President Enko Sakai
I was born to a merchant family, but my parents divorced when I was 7 and I lived with my mother and older brother. I worked as a newspaper and milk delivery boy to help with household finances. I also worked part time in construction and washing dishes in restaurants. Daily life was not easy, but I didn’t complain about it and took it for what it was. After graduating from high school, I took a job at a food manufacturer, but within four years, I had decided to be a Buddhist monk. I followed after my grandfather on my mother’s side and joined a temple in Kyoto.
A shocking incident took place when I was still a rookie monk. One of my friends at the temple, who was more senior than I was, killed himself only two weeks after we talked. He was just like me. He didn’t express himself much, and he wasn’t clear on what he wanted to do. I blamed myself for having missed the signs in the eyes of my friend. This was a big turning point in my life. I made up my mind to abandon everything I had earned to that point, change my Buddhism school and retrain myself as a monk. I visited the Enryakuji Temple at Mt. Hiei, the head temple of the Tiantai school of Buddhism, to join the harsh two-year ascetic practices. After completing my training, I joined the Myojoin Temple when I was 29.
The Myojoin Temple is recorded to have been founded around 968 A.D. in Aichi Prefecture, as a temple for the Tiantai school of Buddhism and I have been serving as joshoku (head priest) of the temple for 10 years. As being a jushoku is the highest-ranking position in a temple, it is like a goal line for Buddhist monks. As jushoku, I opened the temple to the public more. I built a waterfall on the temple grounds to provide the public a chance to experience ascetic practices of Buddhist monks. I offered consulting services, as well as courses of study sessions for Zen, even memorial services for pets. But I think I’ve done everything I can. I’m considering passing all these facilities and activities on to my son. It is up to him to decide whether to maintain it, or scrap it all. Over the next two to three years, I’ll start wrapping up everything I’m currently engaged in. Within five years, I’ll be completely finished.
Now I have a dream to realize, which I nurtured for years in my mind. That is to build small orphanages in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines. The 10 or so children at each orphanage will go to existing schools to study, and existing hospitals when they are sick. So, the facilities are more like shelters. To realize this project, I am planning to form a nonprofit organization this year to set up a Zen promotion center in San Francisco, disseminating the real Zen spirit as part of fundraising activities. I’ve finally reached to the entrance and been given a chance to realize my dreams. Given the appropriate circumstance, it is not right to not follow the path.
- Aichi Prefecture
- circa 968 A.D.
- Buddhist temple