Selena Gomez just won the “Woman of the Year” award at this year’s annual Billboard Women in Music 2017 that was held on Thursday. She was presented the award by Francia Raisa. In her acceptance speech, Selena told the audience in tears, “To be honest. I think Francia should be getting this award because she saved my life.” Selena was referring to Francia’s donation of her kidney to Selena in September of this year. Selena had been suffering from Lupus, and had the transplant just two weeks before her projected kidney failure. Obviously, Francia’s magnanimous offering to Selena forever bonds them together, reinforcing their already very close friendship. They had called each other, “sis”, affectionately before the surgery, but now they are indeed like sisters.

The two had met for the first time in 2007, when they were part of a group of Disney and ABC Family stars who visited the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. Raisa told Latina magazine in 2013 that, “Selena and I were in the same group and we just clicked.” Ever since, these two stars have been the best of friends.

But, who could have imagined when they first met that at some point in the future, Francia would be
giving one of her kidneys to Selena? Buddhists in Japan have a very appropriate answer for this. When
asked this question, they would answer by saying, “No one could have known that Francia would be giving
her kidney to Selena, except for the Buddha.” A meeting such as theirs is so auspicious, that the meeting
could be described as one of butsu-en. butsu means “Buddha” or “of the Buddha”, while en means
“connection”. Put the two terms together and we have “Buddhist connection”.

Without their epic first encounter these two would not have gotten to know each other at all, let alone
someday be a donor or recipient of a kidney. Whatever is behind their story, we can agree that their first
meeting is the one most crucial circumstance in the development of their relationship. In addition, that
Francia was physically compatible with Selena to safely donate a kidney may not have been accidental.
Compatibility is not a low hurdle. First of all, in order to be a kidney donor, one must be of compatible
blood type. Then, one’s tissue type must match. Finally, cross-match testing must be done to determine
that the recipient does not have antibodies against the donor’s cells. To meet someone, and then to
develop a relationship in which both parties have mutual respect for one another is a very difficult and
elusive prospect, and not just a coincidence is what Buddhists believe. Such an encounter is often
assumed to be one created by bustu-en, such that it was necessary for them to meet and become friends.

What the Buddha would want one to understand is that nothing in this world happens without
meaning. There is great meaning that one is born. There is great meaning why one was born to a certain
family. There is great meaning why one was placed in a certain classroom with a certain teacher. There is
great meaning that one has met the people that they have met. There is great meaning that one has met
one’s partner in life. There is great meaning why one chose the work that one does. There is great
meaning in why one has a certain circle of friends. There is great meaning why one is living the life that
s/he is living. Finding the meaning of these relationships, and appreciating it is part of what Buddhism is
about.

In all this, there is one thing to remember. Whether divine intervention was involved in Selena and
Francia meeting each other, what may have been started by divine intervention is left to each on their
own to either enhance or abate their relationship thereafter. Had Selena and Francia not made an effort
to further their relationship, nothing would have come of it. Buddhism holds that it is very important to
cherish and work hard to keep these relationships to nurture a fulfilling life.
(Eisei Ikenaga)