You can do it,” at the end of the first term of the fifth grade. I was at the bottom or second from the bottom of a class of 50 in the first term. However, my method of studying was extremely good, so by the end of the second term of fifth grade, in December, I was fifth from the top in my class. The change was that drastic.
“I can do it if I try”?This is the way I have lived life since then. However, since my family was poor, my body was weak and I tended to become ill easily. I considered various options for my future. Ultimately, I concluded that studying was my only option. So, I went to a local college-preparatory high school and then entered a university. I valued studies and thought that I would make my way in the world through studies. I was extremely poor and wanted desperately to stabilize my livelihood through my own abilities. I wanted to make my life as stable as possible. I thought that if I could earn good grades and join a first-rate large enterprise or large company, my life would be relatively stable and I could exert my abilities. I did not have anything else in mind.
Not a ready-made way of living
When I was 20 years old, I had a sudden realization. At that time, I was reading the novel, “The Red and the Black” by Stendhal. There was something extremely intense in the main character’s way of living. I was not envious of the main character’s way of living. The novel is about a poor youth who lives life with ambition but without morals. After reading this novel, I thought, “I have not been living life.” It was as if I was about to choose my life and career from among the various items in a department store display window. In other words, I was considering which would be the best from among the ready-made items displayed. I was shocked upon realizing that it was definitely not a way of living that arose from within and from the depths of my heart.
At that time, I realized that one’s life is only a one-time occurrence in the 15 billion year history of the universe. What I call my “self” lives only 50 to 100 years in the vast universe, and in the eternal flow of time in the universe. At that moment, I was able to clearly and directly face the fact that this is a one-time-only life. Then, I felt I must live this life in the utmost and best way.
What is the utmost and best way to live?
From that time, it became a matter of what is the utmost and what is the best? I read various books, but ultimately could not find an answer. I contemplated various things, but I did not find an answer. Then, I was in my fourth and last year at the university, and it was time to start looking for a job. If I continued at this rate, I could enter a first-rate company. However, I was not satisfied. I felt anxious. I wanted some more time, so I went to graduate school. That was the only reason. I entered graduate school under the pretext of doing biological research to unlock the mysteries of life. Anyhow, I wanted more time to think, so I went to graduate school in Tokyo.
Just about that time, I had a fateful meeting with Shigemasa Wada-sensei of Odawara. Wada-sensei was the originator of the concept proposed in the book, “Beyond National Egoism.” I read Wada-sensei’s original draft for the proposal and listened to his talks. I thought, “Here is a person who is proposing this kind of magnificent concept that stirs the soul from the depths of one’s heart.” I felt I wanted to make it my lifework to spread this proposal to the world. This was when I was 22 years old.
At the same time, we were not married yet, but my wife-to-be, Mutsuko, read Wada-sensei’s book and was so deeply moved that she could hardly sleep at night. I learned this later.
During this period, my way of thinking regarding the aim of this proposal and the original true way of being of our society became clear. Still, I had made no progress in finding how I should live, what is the utmost way to live, what is the proper way of living, and what is the true way of living. So, I listened to Wada-sensei’s talks and read various books.
In this process, what I wanted to do and how to do it gradually became clear. I referred to books too. As I read books, I felt resonance with certain things, so it gradually became clear that these were the things I desired.
I will talk about this path and what it means to walk this path later. I hesitate to say it myself, but I had earned top grades at a leading university in the life I had established until that time?the way of life I thought was the only one for me. So, the people around me thought that if I just continued at that rate, I would remain at the university and become an assistant professor, associate professor and then a full professor. However, considering the example of the display window I mentioned earlier, that way of living would be like choosing a ready-made item. It was a way of living considered as top-class from among the many ready-made items. In contrast, my heart truly desired a way of life which absolutely was not bound by that. I simply yearned to seek the path and remain free. I wanted to live in a way that my heart would genuinely and completely accept. I just wanted to live in this way. I had felt that living in this way would be the best. That meant to live with absolutely no dependence on any kind of supports to hold onto, secure position, status, wealth, home, or anything.
Black and white conflict and agony
In this way, it gradually became clear that, in any event, I wanted all of the people all over the world to become happy, and for the world to be truly vibrant in peace. At the same time, it became clear that what I truly desired was to live with absolutely no ties to status, wealth or any such things.
However, I had two ways of thought inside of me. The white part and the black part within conflicted tremendously. I think I truly wanted to live in my own way. But, there were no people around me who lived in this way. There were no such people in my generation or among the slightly older generation. It was also extremely frightening to abandon the things I had, such as the societal reputation, status, and stability. It was frightening beyond imagination. I wanted to live in the white. That is what I thought intellectually and also emotionally, but with a greater force, the fear (black) bore down on me. So, from age 23, I agonized and agonized, and contemplated and contemplated. I also read summaries of Buddha’s teachings and read the Bible.
My life depended on this matter. To live one’s life to the utmost?I wanted to live in this way. Since the conflicts were from this level, it had become virtually a life or death matter. I came to the point of wondering whether there was any value or meaning to my living. In this way, through struggling and struggling, although I didn’t become neurotic, finally, my body reached its limit and gave in. No matter how much I contemplated, I could not find a solution. No matter how many different kinds of books I read, there was no solution. I could understand the books intellectually, but it was scary. If one does this kind of thing, the body reaches its limit. I also feared that I might head toward death if I continued in this way.
