The smell of incense lingered in the air. The slow, rhythmic chant of the Buddhist mantra, the ring of the gong, the rubbing of the beads began the day, just as it always ended each day. Tomoko’s mother continued with the reading of the sutras, though difficult to understand, recited smoothly into a trance-like rhythm. The exquisite black-lacquered, gold-leafed family altar pointed to the dedication of her mother’s faith in this “new” Buddhism. This form of Buddhism claimed to go back to the original true practice of Buddhism with fresh, enthusiastic approaches. The energy amongst the believers was undeniable. The community of believers grew. People were constantly invited to participate and to share their lives with each other, helping one another to build merit and bring peace to the world.
Unfortunately, it did not bring peace to the family. The more Tomoko’s mother became involved, the more she neglected the home. Tomoko’s father grew frustrated. Tomoko often had to cover for her mother by doing her chores, which included making the meals. Her mom was convinced that the whole family would come around to join her. But deep down inside, Tomoko lacked peace.
Life went on and Tomoko got married and had children in the States. As with most couples, marriage issues arose. Her mother’s solution was for Tomoko to get involved with Buddhism, which she did. It just so happened that there was a chapter of this sect in Seattle. She started attending regularly and shared her burdens. The believers there tried comforting her and gave her advice, but things did not improve. The problems continued. They told her that she needed to change, but she could not. Her Buddhist friends advised her that the only way to get the power to change was to faithfully read the sutras.
Another area that didn’t sit well with Tomoko was the fact that the head priest came all the way from Japan for a short period of time — then returned home. The advice she heard fit Japanese who live in Japan, but not those who live in the States. She realized that the priest did not understand what it was like to live cross-culturally in the US. She thought the advice given was unfair because she could not go back to live in Japan due to her marriage. There was no peace in his solutions.
During this time, Tomoko met several Christians involved with different studies. The first was Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), but the English and homework proved too difficult in a second language. She then found a Christian parenting group; as her children played with other kids, she could meet other Japanese ladies.
Something kept attracting Tomoko to Christians. She enjoyed their friendship. She then became involved with the Alpha course, which helped in opening her heart to Christianity. She found the truths to be real and comforting. Her inquisitive mind kept asking questions — but the International Alpha group had too many other nationalities in it. Although this is a good thing, the Japanese in the group wanted to ask and answer questions in their own language.
Another Bible study was formed with a SEND missionary, starting in Genesis, specifically for the Japanese. Tomoko slowly began to understand the love of God and to believe that Jesus, in love, died for her sins. There wasn’t a single “aha” moment; rather, in reflection, she realized that she believed. It was during this Bible study with several other ladies that Tomoko confessed that she believes. She now has peace with the living God. Tomoko’s name can mean “knowing child.” Now she knows — she is a child of God.
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” — Romans 10:9
- We’ve gathered resources about interacting with Buddhists and engaging them in spiritual conversation on our Path to Peace page.
- He tried hard to be a good Buddhist, but found no peace there: Though he excelled at following the precepts, he still felt exhausted, worried, and insecure. Now he’s discovered true peace — and he can’t stop telling others about it.
- Intro to Buddhism: A three-part series covering basic Buddhist beliefs, symbols and traditions, and how to engage Buddhists in meaningful spiritual conversations.
- Seeking in Seattle: SEND worker brings the gospel message to the Japanese diaspora in the Pacific Northwest.
- A shrine destroyed: A new believer rips down the idols in her home, even though she fears she could be cursed.
Banner photo by Lan Pham