Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Satsangha, Kyoto, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2015
Master (Guru) and Disciple
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners
• Guided by Another Teresa
—The Little Way of Saint Thérèse—
by Yukti (Yuri Shibasaki)
2014-2015, Fukushima, Japan
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi
Translation of Satsangha
Master (Guru) and Disciple
“If a person could reach Satori by reading books, then all scholars would have already reached Satori. However, throughout the history of the past tens of thousands of years, there is not a single precedent for that. The most important thing is to come into contact with the Existence of Truth. Even if this Existence does not utter a single word, this is of no concern—for the Truth is beyond words to begin with.
In India, after one has completed all one’s studies, [it is customary] to wander around seeking the darshan (blessing) of a Guru, just to receive even one single moment of darshan. The darshan of a Guru is above hundreds of thousands, or rather, countless scriptures and words.”
—Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
Saturday May 28, 2005, Kyoto
A Single Ray of Light that Shines Upon the Darkness
Saturday May 03, 2008, Kyoto
Sarani: I read in one part of the book, Satori, that “the Guru is the ray of light that shines upon the darkness.” Even though Shri Mahayogi has graciously been shining the light upon me for so long, I still have not been able to see the true light within me. I feel frustrated with myself.
I have been thinking about this a lot, for example, whether I should see that light of Truth through my own discipline of training and practice, or if there is something else behind these words, like a hint.
MASTER: Light and darkness are symbolic expressions for Truth and ignorance. In this world, no matter what the various matters or things are, it feels much better to understand them rather than to not understand them. Even the visible aspects of the world are like that, and so the invisible, incomprehensible aspects of the world may make it feel as if everything is in some state of pitch-black darkness; however, if a ray of light comes through, then the mind ought to run over towards it. (opens his arms) Imagine a completely dark cave. If a single ray of light enters into it, then you will run towards it. It is the ray of hope; it is also a breakthrough to freedom—it will be a glorious event that will shine light upon and reveal your own mind. Without the existence of a Guru [present in one’s life], which is likened to that light, one may have to spend an entire lifetime in darkness. That amounts to an overly harsh, tragic fate.
Sarani: (holding back tears) I’m sure it’s the same for everyone else, but when I was [finally] able to meet Shri Mahayogi, truly, I literally felt light shining into a place that was previously completely dark. So, do you mean that I need to seek this light more and more?
MASTER: Yes. That light itself has the wisdom and the power to get rid of the darkness called ignorance, so the more you go towards that light, the lighter your mind becomes.
Saturday December 01, 2007, Kyoto
Yogadanda: I would like to ask about entering into the gate of discipleship to a Guru, or the role of initiation.
(Shri Mahayogi mentions that there are many such scenes of initiation in the Upanishad, and then continues.)
MASTER: Commonly, the stories unfold in this way: even though one is seeking the Truth, the realization of the Truth is beyond what can be reached through self-study, and the teachers who are available to the seeker cannot bestow the secret essence of It. And so, as soon as a Guru who is in the absolute state of Satori is found, one goes to this Guru to plead for the teachings.
Realizing the Truth is the only matter that is more important than anything else to the seeker. It is more important than life itself. Therefore, one goes under the tutelage of the Guru, taking on the attitude that once a seeker comes to master the Truth, one does not even need to have life any longer. That mental readiness, along with the preparation to accept the teachings, is the original meaning of initiation.
To study the Truth and to master the Truth—this cannot be bought with money, yet using a log as a token of offering—since this was the kind [of thing] used for sacred fire ceremonies in those days—one gives this to the Guru as a symbolic gesture of the seeker’s life. The initiation, the formality of entering [into a Guru-disciple relationship] depicted in the Upanishad is perhaps the simplest and purest form of initiation in this sense. Eventually, this came to be adopted in various religions, and oftentimes it has become rather ceremonial and ritualistic; nonetheless, I believe that when it comes to Yoga, there are no such formalities at all, and it still amply retains its original content.
To be frank, when it comes to initiation, the biggest element is the seriousness of the seeker who is seeking the Truth, the heightening of that seeker’s passion to seek the Truth, and the degree of purity of that seeker’s passion…
Yogadanda: So initiation is performed for the purpose of making them further become more pure?
MASTER: That’s right.
Yogadanda: Does the way in which it is performed differ according to the temperament of each disciple?
MASTER: Right. Since the saying “as there are ten people, so are there ten different colors, [meaning ten different minds,]” applies to seekers as well, and different conditions can be perceived, initiation is not something that is performed uniformly, but rather it is done entirely through a mystical interaction between the Guru and the seeker.
As I mentioned just now, to realize the Truth is more important than life; a seeker that wants to receive It gives up their life [to the Guru]. By doing that, then the Guru is able to breathe a new life into the disciple. That is the reason why in India, since ancient times, it has been considered that such a practitioner is one who is born twice, that is to say, the practitioner dies once at the moment of initiation and is reborn again.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): I suppose that even if one verbally expresses, “I don’t need my life, so please bestow the teaching upon me,” that it doesn’t mean one has given up one’s life; so then, concretely, what condition constitutes giving up one’s life?
MASTER: This may be going into a different topic, but it was common for a practitioner to learn under various masters while wandering around… One day, a practitioner went to visit a master, and the master poured tea for the practitioner. When the practitioner shifted her gaze to the cup, the tea was overflowing from the cup, spilling all over; in haste, the practitioner said, “Master, the tea is spilling!” The master responded, “Ah, surely it is—your mind is just like that.”
This is a teaching indicating that no matter how much one is given the teachings, the teachings cannot enter—therefore, you first have to have your mind prepared, making it empty by throwing away the rubbish from the mind. To give up your life means giving up everything related to that life—that means, including the karma (law of cause and effect) that you have experienced up to that point, as well as your memories. It may be difficult to abandon them all thoroughly and completely, even so, at the least one must be prepared by having created enough space for new teachings to enter. To give one’s life at once means to die at that very moment. No matter how big the karma that remains is, when one dies, one cannot bring karma to fruition until one is reincarnated. Therefore, one must empty oneself of impurities of the mind in any case. Only once such efforts have been made, can one for the first time give up one’s life.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): Does that mean, in other words, that one’s preparation is complete?