In time, emotionally, I reached my limit too. Along with the exhaustion of my body and mind, probably since I was frequently using a microscope in the laboratory for my research on microorganisms, my eyes became red and extremely painful. Wondering what was happening, I read medical books at the bookstore and researched the cause.
I found that it appeared to be glaucoma, but I did not go to the doctor for a while. I was afraid to know the truth. However, at the end of December, at age 25, just before my 26th birthday on January 7, I went to the University of Tokyo Hospital, underwent tests and was diagnosed. It took about half a day, and I was very nervous. If it were truly glaucoma, everything that I had done up to that point, all the effort I had put in since childhood, would be wasted. I was so afraid that I would have to live without my eyesight. So, I was nervous during the tests, and waited anxiously until the test results were ready.
At the end of hopelessness
The doctor came and called me over. He told me, “I will give you the test results. It is glaucoma. You will probably lose your eyesight in six months.” My suspicion that it was something bad was more than 100% on-target. But, in fact, at that moment, the biggest miracle in my life up to that point occurred. That is, when the doctor said, “You will lose your eyesight in six months,” and he went on to further explanations, completely unexpectedly, my heart was very relaxed. I just felt, “Oh, that is what will happen.” I did not feel any anxiety at all. It was not a feeling of depression or hopelessness.
After listening to explanations for about 10 minutes, I left the room. The real miracle occurred when I opened the hospital door and looked up at the sky. I thought, “The world I had been looking at was completely wrong.” Until that point, I had thought that my life with eyesight and my life without eyesight would be completely different. But, even if I could not see, the meaning of my life would not be different at all. Whether I could see or not, the value and meaning of my life would not change. I understood that originally, life was this way. It was like a revelation or sign from heaven, and all of my life’s worries until then were resolved during the next week. How did I resolve my worries? I had many serious questions about life until then. However, rather than the answers to my problems emerging one by one during that week, the questions themselves disappeared.
In this way, my mind felt very clear and refreshed, and in that one week, gradually, the world looked brighter. Originally, there is nothing. For example, there is no such thing as “a person’s possession.” There is no superior and inferior. There is no discrimination, whether one has eyesight or not, or good grades or poor grades. Further, everything in this world is free (not bound). Then, the cloudy thoughts inside my head, that fogginess, changed to a clear state, and my heart and mind became very clear. I felt, “I should follow the way of this feeling.” It was a clarity that I had not experienced before. Rather than my own heart, I understood clearly that the human heart is originally like this by nature.
Live life by following one’s true heart and letting go
It was not that I understood only at that time, but from that point on, I felt, “I can just live in this way.” To put it simply, as long as one lives “with sincerity, a true heart,” even if one were to die by the roadside without anything, that would not matter. This is the best way of living. It is living without any possessions. If I may say, it is a way of living in which one puts forth all of oneself for the sake of others and the world; this is within one’s heart by nature, and this alone is enough. How I end up in society does not matter. It is not a heroic resolve, but is extremely free and light. In this way, from that time onward, I have never worked for the sake of money. I will not live in that way. It is not living for the sake of gaining something. It is also not living for the sake of possessing or having something. Let go and put forth everything. If I could live in this way, that would be good. I have lived life in this way until now. Since I had been poor until then, I did not have a house or money. It may be rude to say this, but I have no religion or temple to rely upon. But, if there is one thing I can rely upon, it is the ‘tenshin’ (pure, cloudless heart, like from before birth) at the depths of my heart, that is connected to ‘ten’ (the heavens or nature). I don’t wish to sound conceited, but I realized there is something inside oneself that cannot be considered as one’s own.
From this standpoint, automatically, all of my selfish desires floated away and were no longer a problem. Before the doctor told me, ”you will lose your eyesight,” my selfish thoughts and my true hopes were in conflict with equal strength. However, my selfish desires were chiefly emotions or thoughts in my head. After I was told about my eyesight, I realized what was deeper and originally inside. It was that kind of difference.
When I felt I wanted to live, it meant living with the true heart that is originally inside oneself by nature. Since that point, I have lived life in this way. Fortunately, I have been able to maintain a proper livelihood. On the way, food and clothing have been provided. I sought the path. Religiously speaking, I am an amateur, but certainly, I have pursued the path in my own way and walked along that path. In doing this, food and clothing are provided naturally. From experience, I think the world is made in this way. Therefore, as Christ said in his Sermon on the Mount, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.“ I understood there is nothing to worry about, and I felt extremely at ease. As I come to think of it, I became very active from that time.
Since I finally understood that I could just live in this way, I have lived a life in which each day is so full of joy. Before I realized it, half a year later, my eyes had improved. Of course, my eyes sometimes tire easily, but I can still see well. In my youth, I went through this kind of experience. Of course, this was not enlightenment or anything so magnificent. Assuming it was a sort of “enlightenment,” it would only be the first step. I feel I began to proceed in a pretty good direction from that time. Forty years ago, I felt as though I could see a rough sketch of the world, myself, and humans. Over the past 40 years, I feel that through actual daily life, my life has gradually become precise or finely-tuned.
The true way of living and society’s true way of being
This was the series of events that occurred from the year-end to the new-year period around my 26th birthday. It became clear that I should follow this path. Since then, although I have not graduated from overcoming all of my own problems, I have devoted my life to the next challenge of tying together the true way of living and Wada-sensei’s proposal of “establishing an ideal for the country, and thereby bringing peace to the world.” These two are very closely connected. Over the past twenty years, it has become very clear that true peace cannot be created without “self-awareness”?that is, awareness of who am I, and what is this world? (to be continued…)
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August 31, 2008