Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Happy Woman

--A True incident that happened in Japan in 1921

Kiyoko was an ordinary housewife staying with her husband in her father-in-law’s house in a small town called Gofu in Japan. They were farmers by profession. One day her husband complained of severe back pain. Kiyoko took him to a doctor who diagnosed the disease as leprosy, which was considered a deadly contagious disease in Japan of the twenties for which no medical cure then existed. Kiyoko was therefore advised to take her husband to the hot springs of Naruko, nearly 700 kms away. It was a belief in those days that
the hot water from the Naruko springs had the miraculous power of curing leprosy. Kiyoko was dumbfounded, but not crestfallen. She informed her father-in-law only about the seriousness of the illness and at once started preparations to take her husband to Naruko. Her father-in-law could not accompany her as he was pretty old and would not have withstood the rigors of such a long journey.

Towards the end of May 1921, Kiyoko started her journey by train with her husband to Naruko and reached it after a few days. She hired a cottage there and stayed there for a couple of months, taking her husband everyday for a bath in the spring. Unfortunately for her, instead of showing signs of improvement, the disease started spreading and patches started appearing all over the body. The immediate neighbors who noticed the patches were scared of the disease, as in those days it was believed that leprosy was contagious. With a view to saving themselves from catching the disease, the neighbors one day threw all her belongings out of her cottage and asked her to get out. With tears flowing from her eyes, Kiyoko decided to return home.

She went to the railway station, purchased two tickets and entered the compartment. A man, sitting next to them, noticed the leprosy patches on her husband and informed the other passengers about it in a loud voice. The co-passengers persuaded Kiyoko and her husband to vacate the compartment and shift to some other compartment. But in the meanwhile the train started moving. They were then made to get down in the next station. Kiyoko went to the stationmaster and pleaded with him to permit her to resume the journey. The stationmaster was not convinced with her request and quoted railway rules, which prevented travel in train by passengers suffering from the terrible disease of leprosy. Kiyoko even pleaded with him that she was prepared to travel in goods train. Even this was refused and the stationmaster told her “ Instead of worrying about your own self, think of others!” Momentarily Kiyoko became sad but soon it occurred to her “ Yes, I should think of others. All right. I shall myself take my husband home”.

The heroic lady then purchased an old cycle rickshaw and a few blankets. Seating her husband in the rickshaw and covering him with blankets, she began cycling and started to return through a terrible mountain terrain in biting cold. On the way, as no motel or inn was prepared to take them in, she managed to rest on the roadside or stay in a dilapidated house for the night rest. On an average, she could cover about 10-12 kms per day, braving biting winds and heavy snowfall en-route. Finally she reached home by the end of 1922, more dead than alive

When her father-in-law heard her tale and about the inhuman suffering she had endured, he wept bitterly. He instantly wrote a letter to Kiyoko’s parents seeking their pardon on account of the fact that Kiyoko had to suffer due to his son’s illness. He requested Kiyoko to return to her parental home and that he himself would take care of his son. To this request, Kiyoko replied “ I shall continue to serve my husband. Lord Buddha ordained our relationship and it would be a great sin on my part to leave my husband at this stage. So please pardon me if I do not obey you”. Kiyoko continued serving her husband with greater zeal.

The disease of her husband began to spread everywhere and in a short time he began to smell bad. The medical expenses increased and the family became extremely poor. Neighbors insisted on his being shifted to some leprosy center. It was only Kiyoko who continued to serve him with her zeal unabated. She would wash his clothes which no one would touch, feed him, talk to him for hours at night when he could not sleep, clean him etc. Unfortunately for her, she became lame in 1924 owing to overwork. But that never deterred her from her devoted service to her husband. Though she could not do all that she did earlier, she tried her utmost to serve her husband. She would use her hands to walk quickly. But she never gave up the routine of taking her husband for an outing every evening, seating him on a cart. She would walk along with the help of a stick, pulling the cart herself.

Slowly people around her recognized her devotion to her husband. Gradually those neighbors who had earlier wanted her to shift to the leprosy center recognized this great virtue of selfless service of Kiyoko and started talking high of her. People began respecting her as a living Bodhisattva. In course of time, Kiyoko’s name spread all around and she became more popular as ‘Bodhisattva’ than as Kiyoko. One foreigner, who heard a lot about ‘Bodhisattva’, made it a point to go all the way to Gofu to meet Kiyoko From what this gentleman had heard of her, he expected a sorrowful lady. But what he saw simply surprised him. There she stood, beaming with a heavenly smile and greeting him with utmost respect. Not one movement of hers showed any pain or sorrow or suffering. The gentleman said
“ I am sorry you couldn’t lead a happy life because your husband is dangerously ill”.
Kiyoko instantly said with a smile “ Venerable sir, please excuse me. I do not have any unhappiness at all. I am always happy “. The visitor would not give up so easily. He said “Do you wish to say that this miserable life of yours is what you call a happy life?”. She replied politely “ I feel that my present state itself is one of great happiness. This is because, I consider it a great fortune to be able to serve my husband. He feels relief from pain on account of my service. Service to my husband is service to God.” When she laughed again, the visiting gentleman understood that there was not a trace of unhappiness about her. He then realized why people had begun calling her “Bodhisattva”

Kiyoko’s husband passed away sometime later.


NOTE : Based on an abridged English translation of the original Hindi article published by the Sri Ramakrishna Mission in their journal “ Samanvaya” [now defunct] in 1927

ARTICLE No. 573---The Moving Story of a Japanese Lady
Created: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 9:53 PM


At April 9, 2012 at 4:51 AM , Blogger Narasimha Prasad said...

good story. thanks for posting.


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