Life Story
by Reiko Kawai

My name is Reiko Kawai and I am from the Nantista Lineage.
When my lineage parent gave me an opportunity to offer my testimony, I felt intimidated. Since I am a dancer, people think that I have no problem going out in front of an audience, but that is not true. However, I heard that even Her Holiness Keishu Shinso had to work really hard to overcome nervousness when speaking in front of people. Following in her footsteps, I decided to accept and to offer my testimony.
I started learning dance when I was 6 years old, and developed more and more of a passion for it. I have an older sister and brother so I was raised with a lot of attention and l got everything I wanted. But I often found myself feeling that life has no meaning and wanting to die. When I was 20 years old, I seriously thought that it would be quite an accomplishment if I could survive until 30.
I have never liked school. At middle school graduation, my homeroom teacher told my mother, "I am so happy that your daughter was able to graduate." My parents were very strict and didn't care about anything but how well I did at school. During that rebellious time, I didn't go to school. Instead I started smoking, drinking and staying out late at night. It was before college entrance exams that I found out for the the first time that my father wanted me to be a doctor just like my older sister and brother. I thought, "In the end, they all care about the academic success. I refuse to be the person they want me to be." I became even more rebellious. At that time, I had just started to get paid to dance and I told my parents that I was not going to college. My parents and I had so many arguments over this. Finally I told my parents, "If you force me go to college, I will go to school in the US and become a professional dancer." So, after I graduated from high school in 2005, I came here.
I was dancing about 10 hours a day. Aside from majoring in dance at school, I also joined a dance company. I was only 19 years old and completely independent: cooking every night, doing homework, and being careful to stay healthy. Doing this really helped me realize how my parents had provided for me in the past. In 2006, I injured my leg and was informed that unless I had surgery, I would not be able to dance again. Dance was so important to me that I thought I would be worthless if I couldn't dance. However, I was afraid of the risk associated with the surgery. It was at that point that I met my guiding parent. We talked about my injury and I was connected to the Teaching based on what I heard about Sesshin. When I received Sesshin about my injury, an ancestor who suffered a setback was indicated and I learned that my occasional suicidal thoughts came from this karma. I offered spiritual consolation and had the surgery, which was successful. After physical therapy, I was able to dance again. In 2009, as I continued practicing the teaching, my mother became ill, and we were told that she only had 6 months to live. At that time, I felt I needed to talk about the teaching with my family. My family had negative opinions about religion, so it was quite a challenge for me. When my father came to see me in the US, I gathered up my courage and brought him to the temple. However, when he heard the chanting coming from the temple, he became upset, and didn't come inside. He thought I had been deceived by the temple, and yelled in a manner that I had never seen before. "What on earth are you doing, being involved in a religion?" Even though I was a beginner at that time and didn't quite understand it myself, I tried to explain to him, saying that this teaching is genuine. He, however, didn't accept that, and I felt so sad wondering why he didn't approve of what I was doing. Although my father told me to stop practicing the teaching before returning to Japan, I had no intention to do so, and when I opened the "Path of Oneness," I realized I was so fortunate that he didn't force me to go back to Japan with him. My father had forbidden me to even mention the name of Shinnyo-en. So when I went back home to visit my mother, I left "Path of Oneness" together with a letter on her bedside. But the email I received from my mother after I returned to the US said, "I will not read it. Why do you make me worry so much? I shouldn't have let you go to the US." I kept thinking, "Why doesn't she understand?" feeling very frustrated. I know now that she was just really worried about me. But I couldn't take it that way that time. After I failed to connect my family, I decided to show them what the teaching was about through my actions and I tried to focus on connecting people other than my family. Soon, I was able to connect many people to the teaching. Around that time, I got a contract as an exclusive backup dancer for a new singer. My life was very fulfilling, performing in music videos and participating in live events. On the other hand, my mother's health was getting worse and worse. One day I got a call from Japan and the message was that my mother's condition had suddenly changed. My family asked me to come back to see her. I was still in graduate school then, and I just had a class that met Wednesday evenings, so I planned to fly to Japan on a Thursday and come back to the US by Tuesday evening. I told my mother that I wanted to take a leave of absence from school and stay with her. But what my mother said to me was "You must do what you set out to do." I thought, if that's my mother's wish, I must follow it and do my best. Attending school, working, and flying to Japan to visit my mother, I was so determined to do all of that, but my body couldn't keep up with it. During this crisis, the Shinnyo Parents, the Two Dojis, and Her Holiness Shinso Keishu helped me through my guiding parent. It was only because of this