MASTER: To put it simply, you can say so. When it comes to the “preparation” in [the context of] current events and things of this world, we tend to unintentionally associate this with things like gathering various information and preparing appliances and equipment; however, in this spiritual path, preparation means abandoning everything. Even information must be abandoned.
The only thing that matters is the seriousness to seek the Truth, and to find the Guru who can teach and grant It. If one has that, then nothing else is needed, not even your life itself.
Mr. Takahashi: If I have some preconceived beliefs, is there a way to know if I am objectively correct or serious enough?
Just like the analogy of the tea and the cup, if the cup can be empty at once and all the teachings can be poured in, then that is completely satisfactory; however, this is a strange cup (laughing)—it seems that even if you thought you emptied it once, it refills again from the bottom like a spring. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.)
MASTER: Therefore, it boils down to the teaching and how you proceed with it afterwards. And of course, it is something that you cannot discern by yourself. That is why the teaching of the Guru comes to be all the more essential.
Mr. Takahashi: From where does that seriousness arise?
MASTER: A few cases can be considered, yet, [whatever these may be,] the content of the seriousness has to do with how pure it is with regard to the Truth, or how much one truly wishes to be pure. That is why, at times there are cases in which the opportunity ripens in the auspicious connections from past lives…; in fact, right now, none of you gathered here are from this local community, or nearby. Rather, there are many from very far-away places that are gathered here in this one room right now. Indeed, I can’t see it in any other way, other than there is an invisible bond drawing you here together.
(Shri Mahayogi quietly finishes speaking. Mr. Takahashi silently puts his palms together.)
Saturday October 21, 2006, Kyoto
Shachi: Shri Mahayogi has said, “Think that the path of karma and the path of Yoga that transcends karma are always in front of you.” In the case that you have accepted us as disciples in a Guru-disciple relationship, even if one of us goes in the direction of the path of karma, will the time for us to come back to Shri Mahayogi eventually come?
MASTER: (with a serene tone) Yes, that is so.
Shachi: It isn’t certain whether that happens in this lifetime or not?
MASTER: Right. It depends on the karma of that person. Surely it is a fact that a Guru can withdraw the karma of a disciple. However, there are various ways for that. Well, one way can be [based on the Japanese proverb], “Make a beloved child travel” [so that they go through various experiences and learn from their own experiences]. Either way, a true Guru never threatens, orders or coerces anything—that is absolutely certain. Only the fake ones out there in the world do such things. A person of Truth only radiates constantly unchanging, limitless love.
However, at times, the disciples forget that due to karma. Therefore, when a disciple wakes up again, he or she will come to recall it.
Dayamati: When Ramana Maharishi was asked by a disciple about grace, he answered something like, “Grace is always there, so you just have to face toward it”—and I thought that this might be the same thing, is it?
MASTER: Exactly. It is the same.
Grace is continuously bestowed upon you. You are continuously being given to. It is not something you receive with a grim face. It is something you receive gladly.
Saturday September 14, 2013, Kyoto
Ms. Shimamura (Tarika): Ms. Uchiyama (Sarvani) moved back to Tokyo, and I am thinking that I can’t just continue to rely too much on the senior disciples in Kyoto, but make the sangha in Toyko better and stronger so that we can invite Shri Mahayogi to Tokyo one day. Will you please teach us again how a sangha ought to be?
MASTER: The original meaning of sangha is a gathering of practitioners—“practitioners” of course refers to serious seekers, who practice disciplines as they aim for Satori. Sangha is a gathering of such disciples. Back in history, when Buddha had to reform society and reform religion, and in any case, when the world had to be made better, he taught that there are three most important things that can be considered as treasures for the world—Buddha, an Awakened One; Dharma, the teaching of the Truth; and Sangha, the ones who follow Buddha. Since ancient times it has often been said, Buddha—Dharma—Sangha, and these were born as the Three Jewels or Three Treasures.
For a long time, in the Hindu world, individual liberation or salvation was the emphasis, and the aim was rather to practice individually in a hermitage and to perfect It; it is through the teachings of Buddha that the importance of sangha arose. About a millennium and a little more later, someone named Shankaracharya appeared, and even in the Hindu world—which would develop into Hinduism later on—the sangha was found to be a necessity; therefore, the order of Swami came to be established. Then later on, in the current Hinduism of India, an organizational group of monks called swami was eventually formed. They considered that the way in ancient times of adhering to individual liberation is simply an extension of one’s ego, and the elimination of that ego is precisely what liberation is, and so they put that as the goal. Then, further, [the purpose and the benefit extended] through having a form, sangha, to learn together, to encourage each other, and furthermore, to create a positive influence on human society more broadly—and even though a single individual physical life is limited, for this vessel [in the form of sangha] that connects with the future, in other words, the vessel that continues into the future, comes about from this sangha to the next sangha. You can recognize this in the meaning and condition of sangha not ending within the limits of just one’s own individual liberation, but working beyond time and space.
With regard to sangha, each individual is what constitutes and forms the sangha; therefore, in this sense, each and every individual in the sangha shares a mission to connect Satori into the future by reaching Satori, and by spreading Satori precisely.
Saturday March 17, 2012. Kyoto
Sananda: Among sangha, or gurubai (brother and sister disciples), who are learning under Shri Mahayogi, we can positively influence each other, yet the one who can spiritually guide us is only the Guru.
As I have been learning Yoga, I think I have been able to deepen it a little bit; however, I am not able to guide people spiritually in a true sense, therefore I think it’s really quite difficult. Indeed, the path of Yoga is something that one walks alone, silently… (at a loss for words), nonetheless, I still wish to think that we can all help each other within the sangha.
