About six months ago, I read the Gosho and it’s study lecture – “Happiness in This World”, available freely here.
It took many times of reading it on hopeless days when I was suffering so much and in tears, not knowing how to transform my situation – alone, injured, in love with a man who didn’t have courage to be with me, living with a flatmate who wouldn’t even say hello or make eye contact with me, working in an office space having no natural light, feeling cut off from light, literally. There would be days I would go to the office and read the print of this page a few times before I could even get myself to do any work or be around people.
This morning while chanting in alliance with my friend in Melbourne brought me closer to the truth of this teaching.
The first meaning of having strong faith is to build a strong self, not letting life’s hardships disturb you, to continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo no matter what happens. As I started to do this last year, I was still praying for things I wanted rather than things that would lead me to true happiness. It was almost like praying for a BMW aka earthly desires. However, I didn’t have courage to really appreciate my life and stand up for myself, I was stuck in my weakness, not recognising how precious my life is.
Earlier this year when I got told to go on a restrictive rotation diet again, I felt so miserable. I tried to do my best to stick to it and went without much sleep or chanting for 3 weeks. When I sought Buddhist guidance, I was told that as long as I was still wishing things were different, I was looking for the Gohonzon outside of myself, waiting for some magic to happen. I was blocking my greatest potential and Buddha nature. That when I embrace what is happening, and chant with a strong commitment to the vow for kosen rufu and determine to still engage no matter what, I will find creative ways to engage and contribute.
Last month around 15 Feb, one of the SGI members in my area Mitra had deep challenges coming up. She had a week worth of difficult medical tests to check that she was still cancer-free. I was determined to meet and chant with her before she went into her challenging week. During my rough week of no sleep and poor diet, this was the only thing absolutely clear to me on my long to-do list. I prayed for her life state and to be able to meet with her.
Initially we had planned to meet on the Thursday night but then something came up and she asked if we could change to Friday night. I had a kinesiology appointment on the Friday. You see, I was trying to see yet another new health practitioner who could help me figure out what was causing my food sensitivities and how to manage them. I wasn’t sure how helpful it was going to be but I was willing to try anything. The kinesiologist has a way of checking with my subconscious when to schedule the next appointment and it was time for me to see her. Initially when I considered changing my appointment, I felt afraid of what if postponing it slowed down my process. I reminded myself to make a decision based on my determination and daimoku, and either way I will find a way to learn from it.
Because my determination to see Mitra was unwavering, I decided to change my appointment. Buddhism is reason so I first asked the kinesiologist and changed my appointment before I confirmed to Mitra that I was good to visit her on Friday night on 15 Feb. Before meeting her I determined to support her and chant with her, to embrace her and her struggles and encourage her, no matter what.
As President Ikeda writes on page 93 of Faith in Action:
“Nichiren Daishonin writes, “If you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your way”
I was also determined to not lose myself in the meeting and somehow get home at a reasonable hour so I can get some rest and energy. Nevertheless, I had a very good meeting and I left with a stronger determination to chant for and support Mitra. The rest of the weekend turned out to be extremely busy. I found myself wanting to watch a movie but there was no way I could make it happen at the time.
The following week on Monday I felt so depleted and depressed. I read President Toda’s guidance and wrote this post on relationships and marriage. This propelled me into longer chanting once again. I determined I am going to make an all out effort towards March 16, to connect to members, study and chant, create causes in faith to meet my original goals in faith. As Mitra went along on her difficult journey, I continued to check on her via texts and send her daimoku, which was easier because I was now chanting again. I shared this blog with her.
A couple of days later Mitra asked me to go to the movies with her on the weekend. With some back and forth, we decided to do it early on Friday evening. I had the day off to do some tests so it worked for me, she came there straight from work. She bought the tickets, I was going to buy the popcorn.
In each step of this interaction, I fought my negativity. I was determined to create light in Mitra’s life. I know when I am going through a difficult week, knowing that I will catch-up with a friend at the end of the week keeps me going. I wanted to be this anchor for Mitra and let her be this anchor for me. Still my fundamental darkness kept rearing its ugly face in the form of my negative voice which said things like – are you sure you want to watch this movie, what will you eat, you will offend the other person if you ask for an early show, this plan will never happen, you will be too tired to go to the movies, why does she want to see you anyway, you are making it hard for her to spend time with her husband etc.
I told myself again, I will ask for what I need to be able to go with her. I will ask for whatever makes it more convenient, I can try and in any case I always have the option to choose. I allowed myself to have needs and to embrace Mitra’s affection in her buying the tickets beforehand.
It turned out to be a wonderful evening out. The movie was relatively substandard but Mitra and I really connected and became friends. Based on Daimoku, I made the effort to be more approachable and she had the courage to reach out, it created joyful connection in both of our lives.
Eventually, I cancelled my appointment with the kinesiologist altogether. I continued to meet Mitra through another difficult week, even when I felt tired because the connection with her helped my life force. She visited me last week, we chanted and studied together and my prayer to have a meeting at my place in the month of February was also answered in a creative way.
Through my chanting, I realised that I am so disconnected from myself and so unaccepting of myself and my needs and constraints that I keep going to health practitioners to seek help. I almost seek their permission to look after myself. I expect others to tell me how to look after myself. I’ve never been able to tune into my own inner wisdom of what I need. I don’t have faith in my Buddha nature.
Don’t get me wrong, while I was too ill and couldn’t chant at all, I needed doctors and their advice. I didn’t grow up trusting my body’s healing process but that’s a story for another time. However, now, after so many years of managing this health condition, doctors have nothing to give me. They have run out of treatments and they just do tests one after the other and nothing comes of it. I was also so afraid of something falling over and was still stuck in the pattern of fear from my days of severe Chronic Fatigue in 2015-2017.
