03 Aug 2019 Opening the Gateway Towards Absolute Happiness for My Family
Cecilia Tay Bee Lan
Women Division member
SGI President Ikeda once wrote, “Nothing is more noble or sublime than the smiles of women who are determined not to be defeated by adversity in any form.” Mother of three children, Cecilia, too, smiles with a serene composure as she speaks about her journey of faith and how her faith in Nichiren Buddhism helps her establish a firm foundation in life, enabling her to shine as the sun of her family.
SSA Times (ST): Cecilia, can you share with us how you took up faith?
Cecilia: It started with Alex, my husband’s (then boyfriend) mother telling us about Nichiren Buddhism. She was introduced to this Buddhism by a friend in 1993. The whole family decided to accompany her to Telok Blangah Soka Centre (present day Soka Peace Centre). We wanted to know more about this religion as well as to make sure that she wasn’t being scammed.
We felt very comfortable when we first entered the centre. The Buddhist philosophy soon convinced me. I started practising together with Alex’s family. I came from a middle-class family and seldom had to worry about our finances whereas Alex had a big family and faced more financial constraints. Hence, I faced the first financial challenge in my early twenties when Alex and I planned to get married. We scrimped and saved and finally pulled through, inheriting second-hand furniture for our house.
After marriage, we argued and fought over almost everything due to difference in personality. I was quick tempered, while he believed in being slow and steady. We were also weak in our Buddhist study and could not put faith into practice. Thankfully, my late father-in-law read extensively into the writings of Nichiren Daishonin and President Ikeda. He often reminded us that husband and wife are one and encouraged us to communicate with each other. He even suggested that we write letters to each other!
I constantly encourage myself with the Gosho passage that was presented to us at our Soka wedding ceremony which says, “It is the power of the bow that determines the flight of the arrow, the might of the dragon that controls the movement of the clouds, and the strength of the wife that guides the actions of her husband.” (WND-1, 656) In the process, I learnt to be patient, to give a listening ear to Alex and be a more understanding wife. Putting the effort to understand each other better, we gradually strengthened our relationship.
A Change in Resolve
ST: How was your financial situation after marriage?
Cecilia: Our financial situation deteriorated over the years. Alex started to work in a construction industry, thinking that it was a rewarding trade. However, the working environment was harsh and was affecting his health. I was also expecting my first child then. Overwhelmed with work and worrying over health issues, we seldom participated in SSA activities. We were always trying to make ends meet, asking for assistance from siblings and friends.
One day, my sister who is not practising and had been giving us financial aid, asked me: “Why are you still so poor after chanting for so many years?” Her words pierced my heart and I asked myself too. Knowing my situation, a colleague who is also a SSA member shared second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s guidance with me. In the guidance, President Toda said that there is no need to be impatient. As long as we embrace faith in the Gohonzon and persevere in faith, we will not fail to become happy. The important thing is to advance resolutely, staunchly enduring all hardships and obstacles no matter what happens.
Deeply encouraged, I started to chant with strong determination that I must transform our financial situation, the basic life tendency of my family, bring absolute happiness to my family, and show actual proof of our Buddhist practice.
With a change in my resolve and mindset, I saw changes in my husband’s career. He managed to receive the opportunity to be involved in a mega project in the industry, albeit the poor working conditions still. Later, he managed to find a job opening in an Engineering Consultancy, and his working environment and working hours improved drastically.
Wisely Leading My Family On the Path of Faith
ST: What happened next? Did your family became very active in faith as a result?
Cecilia: For many years, my family and I were still battling with our fundamental darkness—laziness. There were times when we would find excuses not to attend meetings such as the venue being too far away. On the surface, everything was smooth-sailing but I could feel in the depths of my life a crippling stagnancy.
In order to achieve a breakthrough, I volunteered to join Primary Division (PD) as a Sunshine Auntie to take care of the PD members in 2007 and offered my house as one of the venues for PD meetings. However, I was not satisfied to be the only one contributing to kosen-rufu, I felt that my family members could do more than being supportive of my kosen-rufu activities. The phrase “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain”, came to my mind. If they would not go for the monthly discussion meetings, I will bring the meetings to them! I chanted to be able to contribute my house as a discussion meeting venue. A year later, my prayers were answered! My district leader shared with us that they were looking for a new venue for the discussion meeting.
I remembered watching a Gym Core performance once and was so touched by the performance that I told myself: My children will definitely be able to contribute to kosen-rufu like them! Hence, I encouraged my three daughters to join the Young Women Division Fife and Drum Corps (Kotekitai) and was very happy when all three of them successfully joined the group.
Now, the challenge lies in my husband. Through earnest prayers, one of the Men Division leader finally managed to encourage Alex to join the National Day Parade (NDP) in 2012. I was overjoyed! My first NDP was in 1996 and I had grown in faith through the process, picking myself up from a challenging ordeal then. Hence, I had always wanted Alex to join the NDP as well.
Through the NDP, he was introduced into the Men Division function group, Soka Knight. While he struggled to balance between work and NDP trainings, he saw actual proofs at his workplace. In 2015, Alex also became a volunteer photographer for SSA.
In 2014, my eldest daughter who was going to take the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level (O-Level) examination, had the opportunity to join NDP as a Fife and Drum Corps member with her two sisters. However, she was in a dilemma if she should join the performance as it was also an important year for her studies. Without a second thought, we encouraged her to take up the challenge and assured her we will give her the fullest support.
The girls learnt about time management and became self-reliant through this precious experience. Exceeding our expectation, my eldest daughter achieved outstanding results for her GCE O-Levels and was able to enter the Junior College of her choice!
The road to awakening my family to the mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth was never easy. I learnt that we need to have the wisdom to adopt the right approach and carry out our own human revolution. Simply nagging them to come out for SSA activities will not work; instead it is important to be supportive and patient, yet determined.
Though we are now busier with our kosen-rufu endeavours, we realised how we have become more efficient and effective when it comes to problem-solving. Without a doubt, I have transformed my family’s karma. From the way we interact and face problems together, I could see the difference due to a higher life state. My greatest joy was when my entire family was involved in the Youth Friendship for Peace (YFP) event in December 2014. Thereafter, I wrote a letter to President Ikeda and shared my victory and the happiest moment with him.
With strong faith, I have built a happy and harmonious family. I am now striving to share the joy derived from our Buddhist practice with my friends and the people I meet!
(Adapted from SSA Times issue 561)