MASTER: Yes, that’s right. (with a little pause) This relationship of Guru and disciple, and that of sangha—the relationship of brother and sister discipleship—are often referred to as spiritual family. When we say family, it is often understood to be the blood relations, such as your parents who gave you birth and your siblings, who came from the same parents. However, this physical family is only limited to this current generation. In comparison, a spiritual family has been connected as a family for multitudes of lifetimes.
Not only Yoga, but all the religions of the world teach that the Truth is one. If we speak of it in a mythological cosmic creationism, there existed One Existence. From there, all things were born. Humans, animals, plants, minerals, everything in the universe is like that. Satori is, so to speak, to realize the primary origin of That. Once that understanding is experienced, then you will be able to see the One within each and every thing that appears as if varied. The differences are merely in the external form, name, and karma. Therefore, as you continuously learn and discipline yourself in the practice of Yoga, your own karma is eliminated and you come close to that primordial Single Existence. Those who walk on the path having this same aspiration are the sangha, therefore there ought to be a bigger and stronger bond with them than what you feel towards your blood family.
Unmistakably, each and every person, everyone is that sacred One Existence. Therefore, gurubai must realize that Truth as soon as possible, through supporting and encouraging one another. And with the deepening of [your practice and state of] Yoga, you will be able to give your blood family members, who have yet to be exposed to Yoga, the highest gift, which is also the most beneficial gift to them.
Saturday October 31, 2009. Kyoto
Ambika: I’ve heard Shri Mahayogi mention that one of the reasons why we still have wars based on religions, including major religions that remain in this modern world, is because the way that the disciples conveyed [the teachings] was incorrect. For example, I think it could come from just listening to the most convenient, easiest-to-understand parts of the teachings to one’s own self, and setting aside inconvenient parts of the teachings. Is there anything we need to keep in mind in regard to this, during personal or Mission-related activities?
MASTER: I don’t know too much about ancient history, but if we look at the modern era, the way in which Shri Ramakrishna and his disciples lived about a century and a half ago, even after the Guru hid his form, their spirit and the way they lived has continued to be transmitted in an extremely pure form. Through these direct disciples, many new disciples and devotees continue to increase enormously even to this day. I think that comparing how these direct disciples of his were and lived to the way [of his disciples] in the contemporary era, there are many aspects that may appear as if something were missing, yet what’s at the core—the teaching—and the Truth, still continue to exist there. If you observe the state of what is there, the Guru, Shri Ramakrishna, demonstrated with his own physical body an example of how to live on this earth throughout his entire life, from the day he was born to the time he left the body. And his disciples followed suit.
If you are considered to be a qualified disciple, then you must emulate, even if it’s mimicking, to model this exemplary way of life yourself; and then, make it your joy of life and the thing worth living for in life—that would be good. Then, as long as you have a physical body, that [way of living] will become a fortunate gift to your surroundings and relations; and even after your role in the physical body ends, how you lived will continue to have a further effect on the work [you completed and left behind during life]. This is nothing other than how each and every disciple ought to seriously confront their own lives, and seriously live their lives. Originally, disciple and Guru were One. Appearances might seem to be different, however the differences are only in the given roles. (gently gazing across everyone) Just like a play.
(Shri Mahayogi ends the talk lightly. These words become light that shines upon the path that disciples must walk. Some shed tears, bathing in the limitless grace of Shri Mahayogi.)
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Guided by Another Teresa
—The Little Way of Saint Thérèse—
2014-2015, Fukushima, Japan
Love is an excellent path for reaching God. Saints, by their way of living, teach us how to love God. Mother Teresa loved God through serving the poorest of the poor. Just like many others who adore her, I was fascinated by her way of life and I have tried to model my life after hers. However, as I have inquired into Mother, I have always had a doubt about myself within me. I have been wondering whether I am able to purely see the intentions behind her actions, rather than be taken away only by the greatness of them.
Through Mother, I found out about a saint. Her name is Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin. Mother chose this saint’s name as her monastic name, (in French, the name was Thérèse, and in Spanish, Teresa—there was already a Thérèse in her convent, so she took on the name Teresa instead), considering Thérèse as her example for the rest of her life. Thérèse was a Carmelite nun in a small town of Lisieux in northern France; and she was a saint who lived during the 19th century, and was called the “Little Flower of Jesus” for loving God through doing small, mundane things in daily life with love.
Compared to Mother, who travelled across the world to transmit Jesus’s love, it is said that for nine years from the time Thérèse joined the Carmelite convent at age fifteen until her life ended from tuberculosis at age 24, she lived a very simple cloistered life, without ever taking a single step outside of the convent. The two Teresas both devoted their lives to Christ as nuns and lived for their love of Christ, yet their lives seemed worlds apart. However, I came to learn that before Mother became a nun, when she first heard about Thérèse from a priest, she felt that Thérèse was guiding her on a path prepared for her by God, and she experienced deep joy.
Mother’s words and her spiritual steps overlap often with Thérèse. The more I discovered about Thérèse, I felt that the way in which she loved God was very similar to Mother. And at the same time, the act of loving God, which I understood through Mother until that point, became gradually more universal within me.
Two months before her death, Thérèse said, “I feel my mission is soon to begin, to make others love God as I do, to teach others my ‘little way’.” She teaches us that anyone in any era and situation can love and get closer to God through walking on this “little way.”
Thérèse’s existence is absolutely essential to me right now. Since coming to Fukushima, I have been feeling that the application of my practice has become stuck. And this standstill has been different from the kind I felt from time to time while I had been practicing in Kyoto. What helped me in opening up the situation was Thérèse’s way of living. Following her, I began to walk on this “little way.” It’s the path that Mother walked upon too. In this series of articles, I would like to write about how Thérèse walked her “little way” and how I followed her through my humble application of practices.
The “little way” of Thérèse is considered to be that of making small sacrifices towards trifling, mundane things in daily life in order to Love God. When I first read this, it did not seem so difficult; I thought, that is why it is a sacred path that is open to all. However, when I saw the particular words of Thérèse, I sensed that the true meaning of the “little way” might not be anything like what I thought it was.
