Earlier this year, I shared my experience about my struggle with relationships and health. It was published in the SGI Australia magazine in Sep 2019, titled “Chanting for Absolute Victory”. Here it is!
I started practising Nichiren Buddhism in 2013 in the depth of my despair. I was very sick and suffered from digestion problems. I had seen several doctors with no success. I kept trying to figure out what might help me. I was reminded of my university roommate from 2008. She had mentioned chanting, meetings and Soka Gakkai. Although I did not like her as a person, I recollected how things seemed to work in her life. Soon, I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo using Youtube. In the first week of chanting two minutes twice a day, I found a helpful health practitioner and became hopeful.
I moved to Australia in 2014 and consulted doctors locally. In December 2014, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Having a five-minute phone conversation made me bedridden for days, draining me completely. I was all alone and continued to work full-time to support myself. I couldn’t even chant and felt trapped and hopeless. I felt like a lifeless corpse that was somehow still breathing. I tried any and every treatment that showed in front of me. In this time, my group leader’s unceasing support kept me connected to the practice.
In 2016, I was also diagnosed with widespread but changing food allergies. I followed a strict rotation diet and medicine schedule. This regimen consumed all my energy. Determined to not be defeated, I started carrying my food to team outings. I really struggled with my reality. I looked at others felt envious that they could eat what they liked or go for a walk anytime. I felt lonely, disconnected and hopeless. I chanted to find a life partner to relieve my loneliness.
In 2018, my prayer was answered. I met my lifelong soulmate. I dreamed about a future where I had someone to love and share my life with. However, three months later in July 2018, he broke up with me on the phone, saying that things weren’t working well. I felt shattered, heartbroken and lost. I felt I wasn’t good enough for anyone to love me, reliving my emotions from having had a traumatic childhood.
Unable to find meaning and in a state of complete despair and desolation, I sought guidance from my leader friend in India. With her encouragement, I determined to create causes in faith – chant consistently for 65 minutes every day towards completing one million daimoku, to read the 30 Goshos President Ikeda recommended for young women and five volumes of New Human Revolution by 16 March 2019. This was to renew my commitment to put the practice at the centre of my life. The first realisation was that my prayer to somehow be able to chant for an hour was answered! I started to see how I had behaved poorly in my failed relationship.
I still chanted to get back together with my ex. I wanted him to see my transformation and want to be with me. My sister’s determined prayer towards 18 November was, ‘for him to step up if he was right for me or for him to disappear from my environment if he wasn’t’. On 17 November, he stopped answering my calls and I got my answer. I grieved for the loss of my dreams.
My group leader referred me to President Toda’s guidance:
“If you think women always lose, determine not to lose yourself.(The Human Revolution vol 7 p895-96)
Become a woman who loves her husband to the end and, at the same time, helps him maintain his honor and position. Love alone, however, will not enable you to do both.
In the final analysis, you must work hard based on faith.
Only by embracing the Gohonzon throughout your life, you can accomplish both your goals. This is the factor which determines happiness or unhappiness for a woman in married life.
I realised that my negativity kept me chasing after someone who clearly didn’t want or appreciate me. As I struggled through my depression and loneliness, I chanted to somehow contribute and started a group gathering in my home and introduced others to the practice.
Nevertheless, the emotional stress took a toll on my stable but poor health. In Jan 2019, my food sensitivities had gotten worse. I again went on a very strict rotation diet. I suffered deeply and sought guidance from the General Director of SGI Australia, in tears, asking why my life was this way.
From his words, I realised that while I was wishing for things to be different, I was looking to be rescued and was blocking my greatest potential. Instead, I needed to embrace my current situation, chant whatever I could with belief, look after my health and determine to contribute to the happiness of myself and others.
Applying this guidance, I said no to activities confidently so I could look after my health. My commitment to visit and encourage a member struggling with health led me to see my own negativity. I had been praying to “manage” my health problems rather than overcome them. I did not believe that I could recover and this reflected in my life.
As President Ikeda says in Gosho Lecture for “Happiness in This World”:
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 also realised that my inner transformation is a means to an end, not the end itself. Through reading President Ikeda’s writing, I was reminded of his example of applying the practice to overcome illness. I realised that my illness gave me the opportunity to show proof of my practice through my life, so that I could inspire others to seek and realise the potential inherent within their lives too. For me, remaining stuck on self-reformation without an end goal was akin to giving up halfway on the path to victory.
As Nichiren writes:
“… the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital?”WND1p1027
Through continued practice, I questioned some of my tendencies and beliefs, e.g. Could I love myself even when nobody else did? How often did I sacrifice myself to make others happy? How did I respect myself and show it in my behaviour with others? Could I give up expectations from those closest to me? Was I committed to living a contributive life only when I was in a good mood or when things were going well? Could I fight my inner weakness to really be the caring and compassionate person I wanted to be, no matter what the situation? Did I believe that I was creating my life and was I ready to take responsibility for everything in it? Did I create difficulties by expecting my life to be difficult and burdensome? Could I be happy no matter what the situation?
Instead of applying chanting as a last resort, I started to first and foremost chant to overcome difficult situations in my daily life and take action based on prayer. As President Ikeda says:
“Prayer without action is wishful thinking. Action without prayer is unproductive.”
As my inner self continued to transform, I started to see changes in my environment.
My difficult relationship with my parents has transformed and now I feel their unconditional love in my life. I let go of my extreme self loathing inner voice that told me I couldn’t even pronounce Nam-myoho-renge-kyo correctly. I found many deep and joyful friendships based on my care for others while respecting my own dignity. I have become friends with my ex through sincere prayer for his happiness. I introduced my sister to the practice in 2014, but last year, after being siblings for 35 years we became close friends for the first time. I truly feel I’ve found treasures of the heart.
In February, I started to chant to overcome my health issues to be able to freely contribute to the happiness of myself and others. On 17 March, things fell into place and I was able to find a new doctor from an SGI member at the Group leaders’ training course. At my appointment, 2 days later, the doctor said, “Nobody even on our cancellation waiting list wanted this appointment, it was waiting for you.” Beyond all my imagination, I could participate in the dance performance in SGI meeting in July. I continue to chant for absolute victory over my health problems and to find a healthy relationship in my life.
Through heartbreak, I found my way back to the Gohonzon, my mentor and this practice. This has opened up limitless possibilities in my life. For this, I will be eternally grateful to my ex. I am determined to continue to repay my debts of gratitude by courageously striving for the happiness of myself and others worldwide.