Atomic Bombing Survivors Yūko Yoshiyama and Hiroko Yoshiyama
Topics Covered: Wartime student mobilization to work in factories; Wartime air raids; Air raid shelters; Food in wartime and postwar; Childhood games; Younger generations’ ignorance about the atomic bombings and war; Family temple visit.
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All the men had left with the army.
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Women had to do it instead.
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Japan was vicious! They had guts! Strong! They weren’t kind like foreigners.
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So strict. It was terrible!
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I was crying in my heart and soul, but at school I had to be disciplined.
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In the end, everyone (men) had been sent to the army, so there was no one left. That’s why students had to do this and go to work.
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Mitsubishi Steel Works is somewhere men work. There’s molten metal…
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The molten metal would come flowing down. When it dried, it became sheets of metal. Those metal plates would then be used to build ships and airplanes.
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Because that’s what Mitsubishi Steel Works made.
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And then it wasn’t men. Schoolgirls had to go to the weapons’ factory.
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Air raid shelter? The planes come flying, their propellers whirring. The American planes.
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Then, they dropped bombs. Crash! Crash! Where they fell would catch fire. The fire would burn.
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There’s an air raid shelter under here, even now. (It’s already been filled in.) We filled it in a little. We’d go in from here.
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There were air raid shelters all along that road.
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Under the mountain, under the ground. That’s where we ran to.
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I tried to tell them to save at least one air raid shelter.
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It’d be something to talk about. We could tell people about what it was like. But they filled them all in and made them into a road.
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After the war, the city office made it all into a road.
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The B29s would roar as they came flying. The American B29s. Then the air raid siren would blare —
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Cautionary alarms would go Buu-Bu-Bu. Cautionary alarms.
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When that ended, it would sound for a long BUUUuuu. It was a sign telling you to run to cover quickly.
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But where is there to run to? We only had under the mountains. There were holes going into the side of the mountain. That’s where we went.
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You just came up those stairs, right? Well, to the side, there was a small ditch. The entrance was in through there.
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So then, “Ah! The planes are here! The B29s!” So we dug underneath here and made the place under our floor into an air raid shelter.
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If a bomb fell on us, that’d be the end. Everything would be destroyed.
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If that’s what it’s going to be, you’d be better off going somewhere else.
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It’s dangerous. Yes, when the air raid sirens went off during the war, it sure was scary.
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Students had to stop their studies and do this (make metal sheets for warships and airplanes)! Do such things! We did that…
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I was one of the laborers.
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Since the regular employees couldn’t take attendance in the morning, so I was one of the laborers who took attendance.
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Everyone knew my face.
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I was seated on this side. Then, they started groaning, “Water! Miss, please give me water!”
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I had hurt my lower back. If I could, I would have gotten a kettle, put water in it, and let them drink as much as they wanted. I would.
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But I couldn’t get up and I had lost all my teeth.
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There was… oh what do you call it… not a towel…
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Like a rag. Blood was pouring out of my mouth, I had lost all my teeth.
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And there was glass sticking into here. Two piece. Sticking out like this!
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And there were other injuries, too. But more than anything, I couldn’t stand up.
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Then, I … there was nothing I could do. All my friends. Everyone.
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Manager Imari, Section Chief Soda, Division Leader Ogasawara. 36 of them, dead.
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The wind came from Nagasaki… The Steel Works are where Urakami Station in Nagasaki City is today. Near the Nagasaki Shinbun. Over there.
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The wind came from the direction of the station.
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It came through and broke everything near the windows, making everything collapse.
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Right at that time, I wasn’t in the room. I was going to the bathroom, down the opposite corridor, on the other side of the bathroom.
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I was there. I had gone to the bathroom, washed my hands, and ended up there. And that’s how I was saved.
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Then, the (Japanese) soldiers came and got people like me out of the rubble. They put me on a stretcher and saved me.
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There was nothing to eat.
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There were strict rice rations.
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You’d take that, dissolve it in a pot, and share it with everyone. Gruel-like. If you make rice, you can make rice gruel, too, right?
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You take that mush and put it in a bowl like this and sip it out.
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If that’s all you eat, you get hungry.
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Normally, you make rice and eat it, right? Nowadays.
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Dissolve it into a gruel, we did. Rice gruel.
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When you’re sick, you eat rice gruel. Since you can’t eat normal rice then. As is.
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That’s how it is. Like a gruel. Barely any rice in the mush. Because if you’re sick you can’t have the rice.
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At first, I was afraid because we had been at war. But it wasn’t like that at all!
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They were so kind! They gave us all candy. We didn’t even have food at the time.
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We got so much. (I was still young then.)
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Because I was still young — 17 or 18 — it’s when you want everything, don’t you?
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So when the foreigners came I was afraid. I didn’t know what to do. I thought of running away.
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But it was the opposite! (Total opposite!)
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The Americans were kind. They gave us lots of candy.
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I’m full of gratitude, thinking back on it now.
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There are many people in our generation who couldn’t get married. Even university graduates.
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(No one would marry the women.) They became high school teachers, but couldn’t marry. Couldn’t marry.
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They said you’d give birth to a strange child.
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Your child would be a re***d. Absolutely no marriage. (Because they’d know (you’d been exposed…))
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That’s why no one would marry them/us. It didn’t matter if you were of good pedigree or a doctor or something.
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But you have to eat somehow. You yourself. You have to live on. If you live on.
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Well, if you died, that’d be it, but if you live on, you have to eat.
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It was impossible to get married! There’s one too many!
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So I went to the Mitsubishi Shipyards – our Mitsubishi Shipyards here in Nagasaki.
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The shipyards had a credit union before, and they made a new one.
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Workers there could receive interest on money that they put into their savings. It would add up – it would be deducted from your pay and add up – and when that money matured, the interest would be very high.
