Called by Mother Teresa, Serving Calcutta

New York, N.Y. I met Mother Teresa once in Harlem, a woman I respect deeply. I had long believed that I would visit Mother’s facility in India someday. Once, I took people from Japan and America to study with the Dalai Lama in India. At that time,  when meditating, I suddenly had a vision of Mother Teresa waving her hand at me. I understood that to mean she was inviting me.

In Dharamshala, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama was teaching us, I hurriedly decided to visit Mother. I took a plane from Delhi. When I arrived at the airport in Kolkata, there was much heavy rain. Nothing was visible from the windows of the airplane and it was past midnight.

Calcutta Provincial Governor Helped Me

As I had gotten on the airplane in a hurry, I did not know the address of Mother Teresa. I did not know how to get there. I asked the person sitting next to me on the plane, “How does one go to Mother Teresa’s place?” He said, “Now it’s very late and it is dangerous so it is better you please come with me.”

With suitcases, I followed him. More than ten people were waiting for this person, and everyone greeted him, bowing. I thought this must be an important person. He told one of the people that “This person (me) wishes to go to Mother Teresa, please take her there and please look for a place to stay tonight for her.” I did not hesitate and followed the driver.

The roof of the car was open and the car was very wet. But somehow, the car reached the facility of Mother Teresa in 30 to 40 minutes, drenched. It was around 2 o’clock. A Sister came out, “I came to volunteer. May I sleep on the floor here tonight?” She said “It is not permitted to sleep here. Please come at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning.” I asked the driver to search for an accommodation and, after spinning round and round for over an hour, we finally found a place to spend the night.

Then, for the first time, I asked, “Who was that man I met on the plane who had been  so kind?” The driver informed me he was the state governor of Kolkata! Normally, who would ride on the car whom I had not known?  I thought this whole experiences was the sign of Mother’s spiritual invitation to me. That is why I had no hesitation whatsoever to come along with a stranger in the middle of the night in a strange city. I deeply thanked the Mother.

I entered the room which had a bare light bulb, when I turned on the air conditioner,  it sounded like a thunder with awesome sound. The bed was broken so I pulled the mattress down on the floor. I thought, What a place I’ve come to! But I told myself that I was fine, and full of gratefulness, I fell asleep.

The First Thing I Did Was Washing

Early next morning, I met Mother at Mass. I told Mother I had met her in the ghetto of Harlem in New York. She said, “Here, Kolkata is like Harlem as well. There are so many places in the world where many people are suffering.

At 7 o’clock I met a sister in charge of volunteers and I was told what to do if I planned to devote my heart and body for for a full four days. She gave me a schedule of my work.

The first thing I did was laundry. It was 42 degrees (107 degrees F.) hot under the direct sun, and everyone was washing so hard. It’s so tough on the hands, I thought. Because one has to wash two or three times.

First of all, do it with running water to take out the dirt, then put the clothing in a big tank containing disinfectant, cook in it and simmer. Then put the cloth in a water tank, cool it, take it out with a long stick and squeeze it. Then, again, put it in another pot and simmer. Finally, rinse squeezing and carry it up the stairs to dry on the roof. What a job it all was!

I said to mother, “I will get ten washing machines donated immediately. Mother said, “Everyone comes to be healthy because the volunteers’ devoted attitudes who enthusiastically comes in to help. I do not need any laundry with machines here.”

I was ashamed because I thought of trying to solve issues with money. This is how I understood in mind. “Communication of the heart is important.” When she told me so, I learned something valuable. This was the first day.

Originally published as Vol. 20 in Weekly Biz, March 31, 2018; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz



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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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