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The Darkened Heart Brightened by the Light

If I am asked, “What breakfast do you normally take to start the day?” I answer, “Just a cup of coffee and some biscuits are enough to move my body until lunch.”

I was reminded of a better menu, which is rice with natto and omisoshiru (miso soup). I can guarantee this is the best breakfast combination to charge up my energy to start a day fresh. The trailer clip of “ONI: Thunder God’s Tale,” the Netflix original animation, reminded me of this breakfast when Onari and Naridon were eating in their dining room.

I found myself watching “ONI” after one of the Nishi Dharma school teachers asked me, “Sensei, I’m wondering if this anime can be watched by my Dharma School kids in my class. If you subscribe to Netflix, please watch it and let me know if you think it’s appropriate to show to my students.”

Of course, I said, “Yeah, I will watch this and let you know when I am finished.” Fortunately, I was just looking for something to watch on Netflix.

When I started watching “ONI,” at first I was impressed by the adorable and colorful characters, “yokais” (Japanese folk monsters). These “yokais” (they are called “kami” in the story) live in a holy mountain.

Onari is a courageous girl who wishes to become a hero. Her father Naridon is a good man, but mysterious. Onari and her classmates learn how to fight against evil monsters, which are called oni, to prepare for the day when they try to breach their village. Every hundred years, the oni attacks the village. Each kami has a unique power such as flying, great physical strength, and transforming their appearance. The young kamis develop their inner hidden powers with the help of their teacher.

Onari’s classmates began to develop their powers, but only Onari struggles to find her power. Naridon never explains to her what power she has. However, the oni’s attack gets closer and closer. What is Onari’s hidden power? Who is the evil oni and why do they want to attack the kami’s village? Many questions arose in my mind while I was watching.

After watching the whole episode, I thought this is a good anime for Dharma School kids, besides the Japanese culture being introduced. The way Onari found a way to overcome the oni’s attack is a good message, which is how to overcome the darkness of fear.

Suppose you’re devastated when your way doesn’t work well. It may make a dark spot in your mind. Gradually, the dark spot spreads outwardly and eventually penetrates the surface of your heart. When you’re overwhelmed by the darkness, you could envy someone else’s success or you could feel angry about that. You might even wish to drag down someone.

When you’re drawn into fear, your heart is strongly pulled by negative emotions, since you can’t find any exit in the darkness. And, as it gets worse, these emotions are passed on from person to person, and eventually, everything in your sight could be covered with darkness. In such a situation, your belief or something that you can truly rely on can be the light that keeps you from falling into this abyss of darkness.

In “ONI,” Onari found her belief, and it moved her forward to face and overcome the evil oni. I learned from her, for us Shin Buddhists, that shinjin, the true mind given by Amida Buddha, should be the belief that beacons the true light embracing our anxiety.

The first chapter of “Tannisho” begins with this: “Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida’s Vow, I shall realize birth into the Pure Land. The moment you entrust yourself thus, so that the mind set upon saying the Name arises within you, you are brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida, never to be abandoned.”

Amida Buddha proclaimed never to abandon us. This is the ray of light that prevents us from falling into the abyss of darkness. The fact that we are wished by Amida’s active compassion illuminates the darkness. The light of compassion always shines around us. We need not see only the dark spot. Once awareness of shinjin illuminates all, even the dark spots, created by us, can be embraced by the universe of the Primal Vow.

Nobody is outside the range of Amida Buddha’s infinite light. This is inconceivable though, the Primal Vow promises never to leave us behind. If the universe itself wishes all to attain Nirvana, how much joy it is. The Primal Vow is the vow revealed to the world, in the Name, Namoamidabutsu. Each of us is wished by the Buddha to attain Nirvana.


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