I uttered my first cry in Nakamoto Village, Higashinari-gun, Osaka Prefecture on the fifteenth of January 1925 (fourteenth year of the Taisho reign). Back then, the village of my birth marked the outer limits of Osaka, beyond which laid the vast countryside stretching eastwards towards the Ikoma Mountains. Alone on a path dividing fields of rice, located just off the Hanaten Highway, stood the Akakabe Pharmacy.
In defiance of my grandfather’s wishes, my father eloped with the daughter of a tenant farmer. She later passed away, and my father then married my mother. With his new bride at his side, he operated a poultry business in front of a small market west of the Takafuji Bridge. The business grew and spread its wings from Higashizumi, situated by the Yamato Bridge east of the Jintan Factory in Morinomiya, to Tamahori Town in Higashi-ku. Subsequently, it was designated an official supplier to the War Ministry, which entailed the delivery of chickens to such facilities as the medical offices of the army and of various military factories. My father was also the sole supplier of chicken to all the restaurants, cafeterias, noodle shops, nightclubs, and bars east of the Kamihoncho Highway and set up branch offices in various markets throughout Osaka, thereby attaining a considerable measure of success.
Around the same time that I was born into this world as the eldest son of such a father, my grandfather chose to repeal his decision to disinherit my father. He had a habit of dropping by to instill in me a sense of pride in my refined pedigree. “You can trace your ancestry to the Imperial Family,” he would proclaim. “Despite having attained nobility through meritorious deeds rendered during the Ashikaga period, your forefather—Fujiwara Masanaga—assumed the rank of Uchida Chunagon and served as a feudal lord in Miwaka Province.” (I have since been adopted into my beloved wife’s family and taken on their family name. Hence, I am now known as Segawa.)
Still, from around the time I was fourteen or fifteen, I was more given over to taking a keen and, indeed, obsessive interest in the study of electrical engineering, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, and mechanical engineering. I dreamt of becoming an automotive baron, much like Ford was then, and drew up plans galore. I designed a mold for a cab-over, which did not exist in those days, conceived of the notion of a four-wheel drive vehicle, and eventually, I took out a patent on a three-cylinder compound engine. In short, I was passionately devoted to ideas and new inventions.
During the war years, I went to work for the Number 2 Production Section of the Military Weapons Industrial Unit out of a fear of getting drafted. The latest model of automatic lathe at the time was called the Karl Hasse, and one was delivered to Japan from Germany by submarine. As soon as I laid eyes on it in the Number 5 Shipyard next door, I was able to discern its inner workings and realized it could be used as a piece of adjustable equipment in place of loading ramps that previously had to be switched each time to accommodate different configurations. It was then that my yearning to invent was awakened.
As I grew older, I retained a child’s capacity for holding onto fantastic dreams. For example, I regularly took part in long-distance races involving motorboats that are steered by remote control while the pilot sits perched in a real boat on the water and managed to go from being ranked number two to number one in the world. One person that I met through this pursuit was the then president of the All-Japan Model Motorboat League, who had become director of the league after establishing his credentials as the world’s third ranked racer in the sport. He was better known later in life as Representative Nao Sonoda, holder of a number of different posts during the course of his career, including Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives and Minister for Health and Welfare. I was also on friendly terms with Technical Officer Kimura of the Defense Agency, builder of the high-speed Vessel IV, a craft designed to be easily converted into a torpedo boat for immediate deployment.
My interests were not limited to these exploits but were also directed towards an array of different areas of life in general. I entered a realm of hopes and aspirations that often steered me away from a focus on my company. I swung from politics to rubbing shoulders with fellow industrialists, and even provided advice on putting together yachts for Kenichi Horie, the adventurer who navigated across the Pacific in one to become a household name worldwide.
The way I pursue my goals with an unrelenting drive from the moment I set my sights on what needs to be accomplished until the job is done has stood me in good stead over the years. Thanks to this particular personality trait of mine, I was able to set my company on the path to prosperity, even as I was penniless in the beginning and chose not to accept the financial assistance or support of others. However, by focusing my attention on the hopes and dreams inspired by unrelated affairs, my company came to be ensnared by sagging fortunes, and my business was forced to ride increasingly turbulent waves of success and setbacks. I felt delight, anger, sorrow, and pleasure, and tasted the sweet rewards of paradise and the crushing despair of hell.
What is more, perhaps due to the childlike purity of the spirit I bore, I was unable to turn a blind eye to the unhappiness and suffering of people. Consequently, I took on debts amounting to over fifty million yen in hopes of helping those I considered less fortunate than myself, which together with the debts of my company grew to such a scale that I was unable to recover. At the age of forty-eight, on Christmas Eve 1973, I declared bankruptcy.
The Turning Point in My Life
In this way, I had come to a critical juncture in my life. This is because I felt that to leave me stranded with this matter unresolved would prevent me from ever taking another step forward.
I also realized that, as my life and destiny had been shaped by the confluence of all my desires, thoughts, and actions over the years filtered through a host of intervening causes, it would require some reflection to unravel this tangled mess. And the more I reflected, the more I came to see the shallowness of my desires and thoughts, as well as the depths of my sins reflecting the habitual spirit residing in my hopeless heart, and I descended further down into the abyss of my despair.
Nevertheless, on account of the shallowness of my desires and thoughts as well as the depths of my sins reflecting a habitual spirit, I exposed my mother and younger brother to a sampling of hell, brought down my friends and business associates with me, and left my family and employees destitute. No matter how much I regretted what I had become, I continued to reproach no one else but myself out of a sense that I had not atoned enough.
