Hello my name is Andrew Kahren of the Kobayashi Lineage, Tachikawa 37 Division. I was connected to Shinnyo-en on June 9th, 1994 and have been practicing the Shinnyo Teaching for close to 19 years now. I am the eldest of 4 children. I had a younger brother; he passed away at the age of 20; he died in a car accident. I was only 22 years old at the time. I realize now that this was his karma. At the time I could not understand why he had to die at such a young age. Karma does not wait it can strike at any moment. I also have two younger sisters, they are both connected to Shinnyo-en, but unfortunately do not practice. I continue to nurture them and hope that someday they can also practice with me.
I would like to talk about my Karma. I have been thru a fair amount of Karma, good and bad. When I was 24 years old I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. It took a year of going to different doctors and many trips to the emergency room before figuring out that I was mentally ill. I remember the first panic attack I had, all of the sudden I would start feeling faint and then my heart would start to beat extremely fast. I thought I was having a heart attack. I lost my father when I was 15 years old. He died of heart failure, so I thought immediately I was going to die of the same illness, a heart attack. The very first time I had a panic attack, I remember telling my wife I was sorry for leaving her. I thought for sure I was going to die. Well as soon as I reached the hospital I started feeling better. I had repeated episodes that went on for a year and I started to lose a lot of weight quickly. I could not eat anything and I stopped going outside. I was afraid to do anything that might trigger another episode. I needed my wife to hold my hand when we traveled on a train. So going to Tachikawa by train was very hard for me.
After being diagnosed with panic disorder I was prescribed anxiety medication. I needed medicine to function in the world now. I hated taking medication and how it made me feel. My lineage parent explained to me that panic disorder is an illness of the mind and heart and that I was going to have to learn to live with taking anxiety medication. He said that I should learn to live with my illness rather than fight it. He also said that I may never recover from panic disorder. At that time panic disorder was a fairly new illness that doctors didn’t know very much about. My lineage parent used to call it the sickness of the new era. My lineage parent also suffered from the same illness of panic disorder and was talking from his experience of what he understood about the illness. At the time he said this to me I remember thinking, how I can I live a normal life if I can’t recover from this illness. I was sick from something that I had no control over. I was looking for a way to get better, to go back to the way I was. I needed to feel normal again.
I continued feel sorry for myself and wondered what I did to deserve such an illness. I did not understand that this was my Karma. My aunt was sick for a very long time and also my mother became mentally ill after my younger brother died tragically of a car accident. I watched her change into a totally different person.
I used to love living in Tokyo, Japan with all the people and congestion, but all the people and congestion were making me sick. I could not stand in a room full of people let alone stand in a jam packed train. After a few years of taking medicine and with the help of Bakkudaiju I started to live a somewhat normal life. Of course by then my illness had taken a toll on my marriage. Many things went wrong and I was the cause for everything that was going wrong. I needed a fresh start; I wanted to go back to the United States in hopes of changing my life. I quit my job which my father in law provided for me, working at his printing company. He treated me very well and put up with my self-centered ways. He was heartbroken when my wife and I told him we were leaving for the United States. I didn’t care I was going back to find my path. I was only thinking about my wellbeing.
After moving back to the Bay area I struggled to find a job. I thought about giving up and moving back to Japan. My wife refused to entertain the idea. She said “we would lose face if we were to go back to Japan”. It had only been three months after arriving in the United States. I was trying to find an easy way out. I received tokubetsu sesshin about this matter and was told to stay in the Bay area. My path was here in the United States and no longer in Japan.