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When they opened, I went to work there.
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People won’t ask, and I didn’t tell people (that I’m a hibakusha).
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Well… before girls’ school, daily life was fine (the war…)
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No war. (Normally)
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A peaceful, normal everyday life. (We ate normally.)
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When the Great East Asian War began it got bad. (Nothing fancy.)
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(Nothing extravagant.) Japan was so bad! (Just normally, you know.)
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(Play?) Umm (In elementary school?)
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There’d be these small bowls. We’d play with these toys like people living our everyday lives. (These toys)
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Yes! There were these small toys, small (toys! Like bowls.)
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Things that looked like bowls and food, pickles. (We would copy what adults did.)
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We played with these small things. (The adults were copied by the kids. We’d look at our parents, see what they do.)
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We played. (There were toys like that. Teacups, bowls, all kinds of stuff. We played.)
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(We also, well, yes, read picture books, yes. All kinds of things to play with. Yes.)
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We weren’t well-off at all.
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Our lives were not grandiose. (No luxury.)
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Back then, Japan was horrible.
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If you wanted to be a bride, you had to cook, do flower arrangement, know Western and Japanese sewing. If you wanted to get married into a good household.
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There weren’t any working career women. Women didn’t work like that.
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But society is different now. If you like tea ceremony, you can learn. If you like flower arrangement, too.
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(People haven’t changed much.) Compared to back then, they haven’t change much. (Haven’t changed.)
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Their character, too.
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Well, well, people are better off these days.
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Japan — when we were little, Japan was poor. We couldn’t even eat anything fancy.
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And now, things are in such abundance.
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So, things are in such abundance. If you ask us, people are quite better off now than they used to be. Wealthier.
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When we were little, everyone was poor.
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I really think it’s a good thing we lost to America. We can indulge in food. We can eat all kinds of stuff — meat and such — in Nagasaki.
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The gap between rich and poor was too much.
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The atomic bombing is now something from long ago. So no one goes out of their way to say, “Oh! You must have been exposed!” or anything like that. You don’t discuss it much.
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There was the exhibition the other day – you were there.
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People my age want to tell everyone the hardships we faced at the hand of the atomic bomb. That’s why we put on that exhibition.
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We’ll be doing it on July 31 in Hiroshima, too. The Nagasaki exhibition is over, so next is Hiroshima.
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So, for everyone – everyone – the people today don’t know about the atomic bomb.
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So we want to teach everyone, so we make sure to put on that exhibition once per year.
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The teachers in schools today are in their 40s and 50s. They were born after the war. They don’t know the reality of the atomic bombs. Unless we tell them, they won’t know.
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None of it. They know nothing.
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Really! I can’t tell you enough how important peace is! No war!
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And the Americans — they were so much nicer than the Japanese.
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And you saw at the exhibition, all those panels showing just how important peace is.
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War completely destroyed us! Destroyed us!
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So we must convey to children the important of peace. (Americans are good people. I like them very much.)
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They came to the exhibition. Middle school students.
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And before that, a teacher approached me, asking to speak. So we all divided into groups and spoke.
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184 middle school students came.
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Then, too, I told the kids just how important peace is. Over and over again.
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They were all so terrified of what the atomic bombs did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Of course! What’s the point of waging war?!)
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They had heard their grandparents’ stories, but they were shocked seeing the photographs.
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So we told them just how important peace is. (Of course!)
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Memories of my mom? Ah, she used to come here and recite the Heart Sutra (Buddhist prayer).
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So, it became a memory. This fan makes me feel like I carry my parents with me. Yes.
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Even when I come here…. That’s why I brought this with me.
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I gave you one, too.
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Its meaning for me? To respect my ancestors. It means respecting ancestors.
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That’s why I carry this fan all the time.
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Because I wasn’t a very good daughter, I want to repay my parents for all they did for me. So, I carry this all the time.
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That’s why I gave you one, too. Because we were coming to this temple.
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AS: So, does ancestor mean your relatives?
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People from years past…..
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Old relatives. My mother, father, brothers, and all of them.
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When I come here, there is an offertory box here. So, I make sure to drop money in it.
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Then, I share my thoughts and pray for things like good health.
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I think of my ancestors and I remember my parents, especially my mother.
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Its means to respect my ancestors. It means respecting ancestors.
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And I put my hands together to Master Shinran and say a sutra (I believe from the bottom of my heart and follow you) three times. Then I go home.
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NAMU-DAISHI-HENRYOU-HONGOU NAMU-DAISHI-HENRYOU-HONGOU NAMU-DAISHI-HENRYOU-
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To have him protect me and my health, I chant from bottom of my heart.
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The Heart of the Prajna-paramita.
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The Bodhisattva Avalokita, while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding, shed light on the five skandhas and found them equally empty. After this penetration, he overcame all pain.
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`Listen, Shariputura, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations , and consciousness.
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Here, Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they are neither produced nor destroyed, neither defiled nor immaculate, neither increasing nor decreasing.
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Therefore, in emptiness there is neither form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor mental formations, nor consciousness;
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no eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind, no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no reams of element (from eye to mind consciousness); no interdependent origins and no extinction of them (from ignorance to old age and death);
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no suffering, no origination of suffering, no extinction of suffering,
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no path; no understanding, no attainment.
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`Because there is no attainment, the bodhisattvas, supported by the Perfect of Understanding, find no obstacles for the minds.
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Having no obstacles, they overcome fear, liberating themselves forever from illusion and realizing perfect Nirvana.
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All Buddhas in the past, present , and future, thanks to this Perfect Understanding, arrive at full, right and universal Enlightenment.
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`Therefore, one should know that Perfect Understanding is a great mantra…