What I understood later, as I reflected on myself with an exhaustive push, was that the act of utterly destroying yourself in order to create a space to be occupied by the new you was akin and no different from the message of a certain saint who once proclaimed, “Repent, and be born anew. And dispose of your old bottles (old ideas) and take up new bottles (new ideas).”
Finally, I resolved to knock on the gates of the spiritual universe, to which my thoughts had never before wandered, and revived in myself the spirit of Angolmois the Great. Therefore, I became aware that the indispensable key to securing eternal peace and prosperity for humankind lay in a revival of a spiritual universe suitable for sustaining an immense material civilization, to be undertaken at the same time that we suppress all crises that threaten our existence. This then is the message I wish to bring to the world at large.
A Message From Munekazu Segawa, Author of Where is Humankind Headed?
If you were to ask Japanese people about their economic standing in society, most would reply that they are middle class. Nonetheless, fiscal flows of several billion yen regularly occur without much ado in the political arena. In contrast, there is also a world in which day workers are compelled to skip out at night to flee the burden imposed by debts of just a few thousand yen. It is difficult to define the range of monetary values into which fall those who truly belong to the middle class.
If you peer up at the sky, you will see clouds floating in the heavens, but if your vantage point is the inside of a jumbo jet flying at an altitude of twelve thousand meters, these same clouds will appear as if blanketing the earth. Which interpretation is real? And if you consider the whole world around us, what is hidden from view is a Japan that has adhered to virtuous norms. Self-assertiveness takes center stage and has become the model for liberalism, pitting the opinions of the elderly against those of the young.
More common than heartwarming stories that depict better lives for people and animals are the daily stories in the news describing the violent ways in which people are killed, the rape of women, and the theft of money held in safes that are picked up and removed. Copycat offenders are spawned to continue an unending cycle of crime, all symptoms of a world that has become downright dangerous. I lost the best years of my youth to the turmoil that gripped the nation during the prewar and war years. I bore witness to the emergence of a new Japan out of the chaos of the postwar era and observed the manner in which a society that, having reached its apex, has been in the throes of decline ever since. I have lived through a life full of memories gained firsthand. At the same time, familiar touchstones of good and right have undergone changes in step with the current of the times. Fading are the days when people respected their superiors and paid homage to neighbors and the elderly, when manners were followed as a matter of principle, when people worked with an earnest sense of purpose, when it was normal to practice austerity and thrift, and when filial devotion was a virtue. A reversal in the roles of men and women has taken root. Persons who no longer take pride in upholding such norms attempt to express or assert themselves by fomenting problems, wearing strange clothing, or engaging in outrageous actions, much as motorcycle gangsters do. Alternatively, they may resort to visiting harm on others or killing for no particular reason at all. Such degeneration is driven by dubious books and comics.
All told, allow me to enlighten you on some enduring truths based on the sum of my experiences. The following are lessons drawn from my life and destiny.
- Happiness is defined as living in the knowledge that there are always going to be those less fortunate than yourself.
- In order not to make enemies, live by bowing down before others.
- To avoid sliding into poverty, know when you are content.
- If you can work three times as hard as anyone else while indulging in twice as much luxury as anyone else, you will not suffer from an inferiority complex of any sort.
- You will be unable to secure the trust of others unless you show your true colors and come out from behind your mask.
- Without goals to work towards, you will be a failure in life.
- Unless you live your life at a constant speed, you will be unable to manipulate your own destiny.
- A lack of knowledge of your financial ‘speed’ will result in incomplete ‘combustion’ and ‘overheating,’ thereby preventing you from efficiently riding the road of life.
- You will not be one of the winners in life unless you apply your gifts to your life’s calling.
- You need to take on life’s challenges while holding onto that which you love in order to develop indomitable spiritual strength.
- Those who live their lives by surrounding themselves with good friends and good allies can live life with poise and self-confidence.
- Great success will elude you unless you reflect on life’s failures and convert their substance into nuggets of wisdom for living your life.
- As long as you live within the groups you form, you will stand isolated if you possess poor interpersonal skills.
Although I had gained such pearls of common sense in the years that constituted the first half of my life, the bankruptcy proceedings that struck like lightning when I was forty-eight years of age marked a turning point in the wake of which I acquired something greater after undergoing fundamental Buddhist training in the areas of reflection, meditative concentration, and meditation, which thereby allowed me to seek a profound Buddhist state of mind immanent within myself. I devoted myself until I was able to give answers to all sorts of questions, in the vein of the following examples.
- From where did I originate in coming to this world and to where will I go upon my death?
- Why are humans required to undergo lives replete with limitations?
- What is to live and what is to die?
- Why are birth, old age, sickness, and death necessary?
- What do husband and wife, brother and sister, parent and child, and friends mean?
- What constitute one’s true objectives and calling in life?
- Why does this world consist of so much suffering as can be found in the sub-hells?
- Will you not regret not having spent your wealth or allowed others to use your wealth while you were still alive?
- What will become of humankind?
I came to understand that I was put on this earth in order to convey to one and all the three-dimensional truths of this world, as well as the truths of the spiritual universe of the realm of four dimensions and beyond in which phenomena occur according to the laws of this world and subject the world to inquiry.
Clasping hands in prayer… Munekazu Segawa