14 Sep 2019 Striving with Faith for Absolute Victory
Koh Yiak Seng Jeffrey
Young Men Division Leader
My family took up faith in Nichiren Buddhism in 1984 when I was 9 years old. That year was eventful for my family. My father had just lost his job and livelihood, and my mother had to do 3 jobs a day to support all five of her children who were still studying.
I vividly recalled the heart-wrenching scene of my parents sharing that there was not a single cent left for the family. It was during this painful period that my relatives came to our house to share Nichiren Buddhism with us.
My Prime Point in Faith at a Tender Age
I have a twin brother and am the youngest of the family. During the labour process, there were some birth complications and the doctor later revealed to my parents that I might grow up with learning disabilities.
True enough, upon entering primary school, I failed most of my tests no matter how hard I had studied. In fact, I barely passed a subject and ended up in the bottom three of my class.
My mum was gravely concerned about my career prospects. When I was in primary school, she began imparting culinary skills to me, and training me in manual labour and household chores, so that I would have some basic skill set to earn for a living, should I fail to graduate from school.
I had serious doubts about myself when I had to take my streaming examinations in Primary Three. That was the year my family started practising Nichiren Buddhism. As a pure-hearted child, I naturally started chanting when my siblings handed me a set of beads to chant. After months of chanting and revising my schoolwork earnestly, I managed to pass my examinations, much to everyone’s surprise. That was my first actual proof.
Life did not become smooth sailing just because I started chanting though. I failed my Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in 1987 and had to repeat Primary 6. Hoping to break through this deadlock then, I challenged myself in my Buddhist practice. I began to learn the recitation of the gongyo, which consisted of five prayers in the morning and three prayers in the evening during those days, and would require at least 30 minutes to finish. In addition, I was slow and would take an even longer time. I woke up two hours before my usual waking time to perform the gongyo and chant. I was so serious and focused in my efforts that by the time I finished chanting, I was always drenched in perspiration.
The outcome? Not only did I score well for the PSLE on my second attempt, but I also came in second in my class and was even awarded a book prize! This became a prime point in faith for me at the tender age.
Making a Vow to My Mentor
My next target was to complete my secondary school education. After much struggles and breakthroughs, I won again—with resolute faith— when I was accepted into Temasek Polytechnic. To repay my debts of gratitude, I actively participated in SSA Student Division activities. It was there (in the Student Division) that my faith grew by leaps and bounds.
Year 2000 was an unforgettable year for me. I finally managed to meet my mentor President Ikeda during his third visit to Singapore, at SSA Headquarters. I have always wanted to meet this man behind all the wonderful writings that had encouraged me and heard so many seniors in Student Division share their encounters with our mentor when they went for SGI training courses. Hence, I was truly elated when I was presented with the opportunity to meet President Ikeda during his third visit. I made a vow to my mentor in my heart then, to dedicate my life to kosen-rufu.
The same year, I was looking for my first job. I only sent in one job application to a wafer fabrication company and was immediately called up for an interview. During the interview, my knowledge on wafers was tested but I was unable to provide any answer to the questions asked. I sincerely and honestly told the interviewer that I did not know the answers.
It shocked me when I was accepted into the job two weeks later! I asked the manager the reason for hiring me, and he replied that they needed someone who was truthful and hardworking.
I believe this was the actual proof of my daily human revolution with the help of consistent Buddhist practice. Although my job designation was assistant engineer, as a newbie, I had to do the manual work which nobody else wanted to do. In the process, the “training” that I had received from my mother was put to good use! I did not complain, and I continued to give my best in every seemingly minute task I was asked to do, gaining invaluable skill sets as a result.
Growing with Every Challenge
Four years into the job, in 2004, things got busier for me as I was preparing for my wedding and was very involved in SSA activities, including the SSA performance in that year’s National Day Parade. I was doing shift work and had hardly any time for myself. Struggling in agony, I made a decision to tender my resignation before I secured a new job.
I chanted a minimum of three to seven hours of daimoku a day while searching for a new career. In less than two weeks, I received a phone call and was offered a job to work in Shanghai! Many events unfolded from there and each challenge allowed me to grow further and strengthened my conviction in Nichiren Buddhism, as I went about achieving all the targets I have set for myself.
I am now back in Singapore and have settled down here with my wife and daughter. I am also seven months into a newfound job. Today, my mother, at the age of 77, would often remark to me how she cannot fathom the changes that have taken place in my life.
With deep gratitude, my determination is to treasure the person in front of me, to courageously share Nichiren Buddhism and to lead one more person on to the path of absolute happiness.
(Adapted from SSA Times issue 564, published in August 2017)