“Let us not refuse Him the least sacrifice… To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul. What a mystery! It is Jesus alone who can give such a value to our actions; let us love Him with all our strength.”
What does it really mean, to pick up a single pin with love, and besides that, what does it mean to be able to guide someone to God through that? These words caught my attention, so I began to read her autobiography, A Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
After reading about a quarter of the book, I sensed that it required a lot of perseverance for me to finish reading it. The content of the book is her recalling memories upon memories from her childhood. It includes the details of mundane things that happened to her, how she perceived them, and how she acted upon them. She writes about how she would think when recalling the teachings of Jesus and the words of his disciples in numerous places. At that point, I did not quite understand why Thérèse would be considered a saint.
In fact, Thérèse was canonized only 28 years after her death, which is an exceptional speed. At the time, when it became public that she was going to be a saint, many people who had known about her or her canonization were surprised—for Thérèse did not do things that saints had been commonly known for up until then, such as missionary work, reformation or martyrdom. However, she became the patron saint of France, equal to Joan of Arc. And in 1997, one hundred years after her death, she was granted an honorable title of “Doctor of the Church.” Her autobiography was considered to be an amazing “Story of Love,” and Pope John Paul II, who granted her this title, called her the “Specialist in the Science of Love.”
Though I still do not truly understand her greatness to this day, as I continued to read the autobiography, I was drawn to her more and more, and I sensed that she was a very crucial person to me. That is because—Thérèse deeply contemplated on the teachings of Jesus and the words of his disciples, and applied them into practice throughout every single moment of her life. You might think that this is a given for any famous saint, but what is amazing about her is that she practiced limitlessly with utter thoroughness. To practice continuously, meticulously and with complete thoroughness—I felt that it was far beyond my mind’s limit. Then I felt that the people who are considered to be saints did not become saints due to performing great feats, but because they practiced the teachings of God exhaustively without giving up.
Thérèse, since she was very young, constantly observed everything carefully, and she keenly saw through to the essence, even of trivial matters. For example, when she saw that the jam inside the bread eventually got soaked up by the bread and faded away, she perceived every object on Earth as something sorrowful, and felt that perfect joy exists only in heaven where God resides. When she reunited with a good friend after a long absence, she felt that the love had faded from the friend and felt only a cold gaze; through this, she realized the minds of created beings are easily changeable, and that the mind that becomes attached to love towards a human being could not become united with God. No matter what the occurrence, she always compared it to the teachings of God, and tried to align her thoughts with God’s will.
Also, when she understood what God wanted from her through these occurrences, she immediately put that into action—and these actions were extremely exhaustive. What she took as being of the utmost importance was particularly the application of the practice of expressing love in relation to others; that was because Jesus said in the Bible: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” As Thérèse contemplated on this teaching, she realized how imperfect her love towards other nuns were.
At the convent, there was a nun who did everything in ways Thérèse did not like; and Thérèse wrote about her in her autobiography: “a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything, in her ways, her words, her character.” Yet she thought that this nun must surely be a favorite holy woman of God, and she did not want to lose to her natural dislikes, so she decided to act towards this nun as if she was her favorite person. Thérèse was convinced that it would make Jesus happy; and when she felt like replying curtly to this nun, she instead replied with as much of a loving smile as she could muster. At the convent, pain caused by a difficult abbess or by relationships lacking mutual love between nuns continued; however, Thérèse willingly offered to take care of a nun whom no one liked, and continued to remain silent even if she was misunderstood or mistreated badly. She ignored her own natural emotions, and acted in opposition to how they arose in her. These actions did not have a sense of grimness, as if coming from only enduring pain, which is often associated with the word sacrifice, but rather her actions had such boldness, as if jumping into a thorny bush with joy. Thérèse writes in her autobiography about an incident doing the laundry one day:
“Another time I was working in the laundry, and the Sister opposite, while washing handkerchiefs, repeatedly splashed me with dirty water. My first impulse was to draw back and wipe my face, to show the offender I should be glad if she would behave more quietly; but the next minute I thought how foolish it was to refuse the treasures God offered me so generously, and I refrained from betraying my annoyance. On the contrary, I made such efforts to welcome the shower of dirty water, that at the end of half an hour I had taken quite a fancy to this novel kind of aspersion, and I resolved to come as often as I could to the happy spot where such treasures were freely bestowed.”
Compared to Thérèse, my application of practice was very lukewarm. Especially after moving to Fukushima and having my environment changed—I recognized this very well. The feeling that my application of practice had come to a standstill, which I mentioned at the beginning of this article, was actually due to a thought that I don’t have anything left that I can act on to sacrifice any more since moving here. Moving to live in Fukushima was not that much of a challenging thing for me. Moving from Kyoto, living near the nuclear power plants, eating food considered to be contaminated by radiation, a life that is not as attractive as an urban life, distinctly lower salaries—none of these were big sacrifices for me. Things that feel painful are different between individuals. When I lived in Kyoto, I believed that I was more able to act in sacrifice in various things. After I returned from a trip I took to India three years ago, in order to follow the way of poverty that Mother and the sisters lived, I moved to an old apartment without a bath, with walls full of cracks. Even in the cold winters, inconvenience and dirtiness were a bit difficult, but I was glad, thinking that I am following Mother and the sisters; and that was one of my main ways of applying the practice. However, in Fukushima, I lived in a brand new, big apartment provided by the hospital, and I even drove around in a car. All my colleagues, people in the local community who I came to know treasured me very much. There is no sense of challenge in human relations existing here, or competition, or imposed haste that comes in an urban setting. For me, this is a very comfortable place. I thought to myself, how can I find a sacrifice like the kind Mother offered to God?
