I would like to tell you a story which has moved me very deeply. It is the story of a woman, Miss Okamoto, who stayed by my teacher’s side for forty years, up until his death.

Miss Okamoto was a very talented woman who graduated in the Taisho Era from Ochanomizu Girls’ College. She was active in the field of young women’s education in both Tokyo and Kyushu until, at the age of forty, she entered the temple as a disciple of Master Zuigan. She trained as a layperson, never shaving her head and taking the vows of a nun, but also never wearing makeup as an ordinary laywoman. She carried out all her affairs tidily attired in baggy work pants.

"My Nanny Dudu" by Jacques Henri Lartigue. © Ministere de la Culture-France/Association des Amis de Jacques Henri Lartigue (AAJHL)
“My Nanny Dudu” by Jacques Henri Lartigue. © Ministere de la Culture-France/Association des Amis de Jacques Henri Lartigue (AAJHL)

 

It was not her intention to become a great monk, so rather than focus on the training itself, she worked hard to make life smooth for the master whom she so respected. By washing clothes, cooking, and raising fresh vegetables Miss Okamoto ensured that he would always be available to teach the dharma to others. Anyone who looked at Miss Okamoto would see a thoroughly self-sacrificing person.

Master Zuigan died at the age of eighty-seven, when Miss Okamoto was sixty years old. When the final ceremony of the forty-nine-day bereavement period was concluded, she packed up her belongings and, declaring that she did not wish to be a burden to me, left the temple. She moved into the rented cottage of a different temple, where she continued the live out her years of retirement, under no one’s supervision, just as she had lived when Master Zuigan was alive.

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