31 Dec 2018 Faith Has Become the Core of My Life
Gayathri Mark Malarvanan
Young Women Division District Leader
Joined SSA in 2012
I have been practising Nichiren Buddhism since November 2012. Before I started chanting, I was an extremely violent and hot-tempered person. I regarded myself as an unfortunate soul because I came from a broken family and was brought up by relatives. I drowned my sorrows in drink and became an alcoholic. Although I looked like a cheerful and easy-going person, I was “dying” inside. I was very pious but that did not change the negativity in me and my life.
In fact, my previous religion had no impact on me and my life. My questions pertaining to religion were often left unanswered and I felt that I had no control over my life. I used to have suicidal thoughts. When I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism by my friend Seetha, I did not resist, but I also did not have any pressing issues that had to be resolved urgently through faith. I accepted Nichiren Buddhism simply due to peer influence.
I started my practice on a frivolous note. I used to jump and walk around while Seetha was chanting. I did not take the practice seriously as I did not believe it could change my life. This was just yet another of my futile attempts to believe that there was still hope and it would be met with disappointment.
The turning point came when I came into contact with SSA members. Their sincerity, unity, affection and humility touched me deeply. I felt their humanistic spirit embrace mine with abundant warmth, something I had never experienced due to my distrust of others. Furthermore, members’ testimonies left me speechless. Only then did I finally realise that there were indeed many people out there with greater challenges than mine, but through faith, all types of challenges can be overcome and that no prayer goes unanswered in the realm of the Mystic Law.
I started reflecting on myself and the core issues that lay within me surfaced as I increased my daimoku on a daily basis. I realised the workings of the law of cause and effect in my life, which I had been ignorant about.
Rather than being self-absorbed in my own challenges, I started sending sincere prayers for members who were struggling with their own problems. The more I chanted, the more I found my spirituality filling me up from within and encompassing me from without; I felt like a child in the warm embrace of her mother.
I was no longer hot-tempered and violent as before. No matter how provocative the situation may be, I felt my Buddhahood emerging from within and holding back the ferocious beast in me. The question, “What would the Buddha say or do?”, always came to the fore before I did or said anything. I realised this is what Buddhism teaches—the inner transformation of one’s life, or human revolution.
Rather than fretting over my problems and getting nowhere, I cultivated the habit of turning to the Gohonzon and chanting first. The positive surge I felt while chanting made all challenges trivial and I am filled with confidence that nothing can bring down my Buddhahood as long as I am consistent in my practice.
The habit of reading, which I had lost long ago, was rekindled as I started reading the Creative Life and other SSA publications. I also read other materials, such as SGI President Ikeda’s writings and the Gosho.
The writings of President Ikeda never failed to encourage me and kept me hooked on studying into this faith. As faith, practice and study are the three pillars of Nichiren Buddhism, one could never go wrong if these three essential aspects are consistently strengthened.
Faith, which was an option in the past, has now become a prime point of my life. Then, the time came for me to enshrine my own Gohonzon, the object of worship. I was at a loss as to where to enshrine it as I was living with my aunt. My mother and I had been separated for more than 20 years since I was 5, and I could not enshrine it at her place though that would be the most appropriate thing to do.
With the encouragement of my leaders, I chanted even more fervently and was enlightened to the fact that the core of the issue was my separating from my mother. I decided to put the past behind me and renew my bond with my mother.
I spoke to her with great sincerity, asked her permission to permanently move in with her and have the Gohonzon enshrined. My mother, without any hesitation and with the approval of my stepfather, agreed. My eyes welled up with tears of joy and gratitude as I finally went back to where I belong—to my home, my parents and my family. I joyously enshrined my Gohonzon on October 20, 2013!
In late October 2013, my mother’s younger sister suffered a mild stroke that affected the left side of her body, due to the stress of being suspected of having breast cancer. I took this opportunity to share Nichiren Buddhism with my mother and aunt.
I encouraged them to chant. My mother agreed and chanted together with me with specific prayers for my aunt to recover from her stroke and for her cancer to be confined to only one part of the body. My stepfather, who is a staunch believer of his faith, also took the initiative to chant with us for the recovery of my aunt. I was filled with utmost gratitude and joy as I chanted together with my family.
The next day, my aunt was moved to a normal ward as the doctors saw huge improvements in her condition. In just three days, her left eye and lips started to look normal. Her left leg, which could not move at all, was back to normal. Previously, she could not hold a bottle in her left hand, but she regained her strength and progressed to holding the bottle and independently bringing it to her mouth without it slipping out of her hand. Her voice regained its usual clarity and volume.
Her brain scan was clear, revealing a clot in the neck which could be easily dissolved with medication. Though the results confirmed breast cancer, fortunately the cancer cells were confined to only her left breast, just as we had prayed for.
In the “Mighty River” chapter of the The New Human Revolution novel, SGI President Ikeda said to High School Division students: “If you have lost one or both of your parents, you may have endured financial hardship and emotional pain. But difficulties provide us with an opportunity to polish and forge ourselves. They also enable us to understand the sufferings of others and to encourage others based on our own experience. In short, hardships are an important requirement for making us stronger and shaping us into leaders of the people. We can therefore say that suffering is ultimately a source of happiness.
“In addition, some of you may have parents who don’t practise the Daishonin’s Buddhism. That also has a profound significance. In my case, when I took faith, I was the only one in my entire family to do so. As a result, I was determined to do my absolute best for the sake of my family’s happiness and well-being. Such resolve enabled me to practise in earnest, never slackening in my efforts. I want you to know that adversity is the training ground for our personal growth and helps us solidify the foundation upon which to build happiness.”
Knowing that I have a great mentor in SGI President Ikeda, who has gone through many challenges and is still exerting himself to nurture youths, I am determined to work harder in the areas of faith, practice and study to live a happy and value-creative life, and at the same time bring happiness to many people. Through this wonderful Buddhist practice, I am determined to transform my life — from a person that needs help to one who can help others!
(Adapted from SSA Times issue 480)