The “little way” taught me—that it is actually possible to sense from every incident the presence of God and know what God wants. I realized that it is all about whether I noticed it or not. When I earnestly accepted that, I began to live following Thérèse. Just like Thérèse, who said, “Scarcely three minutes pass by without a loving thought of God,” I tried to think of God continuously. I trained to always think of the teachings of Shri Mahayogi, the words of Mother, and the words of Jesus that I started to know gradually. And, I practiced carefully observing things happening around me and my mind. From this, I discovered that no matter what incident I encountered, by doing that, the words and presence of God would naturally arise in my mind. By looking at the big sky, I thought of the generosity of God; when I saw a rare wild bird, I felt God nurtured its little life—I tried to think of God constantly in even the slightest things. Also, just as Thérèse did, I started to discipline myself to go against a self-loving mind that arose within me in my relationships with others; I proactively teamed up with a colleague I didn’t like on my own volition, and began to practice being closer to and being pleasant with this person. At the same time, as soon as I recognized my feeling of playing up to her behind my actions, then I moved away from the situation, for that was not what God wanted from me. As I began to act in such a way, I began to sense that I must not miss a single moment of opportunity to discipline myself in applying practice into action. I think I have been practicing to put these disciplines into action in this way until recently too, but I realized that I had chosen what I apply into practice based on my likes and dislikes, or I quit half way through the practice. I am not sure how I have transformed by embarking on this “little way.” When I didn’t know about Thérèse, I surely may have felt that even if I would act this way, the sacrifice I offered would be very small compared to the sacrifice that Mother made. However, Thérèse said that only God knows the value of actions.
What is asked of me is solely to practice single-heartedly and diligently, just like Thérèse.
“Ask and you shall be given. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it will be opened to you,”—Jesus taught thus. I heard that this teaches about having the eagerness to inquire into the Truth. A Father said to me, that by knocking, it doesn’t mean knocking quietly, but one must knock loudly, desperately [like life depends on it]. If we tackle seeking God ardently and conscientiously in earnest, then this leads to thoroughness, and eventually, the gates will open and we will see the true state of God.
In this way, emulating Thérèse, I determined to continuously pick up each single pin with love.
There are three prominent Teresas in the history of the Catholic Church. St. Thérèse, Mother Teresa, and the Teresia of Ávila (city in Spain), who lived in the 16th Century. (They’re all the same name—in Latin: Teresia, in Spanish: Teresa, in French: Thérèse)
Teresia of Ávila created a great reformation in the Carmelite Order, and she also established seventeen convents in Spain herself. She was also a mystic, and it is said that she entered into ecstasy while in deep communion with Jesus and had mystical experiences such as levitation. The book she wrote about prayers has had a great influence on the life of prayer of those who have faith in Christ; and she was a great saint, referred to as “Spiritual Mother.” In order to distinguish from Thérèse who has the same name, people referred to Teresia [of Avila] as the “The Great Teresa,” and Thérèse as “Little Teresa.” On the feast day of the “Great Teresa,” a priest told Mother, “You are not the little charming Thérèse, but this Great Teresa—a follower of the Great Teresa.” When Mother heard it, she laughed and answered, “No, my patron saint is the Little Thérèse.”
Why did Mother, who had a resplendent record of activities—founding the Missionaries of Charity that spread across over 130 countries in the world and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and other prestigious awards—precisely assert Thérèse, who spent most of her life in a convent, who neither had mystical experiences nor was a reformer, as her patron saint? Mother spoke about Thérèse as such: “There have been many Saints who have gone before us, but I like the ones that are simple, like St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I chose Thérèse as my namesake because she did ordinary things with extraordinary love.” To do ordinary things with extraordinary love—this is Thérèse’s “little way.”
What I began to understand through her way of living, and only as I began to emulate her, is that this “little way” is the succession of unceasing acts of renunciation of oneself. Rather than putting our thoughts or intentions into an action, the more we give up those thoughts and intentions and understand that we are powerless in front of God, the more this path is realized perfectly. Thérèse expressed this practice of making oneself little and less, as becoming a “little one” or “one of the least.” [It is the discipline] in which all the frustrations when things don’t go well, anxieties towards failure, desperation from our own weaknesses, joy when praised, the sense of superiority, the sense of accomplishment—all of it is driven away from our own mind; accept all things that come around our way without resistance, no matter how much of a challenge they may be. Thérèse firmly believed that God knew the best way for her, and that God’s mercy never left her side. Her only wish was to have God’s Will be done through her soul, without any obstacles, and that is where the meaning lies in making herself little.
Thérèse never wished for herself to be an exception, to get out of difficulty for herself in exchange for believing in God. She never had thoughts such as “by believing in God, things will go smoothly” or that she would serendipitously acquire things she wished for. Ever since early childhood, Thérèse offered herself to Jesus as a little toy.
“For some time past I had indulged the fancy of offering myself up to the Child Jesus as a plaything, for Him to do what He liked with me. I don’t mean an expensive plaything; give a child an expensive toy and he will sit looking at it without daring to touch it. But a toy of no value—a ball, say—is all at his disposal; he can throw it on the ground, kick it about, make a hole in it, leave it lying in a corner, or press it to his heart if he feels that way about it.”
At times, such a spiritual path is considered to be overly sentimental and childish. Yet, if you come to know Thérèse in depth, even though she was considered to be an ordinary nun, you would realize that in fact her life had truly much agony, and you would not feel that the sacrifice she offered was little at all.
Thérèse lost her mother at age four and became a very sensitive child who cried easily. She suffered from severe neurosis and had to drop out of school. In the Carmelite Order, which was famous for its austerity, she had to endure eighteen-hour long spans of daily work, two scanty meals per day, short sleep time and no heat during freezing temperatures. Also, during her time, God was feared as a “God of justice” and as a “God of judgement,” and Jansenism, which taught that innately sinful human beings are saved by exchanging with God accumulated good deeds coming from performing austerities, dominated Christianity; and it is said that nuns competitively performed mortifications such as self-flagellation. Since Thérèse had a weak constitution, she became sick right away from such mortifications. Soon after she became a nun, her father went missing due to psychiatric issues arising from a brain hemorrhage; then he passed away at a mental institution.