that I was able to do as much as I did, and felt that I could leave the rest up to the Spiritual World. I returned to Japan again, and when I was alone with my mother, she said "It's all over for me." I instinctively thought that this was the only chance, I said, "Are you going to where the Two Dojis and that the Shinnyo Parents are?" My mother, who was struggling to stay conscious, responded weakly, "Yes." In my last words to my mother, I was able to tell her what I could not say to her before, "Mom, let's be free of pain now. I'm so happy to have been your daughter. Thank you for giving birth to me." I could not stop my tears as I could see Shojushin'in in my mother. She was always thinking of me even when she must have been suffering so much from her illness. The next day, my mother's doctor told me, "She probably has about a week to live. Please be prepared." A few hours later, my mother suddenly passed away after a year and a half of battle with her illness. Next to the wailing of my brother and sister, I prayed earnestly to the Two Dojis and Shinnyo Parents in my heart. However, I was a complete shell of myself, and could not stand the sadness, so I seriously thought of following my mother and killing myself. I thought I had reached my limit. But because of the Teaching, I thought about what would become of my father if I died too, and realized that this was not what my mother would want, and was able to talk myself out of it. Yet, it was still so hard … I would just have to do my best to follow the Teaching. Right after I made up my mind to do so, I was elevated to Daijo. Afterwards, I was blessed with a new opportunity to dance. Since this was the reason for coming to the US in the first place, I think this was a gift, the very best one, from my mother. At that time, I already had over 10 guiding children. I felt so sorry that I was unable to go to the temple together with the long distance guiding children and to see them right away when they felt bothered by thoughts like "I am nervous about Sesshin because the spiritual world can see through me," or "I don't want to go to temple because someone said something hurtful to me," that I have never thought. At the same time, I felt the crushing weight of the loss of my mother. However, when I think of the Shinnyo Parents, who lost their sons when they departed to the spiritual world, I began to realize that I did not deserve to be sad. I tried to have faith in Founder Kyoshu's words in the Path of Oneness: "If you feel pain or sadness, chant "Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Daihasu Nehankyo" and I prayed as hard as I could. I suddenly realized that it is okay to be sad, to cry, and to be weak. I vowed, "If it is possible that even someone as hopeless as me can help others, then I will become the arms and legs of the Two Dojis, and go wherever I am needed. Please let me do that." With that thought, I was elevated to the spiritual level of Kangi this May. I received so much from the spiritual world this year. Starting with an opportunity to sit on the altar in the Setsubun service, my guiding parent suggested that I try to be a YA linage parent. Unfortunately, I hadn't participated in many YA activities because I like to do things on my own. "Why me?" I asked my guiding parent, who told me "I've been thinking that you can be a leader. I believe you can do it." I was so grateful for that, but even more, I wanted to work for Keishu Shinso, so that I decided to do it. There are some conditions for applying a linage parent and one of them is that you have to be admitted to Chiryugakuin. I was only attending the introductory lectures but I submitted the application anyway. However, I was turned down, because of that requirement. Just after connected to this teaching, I did not know much about it, and asked my guiding parent if I should attend Chiryu-Gakuin or not. She gently told me that I could do so whenever I wanted. So, I decided not to enroll at that time. Ironically, after a couple of years, Chiryu-Gakuin became a crucial requirement for becoming a YA lineage parent. Those who have supported me, including my guiding parent and lineage parent, were in tears, saying that it was such a shame that I did not succeed. Seeing those people feel sad, I was determined not to let them feel that way again, and also not to let my guiding children repeat the same mistake. After that, I finished the Chiryu-Gakuin introductory lectures together with my guiding children. As I started to work on my Master's thesis last spring, I began receiving job offers from Japan. Although I was hoping to dance to my heart's content in the US, I became uncertain and was swayed by the many offers from Japan as well as in here in the US. Even after finishing my thesis, I still could not decide. I said to my father, "If I decide to go back to Japan, I feel like I would be giving up on my original goal of coming here." He replied, "It does not mean that you are giving up. You can continue dancing in Japan. You have done so much all by yourself so far. I think you can come home now." He seldom offers compliments so his words brought tears to my eyes because they made me think of Keishu Sama. With the spiritual words, "A new path is waiting for you in Japan," I was able to make a new start. Under the guidance from Keishu Shinso, I vow to become a young adult spiritual guide who can offer sesshin in both Japanese and English, a lineage parent, and a dharma teacher as soon as possible. I also would like to offer my deepest appreciation to the Shinnyo Parents, the Two Dojis, Keishu Shinso, the Guardians of the Law, my ancestors, my family, everyone around me, and my guiding children for giving me this precious opportunity to share my testimony today, my last day of practice in San Francisco. Thank you very much for today.