I eventually found a good job and I was getting used to living in the Bay Area. I was still taking medicine for my panic attacks and continued to see a doctor every month. My foster lineage parent at the time was helping me and my wife to adjust to living in the United States and was encouraging us to practice the teaching. My wife listened to almost everything our foster Lineage parent said, and I on the other hand would do the opposite. If my wife told me to go right I would do the opposite and go left. I did not listen to anything she said or what the foster lineage parent said for that matter. But one day our foster lineage parent urged me to sit for Kangi eza. After receiving Daijo I did not sit for Kangi eza once. It had been over 12 years of not sitting for eza. The reason for not sitting for eza was because I was scolded once when I went to oyasono to ask about qualifications for sitting for Kangi. I was told I didn’t qualify. My pride got the best of me and I continued to refuse to sit after that incident. I was a stubborn person full of pride. Our foster lineage parent was persistent and urged me to sit for Kangi and with the help of my wife and our foster lineage parent; I finally had the qualifications to sit. I agreed to start sitting for Kangi eza. My training started almost instantly at the office and at home. I remember calling my foster lineage parent one night in tears. I told her that I could not take it anymore. My foster lineage parent patiently listened to me and after a moment of silence she said, I understand, but always remember the Shinnyo Parents and the Two Dojis know everything you are going thru. Isn’t that enough that they understand and feel your pain. To this day I clearly remember what I felt that moment. I felt the ever presence of the Shinnyo Parents and the Two Dojis. I felt a tremendous joy and suddenly the courage to endure anything. I sat for Kangi honeza right after this incident and elevated to Kangi. I felt so much joy and gratitude. I started to do Otasuke again. I could not stop myself; I talked to everybody about the teaching. I had to let everybody know that this teaching is true and the only thing that can save you. I was a different person with a mission.
My illness was completely gone as if it had disappeared and I stopped taking anxiety meds after 12 yrs of using them to function. I was drug free and able to get on a train without taking medicine. I was able to be in a group of people without freaking out. I had something better than anxiety medication now. I had “GOSANDAI” Namu Shinnyo ichinyo Daihatsu nehan kyo. Actually I always had GOSANDAI; I just didn’t realize it till now. My attitude towards everything changed. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I started to listen to the teaching more. I attended Chiryu Gakuin and became a dharma teacher.
I immediately started sitting for Daikangi eza after receiving Kangi spiritual level. I was motivated to keep going, I had lost 12 years already. I had to get back all the time I lost. I struggled to elevate though and could not understand what I was doing wrong. I had so much appreciation for the teaching, but something was missing. I continued to practice and nurture my guiding children. My guiding child had mentioned to me one day that she was going to Japan to sit for Daijo for the first time. I did jokubodai to my wife and she said “you should go to Japan to guide your guiding child and also while you are there sit for Daikangi eza”. I did not have a reason to say no. So I went to Japan without really giving it too much thought. My guiding child elevated to Daijo and with the joy of hearing this and with my wife’s prayer I was able to elevate to Daikangi spiritual level the next day. I thank the Shinnyo Parents, Two Dojis, Dharma Protectors and Her Holiness Keishu Shinso for their constant support and for not giving up on me. I repented for not sitting sooner for eza. I believe I wasted 12 years not doing anything, but complaining about my situation. I was very good at feeling sorry for myself.
I am still full of pride, but I am trying to purify myself every day. Just the other day my wife reminded me that I am not a humble person. I am arrogant and I think I am a better driver than everybody else in the world. She told me to remember all the accidents and traffic tickets that I had accumulated over the years. No one is perfect and no one is born with perfect driving skills. Even you had to learn to be a good driver. I am grateful to my wife. Without her constant support and criticism I would not be half the man I am now. I have two vows I would like to share with you. One vow is to become a Reino sha “spiritual guide” so I can repay all the Bakkudaiju I have received over the years. My second vow is to take care of my wife and kids till the day I die. Without them I would not be here today.
Here is a sono-uta I like very much.
Though my life, like the morning dew, may vanish anytime, I will use this moment to server others.
I would like to thank Her Holiness Keishu Shinso for her constant support and the Shinnyo Parents and the Two dojis for always being with me as I practice to become a well-rounded leader.
I would like to thank everyone for patiently listening to my testimony. I would also like to thank those who helped translate my testimony for others to hear.