I realised that the solution to my health situation is going to come from me, not from another health practitioner. And when I say me, I mean my Buddha nature which can only be activated using Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. As I work through this process, I drench myself in love, not loathing for my body not working. I support myself lovingly and kindly and trust my body’s mechanisms of dealing with whatever it doesn’t know how to deal with. I give my body what it asks for and send it loving messages rather than just talking to it in my negative “should voice”. Every time I am tired, I am going to break the association of thinking that this was caused by this food or that, I had been reinforcing the pattern by thinking that way. Instead, I decide to replace it with gratitude for what I could still do, and allow myself to not do what I couldn’t. All this while, I continue to chant for protection to get past my fear of doing the wrong thing at work, in health and in life. Instead, I treat myself with patience – something that I haven’t cultivated until now. Buddhism teaches that this moment determines everything. From this moment on, I determine to take each day and each moment as it comes and give up my self-loathing voice.
Last weekend on 2 & 3 March, more of my prayers got answered.
On Saturday, I met a friend for coffee in the morning, hadn’t been able to do this all year so far. I ate a chocolate brownie (not a special one, just the usual one) and I am still alive and chanting. I chanted for 3 hours 20 minutes on the day (only the second time in my life), one hour with my state leader and good friend, talked about my inner struggle with the self-loathing voice. I don’t think about missing Mike all week, I looked ahead, sure that I deserve better. I had two women come help me with household chores and my place looks less like a nuclear explosion. I went to the Sunday commemorative meeting and went for a walk too!
After the last 3 weeks, I realised what my prayers / determinations for my health are.
As Nichiren Daishonin said, “Illness gives rise to the resolve to attain the way.”
Illness has played this greatest role in my life. For this, I am grateful. Without this suffering, I would never have sought or connected to the Mystic Law. Mike was my good friend who came into my life to reconnect me with my purpose.
However, now that I have my resolve, holding onto my illness is only a limitation I have put on myself and my practice.
I was stuck in this way of thinking as below, as President Ikeda says in Happiness in This World lecture:
The Daishonin says that this passage, “The people there [in my land] are happy and at ease,” is about you. The sad thing is that no matter how much we read the sutra or study the Gosho, we still have the tendency to think, “That might be true for others, but my situation is different.” Particularly, when we are assailed by storms of adversity, when it seems as though our hearts will burst with woe, we may think, “My sufferings alone are beyond help.”
I started having a narrow vision for myself and my life, circling around my illness. Illness became the centre of my life rather than the Gohonzon.
I didn’t quite comprehend and internalise this teaching, as President Ikeda says further:
“Absolute freedom” is interpreted by the Daishonin as meaning “the property to freely receive and use.”
In one place he says, “The ‘property to freely receive and use’ is the principle of a single life-moment possessing 3,000 realms ” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 759).
I became so obsessed and attached to overcoming and oversolving for my sickness, that I couldn’t connect to the joy or vision of what I want my life to be. This had kept me stuck in the sickness.
As President Ikeda says further:
The extent to which we can receive and use the vast, profound joy derived from the Law depends entirely on our faith. Will we take only a small cup of water from the ocean, or will we fill up a large swimming pool? Can we freely receive and use still more? This is determined entirely by faith.
If somewhere in your heart you have decided, “I alone am incapable of becoming happy,” “Only I cannot become a capable person” or, “Only my sufferings will forever remain unresolved,” then that one factor of your mind or determination will obstruct your benefit.
I realised I had held onto my sickness because it was “safe” and “known territory”. I didn’t aspire for anything else anyway, I just wanted something to show up in my life but not stay because life is so temporary and I unknowingly thought of myself to be undeserving or unworthy of good things. My self-loathing and disconnectedness with myself had kept me stuck.
Yesterday, I found the gist of what my health prayers are. I wrote a heap of prayers (yeah, that’s Australian English for you!😝) of what I choose to release from my life.
I release the need for illness to transform my life – I want to go after new challenges and lofty pursuits in my life and use them as springboard for kosen rufu.
Inline with Sensei’s words in HQLM yesterday
It is important to win in society as well as in sacred terms.
I determine to win in society and not just do human revolution for human revolution’s sake. I determine to have courage to pray for my wildest dreams with strong belief that they will be fulfilled –
- I run a half marathon
- I climb a tall mountain and breathe in the crisp air and see the greenery around me
- I travel to many places and enjoy wonderful food with great friends
- I drink champagne to celebrate the 50th anniversary with the love of my life
- I lead a team of people in my professional domain
- I attend a Buddhist training course in Japan
- I chant an hour of daimoku everyday, I finish my first million and the next and the next
- I encourage others and prove the power of this practice through magnificent actual proof
- I transform my life through grand aspirations rather than through great suffering
- I strive to show great victory and actual proof by March 16 2019
- I make myself happy and continue to build my life’s treasure tower and accumulate treasures of the heart
- I win in sacred terms and in society
- I have strong life force, energy and enthusiasm toward life and love for myself and others
- I chant for all others to have courage to go after their deepest desires and wishes, to freely receive the immeasurable benefit of the law
- I joyfully and lovingly release the old and make space for the new
- I strive hard in faith to have courage in life
As Sensei Ikeda says further:
Everything comes down to our state of life. It is within our power to take our lives in any direction we wish.
While I do this, I still do my best to look after my health, taking action based on my prayer rather than 50 different health practitioners.
I only have the strategy of the Lotus Sutra to accomplish all this – chanting Nam-myogo-renge-kyo. Finally I can put my achievement-oriented nature to good cause. All this unlocked for me when I decided to embrace the spirit of my mentor President Ikeda in my heart and realise it in my life. Thanks to Mitra’s husband for a great conversation that made me question and reflect on what I truly believe in and how I show it in my life and faith.
The fight continues.