Praying Each Day to Abolish the Hatred in People’s Hearts
My Buddhist practice enabled me to take the most hellish experience of nuclear war and create a life of absolute happiness.
by Kiyoko Neumiller
Whidbey Island, Wash.
For over six decades, the Soka Gakkai has advocated for the abolition of nuclear weapons, partnering with organizations around the world toward this goal, including the United Nations and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. On Jan. 22, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force, outlawing the use and possession of these instruments of horror in countries that have ratified it. The World Tribune spoke with atomic bomb survivor and SGI-USA member Kiyoko Neumiller, who is 91 years old, to hear her story and thoughts on developing a brighter future.
World Tribune: We are honored to learn from your experience and insights as an atomic bomb survivor.
Kiyoko Neumiller: My story began when I was just a teenager, so I hope that many young people can learn from this and dedicate themselves even more to kosen-rufu.
On Aug. 6, 1945, I was 15 and working at a war factory in Hiroshima, one mile from ground zero. The bomb fell at 8:15 a.m. I lost consciousness and woke up under a heavy pile of wood and rubble. I heard cries from people who were on fire screaming for water or loved ones. I tried to help, but I was in shock from seeing people’s skin charred and peeling. They didn’t look human. Then, black radioactive rain poured down on us for hours. This was hell on Earth.
WT: We can’t even begin to imagine what you went through.
Neumiller: I lost my mother eight days later. Over 80% of her body had been burned. I was one of the fortunate ones who did not have lasting effects from radiation, but life was still not easy. I was never able to finish high school. My father sent me to the countryside, where I worked to support the family. I eventually met my first husband in 1954, and we had a son four years later. Our relationship fell apart, however, and shortly after our child was born, we divorced.
My husband took our child, and I was left alone and without money.
One day in 1960, I was invited to a friend’s home for tea. She and her Soka Gakkai leader sincerely encouraged me to begin chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and assured me that I could transform my suffering and become absolutely happy with this faith.
WT: What has been one of your greatest benefits since you began practicing Nichiren Buddhism?
Neumiller: My practice enabled me to develop a beautiful, harmonious family. My first goal through chanting was to get my son back, which happened within a year. Then I met a wonderful man, Jake Neumiller, who was in the U.S. Navy. He was so warm and caring. I remember thinking that I didn’t know men like him existed. At that time, there was a strong stigma of atomic bomb survivors—that we were somehow broken and unhealthy. So, I never told anyone until Jake. He had no hesitation. We married in December 1961 and moved to the U.S. the next year. I now have three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
WT: How do you feel now that nuclear weapons are illegal under international law?
Neumiller: I was so happy when I heard this news. I felt so much appreciation for second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda and Ikeda Sensei because of their tireless efforts for nuclear abolition. As long as nuclear weapons exist, peace will not be possible. I understand that we still have a lot of work to do because many powerful nations still have nuclear weapons and haven’t signed this treaty.
WT: At age 91, what are some of your goals now?
Neumiller: Every day, I chant to abolish nuclear weapons from the earth. I pray to abolish the hate in people’s hearts that causes violence and discrimination. I often tell young people that discrimination seems so ridiculous since we are all human. I think about Sensei’s visit to Russia and China during the Cold War. When people asked him why he was going to those places, his answer was “Because people are there!” (see The New Human Revolution, vol. 20. p. 139). We have to learn how to live this way.
I believe our practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and our diverse SGI movement, which inspires people to make a difference in society, are the keys to a better future.
I want to introduce many more young people to this practice and pray for them to stand up in faith for the sake of our future.