The World of NUMATA Yehan

The late Rev Dr Yehan Numata
The late Rev Dr Yehan Numata, Humanitarian, Industrialist and Philanthropist

The nembutsu is the single path free of hindrances. Why is this? To practicers who have realised shinjin, the gods of the heavens and earth bow in homage, and maras and nonbuddhists present no obstruction. (The Tanni Sho, 7; CWS, p. 665)

I have wanted to express, however inadequately, my great admiration and gratitude for one person whose work has made a difference not only to my little life but to countless millions of people of all languages and nations in his own time. That person is the late Rev Dr Yehan Numata who lived from 1897 to 1994.

Apart from our shared humanity, and to a paltry extent on my part, our lives as businessmen and Shin Buddhist priests, Rev Numata and I share something that has a reality and life entirely of its own, but which has touched and altered our lives forever. Such is the sacred Name, Namo Amida Butsu, the nembutsu, the constant call of the Vow of Amida Buddha who holds us in the warm embrace of his boundless compassion.

It is impossible to do justice to Rev Numata’s endeavours in a single blog post. But his legacy in the form of a vast industrial complex that manufactures a wide range of precision measuring instruments, along with a wide range of philanthropic initiatives that disseminate many aspects of the Buddha Dharma — for the sake of the peace of the world — is quite breathtaking in its scope.

And it all began while Rev Numata was a young student, living in California and heard the call of the Vow, Namo Amida Butsu. Accepting it and becoming, thereby, a ‘practicer who has realised shinjin’ Rev Numata lived in the awareness of his eternal debt to the Dharma.

Like almost anyone else in the entire world. My first encounter with Rev Numata was in the form of the sublime little book, with its splendid cover-image of the setting sun, entitled The Teaching of Buddha. I found it in the drawer of a large hotel in Sydney on a visit there. Already a nembutsu follower, I was nevertheless filled with delight and gratitude for this wonderful gift to humankind from this kind and benevolent man.

More than eight million copies of The Teaching of Buddha have been distributed to over sixty countries in forty-six languages. This little book, which is a digest of five thousand Buddhist scriptures, is still the principal work of Rev Numata’s extraordinary generosity. So great is the demand for copies of the book that the publisher, founded by Rev Numata – Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai – is unable to keep up with demand.

Dr Numata’s brief autobiography was published in a small booklet entitled My Path with Saint Shinran. The publication date is probably around 1975. It is a little gem and relates one person’s journey to a life founded upon the nembutsu teaching as transmitted through Shinran Shonin.

A far larger and more comprehensive publication, which I also treasure, is called The Nembutsu is the Unimpeded Single Path. This book gives accounts of most of Rev Numata’s gifts to the world, including temples, vegetarian restaurants, gardens, family altars, school altars, scholarly journals and study bursaries to further knowledge and understanding of the initiation and transmission of the Buddha Dharma.

The outstanding contribution of this extraordinary person is the foundation of The BDK English Tripitaka Translation project. This is a vast project to translate the Taisho Tripitaka, which is the largest and most widely studied authorised collection of Buddhist scriptures. It is a work that will take many decades to complete.