31 Dec 2018 Basing My Life On a Great Vow
Koh Song Heng
Young Men Division Leader
I was born on the day when my father received the Gohonzon, on December 18, 1981. This made me a fortune baby, a child that is born in a family that practises Nichiren Buddhism.
Although I am a fortune baby, my parents had their share of challenges raising me up. I often fought with my father and even ran away from home. When I was in Secondary Two I fell in wrong company and went astray. I would skip classes and was involved in fights and theft. My teachers labelled me the most notorious student in school.
A Bad Boy Turned Good
My parents tried all ways and means to guide me back on the correct path—pulling resources from everywhere, including getting my uncles and aunties to talk sense into me. The last resort was getting my 70-year-old grandmother to come visit me to urge me to turn over a new leaf. Still, nothing worked.
I had to repeat my Secondary Two. It was then that I met a Young Men Division (YMD) district leader whose sincerity touched my heart and made me change my ways. That was after a year and a half of efforts. Despite my rebellious nature, this YMD leader never gave up on me. He persistently reached out to me and invited me to attend activities. I started to open up and join the discussion meetings. These activities opened my eyes to the life transforming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. I became more active in SSA activities, and subsequently participated as a trainer in my first cultural event with SSA—Chingay Parade 1999.
I was a person with low self-esteem, who saw life in a pessimistic way. My journey as a trainer was a great struggle as well as an opportunity for me to carry out my human revolution. As I challenged myself through this journey, I started to feel the compassion for others welled forth from within my life. I tried my very best to take care of each participant in my group. I was glad we finally put up a wonderful performance despite all the challenges we had.
Subsequently, I pursued my tertiary education at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and joined the Student Division (SD). Through regular activities in the SD, I deepened my bond with my mentor SGI President Ikeda. I also gained deeper understanding of the practice. An unforgettable experience which awakened me during my SD days, was the passing of a close comrade and senior in faith, whom I cherished dearly. Despite having to battle with last stage cancer, he had never shown any sign of defeat. Instead, he unwaveringly reached out to and encouraged the student In-Charges and members whom he was taking care of in Ngee Ann Polytechnic SD. Many of those who were encouraged and inspired by him are active leaders and members in the organisation today. I am one of them, and I am grateful to have encountered such a wonderful and inspiring senior.
Challenging Shift Work
Since I graduated in 2003, I have been working in the semi-conductor industry. Due to the nature of the industry, I had to work a 12-hour shift, rotating between day shift from 9am to 9pm and night shift from 9pm to 9am. As a result, I would be late for activities or home visits when I rushed down from work at 9pm. On other days, after attending activities, I had to report straight for my night shift at 9pm. It was very challenging, and my health suffered greatly due to the irregular sleeping and eating patterns.
In such circumstances, it would have been easy for me to give flimsy excuses such as,“I’m tired” or “I have shift work”, so as to skip meetings. However, never did I once choose to let my work situation get the better of me. For if I did, I would have been defeated by my fundamental darkness. I would always make good use of the limited time I had during my rest days to contribute as much as I could to kosen-rufu (peace and happiness of the people). I always encouraged myself that I shall never be defeated for I am a disciple of President Ikeda!
I was determined to transform my work challenges based on earnest faith and abundant daimoku. I prayed single-mindedly to win in all aspects of my life.
In January 2013, the company had a major restructuring exercise. A position of a lead engineer, who would work during regular office hours from 9am to 6pm on a five- day week, was created in my team. Though there were other qualified candidates, the management nominated me. With this I was given a promotion and pay increment. After eight years of enduring with shift work challenges, I have finally won!
Feeling immense gratitude towards the Gohonzon and President Ikeda for his guidance, I dedicated myself even further in kosen-rufu activities. In 2015, I was appointed a YMD region chief in a totally new environment and I exerted my utmost to take care of each YMD member under my care.
Growing and Learning On the Path of Faith
One fateful evening in October 2016, at the end of a workday, I fainted in the office. Fortunately, my colleagues were still around so they rushed me to the hospital. Apparently my blood pressure shot up and I was also suffering from heart palpitations. I had to be hospitalised for a week. During the stay in the hospital, I reflected and did some soul searching. I realised that I had been unkind to my body by merely taking two to three hours of sleep every night and that had taken a toll on my health.
Upon discharge, my workload was reduced by half for three months and I learned to strike a balance in every aspect of my life—work, SSA activities and family. While I am grateful to have the support of my wonderful wife, who supports my activities in SSA and takes care of our two young bubbly children, I must not take my family for granted.
In late August to early September, 2017, I had the good fortune to attend the SGI Youth Training Course in Japan. I truly felt the greatness of President Ikeda during the training course. Meeting and learning from the seniors in faith were like meeting President Ikeda personally. Each of them exuded the boundless compassion and firm conviction of faith and the spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple. Through their examples, I had once again deepened my conviction in the Gohonzon, learning that faith is about having absolute conviction and never being defeated no matter what happens. It is also about having the spirit to challenge my problems with dauntless courage and to transform them into great fortune and great good.
I learnt that as a Buddhist practitioner and a disciple of President Ikeda, it is important to treasure the person in front of me and to encourage and help each person win in life and form a connection with President Ikeda. A true disciple is one who makes his mentor’s vow and dreams his own and put in efforts to fulfil them.
While praying at the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, I recalled this guidance which President Ikeda gave at the opening of the Hall of Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in November 2013, “The heart of the great vow for kosen-rufu and the life-state of Buddhahood are one and the same. Therefore, when we dedicate our lives to this vow, we can bring forth the supreme nobility, strength and greatness of our lives. When we remain true to this vow, the limitless courage, wisdom and compassion of the Buddha flow forth from within us. When we wholeheartedly strive to realise this vow, the ‘poison’ of even the most difficult challenge can be transformed into ‘medicine’, and karma transformed into mission.”
I vow to be a true disciple of President Ikeda, to advance kosen-rufu by fostering many capable young YMD successors and to share this wonderful philosophy of hope with as many people as I can in Singapore.
(Adapted from SSA Times issue 567)