17 Jul 2020 Rewriting My Youthful Destiny
Cheng Zheng Yi
Young Women Division
My journey with SSA started in 2007 when I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism by my late mother’s good friend. Without any explanation, she handed me a set of beads. She told me that I just need to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and all my prayers would be answered. Due to lack of understanding at the age of eleven then, I pushed all thoughts of this Buddhism to the back of my mind although I had problems in school.
I was accused of doing terrible things to my classmates to the extent that I was ostracised by the entire class. These problems continued even when I was in secondary school. Due to these unfortunate experiences, I became withdrawn and had low self-esteem. Thus, I rejected invitations from SSA leaders to attend meetings.
In 2010, when I was in Secondary Two, I was again invited to an SSA meeting. It was a Future Division (FD) meeting for secondary school students. Somehow, I felt the sincerity of the youth leaders in reaching out to me, and the Young Women Division (YWD) leader promised to accompany me to the meeting. That first FD meeting became my turning point in life. Everyone at the meeting welcomed me and made me feel like part of the family. For the first time after so long, I could feel joy and comfort in the midst of a crowd!
Coping with Loss and Disappointment
I can honestly say that my twenty-odd years of life is a series of highs and lows; the greatest blow was the passing of my mother in February 2016, from thymic carcinoma and myasthenia gravis, a medical condition where one’s own white blood cells attack one’s muscles. She was my ardent supporter, my confidante and my mentor. She was present at every milestone in my life—my first day of school, my first award presentation, and much more. We were a dynamic mother-daughter duo. We did everything together, from shopping, baking, to holidaying. Hence, her passing was a crushing blow.
I was devastated. I sank deep into loneliness, self-pity and inconsolable grief. As if that was not enough, another blow came a few days later when I received my General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level (A-Level) examinations results. I had performed poorly, and this was my second try! This shattered my childhood ambition and dream of becoming a teacher. Furthermore, it was my mother’s wish that I could enter the university and study a course of my dreams. I felt I had let her down. I felt so defeated.
Time dragged on and each day felt like a year. I crawled back into my shell again. I stopped attending SSA meetings and devised all sorts of excuses for my absence at many social activities.
I found it hard to deal with the world. Outwardly I appeared “OK”, but inside me, I was a mess. When I saw other girls with their mothers, my heart ached. I longed for my mother. I doubted my faith and began to believe that I was not capable of achieving anything.
A Glimmer of Hope
Feeling hopeless, I was sinking and disappearing into the depths of anguish. However, the leaders of my chapter and my family members enveloped me in warm encouragement and support, visiting me constantly throughout the entire episode. They encouraged me to be courageous and to advance despite the circumstances. My father told me that my mother would want me to continue and not give up my faith. My brother encouraged me to pick myself up and advised me to apply for the Diploma in Education course at the National Institute of Education (NIE). He convinced me that it was not how long I took but how passionate I was to pursue my dream that mattered.
I was apprehensive at first. However, I finally returned to faith and chanted daimoku to manifest the wisdom to make the best decision. I did not want to let my mother down again. One of SGI President Ikeda’s guidance that encouraged me reads: “Prayer is the courage to persevere. It is the struggle to overcome our own weaknesses and lack of confidence in ourselves. It is the act of impressing in the very depths of our being the conviction that we can change the situation without fail. Prayer is the way to destroy all fear. It is the way to banish sorrow, the way to light a torch of hope. It is the revolution that rewrites the scenario of our destiny.” With renewed determination, I began my studies at the NIE in July 2017.
Prayer is the courage to persevere. It is the struggle to overcome our own weaknesses and lack of confidence in ourselves. It is the act of impressing in the very depths of our being the conviction that we can change the situation without fail. Prayer is the way to destroy all fear. It is the way to banish sorrow, the way to light a torch of hope. It is the revolution that rewrites the scenario of our destiny.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda
After more than a year, I was still trying to come to terms with the loss of my mother and fighting against the inner voice of self-doubt and grief in me. Nevertheless, I chanted determined daimoku not to be distracted by my weaknesses, and for courage and wisdom to walk the path of victory. Gradually, I became more positive and started to believe in my own potential. I built up courage to step out of my comfort zone and ran for the Corporate Liaison Officer role at the Trainee Teachers’ Club. I tried to be more active in SSA Student Division (SD) activities too.
In December 2017, I went for a ligament reconstruction surgery of my left ankle which I injured in secondary school. That left me quite upset for a period of time as I could not walk and had to rely on others for everything. Once again, friends and seniors from SSA encouraged and chanted with me for my speedy recovery after the operation. I was touched by their efforts to come and visit me despite their busy schedule and I opened up for the first time after my mother’s passing. I had always bottled my feelings and masked all emotions with a smile. Sharing my experiences healed my wounded heart. It changed my outlook and attitude towards my problems and obstacles.
Fulfilling My Mother’s Wish and My Childhood Dream
After battling the obstacles in the recovery process of my leg, I successfully climbed to the 20th post of the Mutianyu Great Wall (China), and also participated in National Day Parade 2019.
In June this year, I received my final semester results and was eligible to make a crossover from the diploma to Bachelor’s degree programme! I was also awarded the NIE Award and given a chance to be interviewed by radio station CNA938. I had, at long last, fulfilled both my late mother’s last wish and my childhood dream!
President Ikeda once said: “Let us each leave behind an eternal golden monument of personal achievement. Let us adorn our lives by challenging ourselves with the spirit, ‘This is where I will build my treasure tower’.” I am determined to forge myself and show great actual proof of faith in my place of mission!
In September this year, I received another award, The Passion Award from NIE that recognises the contributions made to the school by an individual. It came as a surprise as I had already received the NIE Award. I also successfully ran for a second term as Vice-President (Admin) of the Trainee Teachers’ Club.
Winter Always Turns to Spring
One of my favourite Gosho passages reads: “Winter always turns to spring. Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring.” (WND-1, p. 536) President Ikeda also said: “Hardships make us strong. Problems give birth to wisdom. Sorrows cultivate compassion. Those who have suffered the most will become the happiest.”
I strongly believe that when I was trying to endure the coldest and harshest winter in my life, it was my faith and prayers that strengthened me and provided me with the warm embrace that I needed to grow stronger with each step I took. These experiences have also led me to believe in my own potential, and that I can achieve victories through faith, human revolution and hard work. It is also because of these hardships that I can create greater value and fulfil my mission as an educator today. This is indeed the spring of victory after the long desperate winter of my life!
(Adapted from SSA Times issue 619)