Also, Tuberculosis was presenting itself in her since the age of 21, and she died with almost every organ in her body being infected to the point of erosion in the end. [Her condition and her agonizing, excruciating physical pain were unimaginable,] so much so that with attacks of severe pains and the fear of suffocation, she groaned and screamed; her bed sores deepened even to the point where some bones were exposed, and when her pain reached the utmost peak, she had to ask that no powerful drugs be left near her, lest she might take her own life from loss of reason. Even so, because it was the way of Carmelite nuns to suffer with Jesus, [which is comparable to the heroism called for in the life of Carmel], the prioress did not permit her to take morphine, a painkiller, easily, and it was only much later on that she was able to take a small amount of syrup containing morphine. Her end was completely different from a Christian ideal, peacefully dying with a prayer book and rosary in her hands. It is said that, unlike other saints, she died after going through continuous agony, so much that those around her were at a loss for what to do.
However, even until the end, Thérèse accepted everything as having been given to her from God, never doubting God’s love. No matter how others around her believed in God in a way that they were afraid of God, no matter how much she was in such an extreme pain that could make her pass out, to Thérèse, God was nothing but the God of mercy.
“To me He has granted His infinite mercy and through it, I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections!”
Her way of living life was so innocent and simple, just with something like a childlike trust and confidence that God the Father would always embrace her no matter how many times she fell, and she always threw herself crying into the arms of God.
“I see that it is enough to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child, into God’s arms.” Thérèse mentioned that, to be little, with the simplicity and pure confidence and trust of a child, turns your own path into a “little way,” a very straight and very short path to God.
At the time when Jesus preached his gospel, there were people who received his teachings simply and obediently, without wishing for a blessing of miracles or being a hypocrite, only verbally saying good things. They were called “little children.” Many of them were prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves, shepherds, money lenders, gamblers and the poor, and were those who were called sinners. What was common among them was that even though they were human, they were not seen as human, and they lived being alienated from society. It is said that they, outsiders from civil society, constituted the overwhelming majority, and that miserable conditions were as many as they themselves. They, who lost their self-respect and knew well how powerless they were, touched Jesus’s love, and immediately responded to the call of God, with childlike simplicity and purity, without any scheming. Jesus never took the side of a particular person, and taught the Truth equally to everyone, nonetheless, the people who received the words of God and repented their ways of life were not the ones who were within the frame of society, who observed the law of God correctly as the people within the confines of society, but the “little children” who were shoved aside to the outer-edges of society. I heard that those in power at that time were too attached to their own desires and preconceived notions, so they could not receive the words of God as they are. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The spirit of Thérèse and “the little children” reminds me of the importance of recognizing our own attachments and preconceived notions, then simply and obediently believing in God and living on the words of God. It’s been a year since I moved to Minamisoma-City, and I have always been helped by their spirits. The nuclear disasters caused by the earthquake disaster has continued to bring many misfortunes in forms such as suicides of self-employed persons and mental illnesses of seniors, even now—and not only that, there are many unpublicized multi-faceted issues in the disaster areas. Because I am medical personnel, the information that I am able to know is mostly related to the medical field; and one of the grave issues is that the medical personnel coming to assist from outside the disaster area and the local medical personnel are not getting along. Many disaster-relief nurses from outside the disaster area do not last over a year. They all get fed-up and go home. The reason is considered to be the delay in medical advancement in the Tohoku region. Especially in small towns like in the area where I live, the delay is considered to be 30-40 years behind that of the cities. Because of the earthquake, external medical staff from other areas came into the region, and these pre-existing issues have come to be exposed. When I first came to the medical sites here, I was surprised to see the old-fashion ways still being used with such a big gap for this age in Japan. Some may think that since I chose to come here for relief work, I should just do my task; however as medical personnel, we want to do the best for patients. Gradually, anger arises towards local medical staff for why they don’t know the latest best practices or for how they stick to such outdated ways of thinking. And, by providing care that feels like it is ineffective, we outsiders hesitate to dirty our hands. When these incidents accumulate, outsiders begin to look down on the local staff, who have been working there for a long time, as people who are incompetent, [lacking in] knowledge, or who are only able to provide a low level of care. The local nurses, on the other hand, do not want their work to be judged in such a way. This is not a simple issue, such as adding outside staff to a disaster area affected by a staff shortage. I was no exception, and at first, I struggled a lot. I got along with my colleagues, but since I was the only nurse at the ward who moved in from outside the area, I did not have anyone to speak to about my struggle, neither did I feel like my opinions would be accepted, since I was a newcomer. I also had a bit of anxiety that if I were to remain here I might get accustomed to the level of medicine here, and would outlive my usefulness as a nurse and not be useful in nursing when I return to Kyoto. At the same time, I was aware that the people surrounding me were always caring for me, and more than anything, I had become so fond of the local people’s unpretentious and simple temperament since I moved here. During my work, I concentrated on my tasks, and no negative emotions arose in me, however, when I went home and was alone, anxiety always attacked me. I never felt that I wanted to return to Kyoto, but I began to pressure myself to consider that I may have to return. In these moments, I always thought about Thérèse. I told myself, “I do not understand anything. God knows the best path for me. This place is that which God gave me, and to live here is God’s will, so I will accomplish it.” And as I looked back at Thérèse in the photo, looking straight at me, a sense of adoration sprang up for the God of Mercy, whom she never doubted. Just simply believe in God—that seemed like blind faith, but as I did it, I found that the sense of aversion to the way of the hospital gradually disappeared. At times, I did think, what if I become a useless nurse, but I began to accept this, thinking that that would be fine too. If that happened, then I will be able to know even more about my own powerlessness. However, before I knew it, even this thought disappeared from my mind, and I simply devoted what I could.
