There is a saying in Japan, “There are many paths to reach the top of Mount Fuji.” Many people have pursued greater meaning and purpose in life in search of God. I grew up in an inter-religious home –my father was a Buddhist and my mother was raised with both a Christian and Buddhist background. This unique upbringing helped me widen and deepen my relationship with God.It opened my mind and heart to recognize the common destination we all seek and the many paths that can be taken to reach that summit.
My mother was especially dedicated to her religious practices. In Buddhism, one reveres their ancestors and provides a table with offerings at the altar. I remember how my mother would prepare small offerings of rice, soup, tea, and other side dishes. She prepared three sets of these trays – one for our ancestors, one for our clan and one for her spiritual mentors who passed away. Her mornings were so busy as she prepared meals for our family as well as the altars, oftentimes missing the chance to eat together with us. Our house was also filled with the fragrance of incense and with her prayers. Once I brought in a statue of Mother Mary for my mother and she made sure it had a place on the altar so she can light incense and pray for Christianity. Offering these prayers was a part of my mother’s daily routine.
On weekends and during vacations, my mother would take us to a Zen Buddhist temple. The Roshi or the master monk always treated us kindly and made sure he made time to talk with us, even providing us with guidance.
Since my early childhood, I went to Christian schools from nursery through college. I made an effort to be a part of various Christian and Buddhist workshops growing up and my mother made an effort to join mass with me whenever she had the time. I was also exposed to the world outside of Japan very early in life thanks to going to a Christian school. Our school was filled with nuns from all over the world. .
Not only was my mother very good friends with the school Reverend Mother, principal and nuns, she had friends from the entire religious world. She would invite the Buddhist monks to join mass at my school chapel and they would join the celebration of Jesus’ birth. At Christmas mass, the Roshi even blew his conch shell in celebration of Jesus. Likewise, my mother would invite the nuns at my school to join meditation training at the Buddhist temple. There were even times when the monks would ask me to sing Christmas songs at their temple.
I felt there were no walls between Chrisians and Buddhists in honoring God, and there was harmony in their relationship with each other. I grew up thinking how, more than anything, they are peacefully harmonized and I was comfortable attending both houses of worship. It was a beautiful experience in the deep countryside of Japan, where we practiced our faiths together. I experienced living a harmonious inter-religious life in my home and in my community.
I believe God inspired the founders of all religions to walk their paths of faith and lead others to find Him. My unique upbringing in my village and the example set by my parents allowed me to seek that path towards God. I am especially grateful to my mother who provided me with the opportunities to expand my views and values of faith without being confined to just one religion. My childhood truly affirmed that God is part of my life and He is guiding each one of us along our paths towards the summit to finally meet Him.