A year has passed since then, I have been appointed as a member of an educational committee at the hospital, and have been entrusted with training new staff. And, in the ward, other nurses began to ask me about the new medical care methods more often; and every time it happened, I researched by myself to obtain the latest information, and suggested the best practices; and everyone began to think about and practice these. Even though such a transformation would have been something I very much wished for in the beginning when I came here, no special feeling of joy arose in me anymore. Also, during this one year that has passed, I have seen many patients pass away, yet, the suffering within me coming from thinking about their suffering no longer arises. Back then, I had really wished to be a sufferer who goes anywhere there are suffering people and suffer with them, like Mother, but even this sense of compassion seemed to have gone somewhere else. For brief moments, the joy, anger, sadness, pain that I tried to take on from others occupied my mind, but when I caught their emotions, while objectively viewing them, I began to think of concentrating on what I ought to do. I didn’t quite understand the meaning of my internal transformation, but only God knows everything. Therefore, I don’t need to be bothered by the course of things, but I can simply trust in God alone. I want to trust in and devote to God—every time as I thought about Thérèse, my yearning to trust in God was stirred up and occupied my mind, and all other emotions shrank away more and more. When, through that enthusiasm, there will no longer be any single piece of resistance to God in me, then what God grants me will be my wish, and like Thérèse, I will accept even death, gladly in pain.
However, later on, I learned from the way Thérèse lived, that even the belief in God will eventually be taken away by God one day.
“When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens. If God answers my requests, my heaven will be spent on earth up until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing on earth.”
Thérèse works restlessly for us, little souls, even to this day.
Thérèse and Mother Teresa said this repeatedly. In all of the convents of the order of Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother, there is a sacred painting of Jesus on the cross, [beside which the words] “I thirst,” are written, and alongside this painting is a picture of Thérèse. Both Thérèse and Mother knew the thirst of Jesus, but not as something mentioned in the Bible. They met the thirst of God and experienced it. This meeting became a crucial, defining moment in their lives. Because since that meeting, their only purpose in life came to be quenching the thirst of God.
A priest explained the thirst of God as follows: “God thirsts for the love of our soul. We exist to quench the thirst of God. In a way, the reason why God exists in our daily lives is to alleviate our existential thirst towards His Love.”
In Christianity, perfect Love is to love and to be loved, and love that is just one-sided is inadequate. It preaches that love becomes complete only when the other responds to that love. God’s love is always showered upon all people, but they don’t acknowledge it and it is forsaken. Without realizing that God’s love is the only thing that can quench one’s own thirst, people strive to manage to quench their thirst through the pleasures in front of their eyes. However, the more you acquire pleasures, the more intense the thirst becomes. As long as people do not turn towards God’s love, neither God’s thirst nor that of the people will come to an end. Both Thérèse and Mother longed to satiate Jesus, who thirsts for love due to the indifference of people, to quench the thirst of Jesus. To them, quenching the thirst of God meant loving God with their hearts and souls, and also guiding as many people as possible to love God.
Originally, the word of Jesus, “thirst,” is based on the following part of the Bible.
“Jesus, knowing that everything had now been accomplished, said, ‘I thirst’.”
The word Jesus spoke on the cross right before death—it was: “thirst.”
Betrayed by his disciple, Jesus was captured, tied with ropes, crowned with thorns, spat upon, and whipped. Walking up the hill of Golgotha carrying his own cross with a body full of wounds, once he was nailed to the cross, people abused him with insults: “If you are the son of God, then save yourself. Come down from the cross!” Jesus, who had performed many miracles for the sake of others, did not do anything for himself. Not only the priests that tried out of fear to disgrace and entrap him, but also the very people whom Jesus pitied and tried to save, all were now out to kill him. For Jesus, who was being tried as a blasphemous person, who appeared to be shabby—people no longer accepted him as a savior. People could not understand that the Truth abides within him. Nonetheless, Jesus never drew a line between humans and himself. He tried to become united with the ones who tried to kill him.
Jesus in captivity is considered to be the state of human beings. It displays the actual state that we, human beings, are in, such that we want to avert our eyes from it. That form of captivity expresses the unfree and hopeless state of the self being tangled up and bound up tightly by the defiled self-consciousness that is covered with darkness—our limitation. However, for the sake of saving us, Jesus came into captivity himself. He tasted all kinds of human weaknesses. And, when he forgave all human beings, and tried to sacrifice his own life for their sins, Jesus’s mercy and compassion towards humanity reached their peak, thus the following words came out of his mouth.
The word “thirst” contains the ultimate love of Jesus.
When Thérèse was fourteen, she discovered the thirst of Jesus. She talks about that moment in her autobiography as follows:
“One Sunday when I was looking at a picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I saw the Blood coming from one of His hands, and I felt terribly sad to think that It was falling to the earth and that no one was rushing forward to catch It. I determined to stay continually at the foot of the Cross and receive it. I knew that I should then have to spread It among other souls. The cry of Jesus on the Cross—‘I am thirsty’—rang continually in my heart, and set me burning with a new, intense longing. I wanted to quench the thirst of my Well-Beloved and I myself was consumed with a thirst for souls. I was concerned not with the souls of priests but with those of great sinners which I wanted to snatch from the flames of hell.”
Thérèse was deepening her love towards Jesus within up until that point, but after experiencing the thirst of Jesus, her means of loving God expanded beyond the confined environment of her own daily life; she began to pray for others to convert (a transformation of the mind to return back to God). What she first did was pray for sinners. Around the time when she was enthusiastically praying to quench the thirst of Jesus for the souls of people, there was a news report that circulated about a murderer named Henri Pranzini, who, although sentenced to death, had not shown remorse at all. With having a burning passion to save Pranzini at all costs and keep him from falling into hell, in order to succeed, she employed all means imaginable, and multiplied her prayers. “My God, I am quite sure that Thou will pardon this unhappy Pranzini. …I beg for just one sign of repentance to reassure me.” Pranzini was executed. He even rejected asking for a confession or receiving absolution of his sins when he was given a last chance. However, Pranzini mounted the scaffold, and when his neck was placed on the guillotine and the executioner put his hand on his hair, he suddenly turned round, as if struck by spiritual inspiration, and looked for a priest with his eyes; then he seized the crucifix which the Priest was offering to him, and kissed it three times. Thérèse read about it in the newspaper the day after the execution, she was in tears of gratitude, solidly confirming that God wanted her to continue to pray for sinners.
Afterwards, during a trip [of a pilgrimage], from the opportunity she spent with priests, she came to find that the priests, whom she thought of as being above angels through their supreme dignity, were nonetheless men and still subject to human weakness; she began to pray for the priests so that they could become role models for people and transmit the gospel.
Eventually, Thérèse’s prayers expanded to not only sinners and priests, but to the people of the entire world, without limitation. She began to wish to work for everyone’s conversion, even after her death, even beyond time and space, until the end of the world.
However, I learnt that she was not only just praying zealously for others, [behind these prayers were her ceaseless sacrifices]. The more she prayed for others, the more she demanded many sacrifices of herself. She said that she was not able to do great feats for God like other saints did, but she practiced not to miss how small the opportunities for sacrifices in daily life might be. For this reason, no one noticed the shift in her health until the disease had overtaken her body, rapidly progressing, and falling into such a critical condition that people surrounding her started to pay attention—because she had kept practicing the austere daily tasks of the Carmelites, smiling back at any criticism, and always caring for her colleagues.
“As Our Lord made me understand that it was by the Cross He would give me souls, the more crosses I met with, the stronger grew my attraction to suffering. …I could never have believed that it was possible to suffer so intensely…I can only explain it by my extreme desire to save souls….”
She prepared herself to stay at the foot of the cross of Jesus, and carry the cross with Jesus. Because Jesus gave up his life for others, she was also determined to gladly accept any suffering in order to help Jesus. The only aim with which she prayed for others’ conversion or demanded sacrifice of herself was solely to quench the thirst of Jesus. And it all began from meeting the thirst of Jesus herself.
An experience of being reborn as a person of strong faith, who no longer fears death—because of [having such love toward] Jesus—that is considered as encountering the thirst of Jesus. Learning that Thérèse and Mother both experienced this meeting, I began to wonder if I myself will be able to meet the thirst of Jesus like them. Before, I thought that this sacred thing I had felt from the depths of the dying and from the survivors who are suffering in the disaster area, was the thirst of God that I was able to feel through them. However, I began to yearn for something more direct, receiving the thirst directly from God himself, like they felt. However, I am not a Christian, and I do not know in depth about Jesus. I’ve only gone to a church a few times. I don’t think I have a deep faith towards Jesus. Before I found out about Christ through Mother, I had encountered Yoga. What Shri Mahayogi has taught me is everything about the Truth that I know. Christianity and Yoga—do the experiences in them differ, since the paths are different? Maybe I might experience something different from them. Yet, somewhere in my mind, I wanted to walk the same path as they walked; I wanted to understand the thirst of God, even if it’s a tiny part of it, to touch a piece of it. Suddenly I had an idea to meditate in front of the cross every day like they did, so I bought a statue of a crucifix with Jesus on the cross, and put it up on the wall. At the beginning, I was thinking only about how Thérèse or Mother felt and perceived the thirst of Jesus as they faced the cross; but gradually I began to think about Jesus himself.
Several months passed since I moved to Fukushima. Through an acquaintance, I met Sister O, who came to serve from Kobe. She rented a house with two other sisters, and made the house into a convent and engaged in volunteer work for the local people. Since it was forbidden to bring religion to the disaster areas, Sister O did not wear a nun’s habit outside, even when she attended the mass at a church. However, when she met me inside the convent, she always wore a habit. Because she had already heard of my feeling, that I wanted to know Jesus, she gifted me a book one day. It was the New Testament. It had a white cover, and she said it was specifically for ones working in the medical field. On that day, Sister O taught me how to read the Bible: “When you read the Bible, you read using your imagination, as if you are watching a movie, and as if you are right there,” she explained. And then, opening the page to the story of the “Good Samaritan”—one of the well-known scenes where Jesus preached using a metaphor—she taught me the meaning of the words of Jesus, giving me detailed descriptions so that I could imagine it easily: what the social status of the people who appeared in the story were, what the locations of the setting were like, how crucial and precious to their survival the things that the protagonist gave away for free were, and etc.
From that day, I found myself enjoying reading the Bible much more than before. I borrowed books of biblical commentary and manga from the library, and studied more about the era in which Jesus lived, its political, social and religious background; and whilst having imagination and expanding more and more, I began to decipher the words of Jesus that are symbolic and hard to grasp. Then, many of the teachings began to get closer to my heart with fresh awe and inspiration, and penetrated into my heart. The more I discovered about the teachings of Jesus, and the more I imagined the scenes where he was preaching, I began to feel and perceive the atmosphere as if I were listening to Jesus teach nearby. And each time I thought about Jesus, I began to recall someone. That was Shri Mahayogi. It felt to me that these two people are the same person. It was nothing like a “reincarnation,” but rather, they were the same person living right now, simultaneously in the same moment. Even though Jesus lived two thousand years ago, I could not perceive his existence as something in the past. Every time when I read the Bible, and every time I looked at the crucifix on the wall, I was filled with a strange sensation. Every time when I thought about Jesus, the [perception of] time stopped.
Even though I felt Jesus closer and closer in this way, the thirst of Jesus never came close to me. I never had the feeling of such a sense of urgency that quenching that thirst was everything in my life, and that that was the utmost urgent task I had to perform more than anything else, like Thérèse and Mother based their lives on.
And, there was only one of Jesus’ phrases among all that I had come to know until that point, that I did not understand. I learned that these words have perplexed the scholars for ages, and there still isn’t a definitive, unified answer. No matter what I read in books or asked a priest that I know, or Sister O, I could not totally be convinced of any of the interpretations. One day, I really wanted to know the true answer, so I called Shri Mahayogi in Kyoto. Through this call, not only did I find the answer, I came to touch a part of the question— “What does faith mean to an individual human being?”—but this is the part that I had not realized before.
(To be continued…)