19 Sep 2020 The Journey of a Young Phoenix — Learning to be Victorious
Callie Chua Wen Xuan
Young Women Division
I am a fortune baby, born into a family that practises Nichiren Buddhism. Since young, I have been joining my mother in her Soka activities. As she was an assistant district leader, she would bring me along for home visitations and prayer meetings. Our house was used for district activities and I would help her in the preparations to welcome the members.
Despite the exposure, I did not interact much with others as I was a shy and quiet girl. I often kept to myself, and my parents were very worried about me.
In Primary One, my form teacher realised that I could not keep up with the lessons. Due to my introverted nature, I was often bullied in class. I kept everything to myself, hence my parents had no idea what I was going through in school until a classmate poked me with the sharp edge of her name tag.
Alarmed, my mother asked my teachers to keep a lookout for me. She would also dialogue with me and encourage me to set specific prayers and chant about my situation. I began to chant 20 to 30 minutes a day, praying that I would never be bullied again. Daimoku really works! I was able to bring forth the courage to stand up for myself. Since Primary Four, I had never been bullied again.
Difficulties with Learning
As I was a slow learner, I struggled with my studies. My academic results were never good even though I was diligent and attentive in class and had private tuition. I would get a decent score of above 70 at the beginning of the year, only to shock my parents with a score of only 30 for the same subject at the year-end examination.
Despite trying my best for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), my score was below average. I was assigned to a school that was not of my choice. My mother made an appeal for me to go to another school, but was unsuccessful. I was upset, but she told me everything happens for a reason and that there must be a mission for me to fulfil in this school.
Once again, I had difficulties coping with my studies in Secondary One but managed to pass. In Secondary Two, I failed my English CA1 in the first semester. I knew I was in trouble. It means that if I did not acquire a minimum score for English that year, I would have to be transferred to the Normal Academic Stream. Around this time, my mother’s friend recommended us a tutor. This, coupled with intensive practice of assessment papers and employing the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra” (chanting daimoku), I managed to pass my English examination during the mid-year SA1. I am grateful to my tutor and my mother’s friend for acting as my Buddhist gods (protective functions of the universe).
In Secondary Three, I failed three out of seven subjects, and still had problems making friends. I felt like a failure and broke down. Instead of comforting me, my mother sternly reprimanded me for crying over such a small matter. She told me to communicate my problems to the Gohonzon by chanting more and to make a determination to win over my struggles. Her strict words struck me and aroused my fighting spirit. I began to chant wholeheartedly to the Gohonzon and resolved to transform my karma into mission and actualise my human revolution.
In the first quarter of Secondary Four, my mother’s friend recommended me a tuition centre where I signed up for four subjects. I knew my mother spent a lot on my tuition fees, hence I worked doubly hard. My mother also constantly engaged me in dialogue, and shared with me President Ikeda’s guidance and his expectations of young people. This inspired me to chant even more fervently and to share Nichiren Buddhism with others, with the conviction that I would be able to transform my karma through these actions. I wanted to improve my academic results and communication skills to show actual proof of the power of the Mystic Law.
All of you have the good fortune of being able to chant Nam- myoho-renge-kyo. When you sit in front of the Gohonzon and chant daimoku, you can tap unlimited wisdom and courage from within yourselves. Therefore, there’s no need to fret or worry.
The Joy of Practising for Oneself and Others
SGI President Ikeda has this guidance for the Future Division members: “All of you have the good fortune of being able to chant Nam- myoho-renge-kyo. When you sit in front of the Gohonzon and chant daimoku, you can tap unlimited wisdom and courage from within yourselves. Therefore, there’s no need to fret or worry.” I challenged myself to two hours of daimoku every day, waking up as early as 4.30 a.m. to chant. I set specific prayers and plucked up the courage to engage in dialogue with the people around me and introduce Nichiren Buddhism to them. I spoke to my classmates, teachers, cleaners and security guards in school. To help them gain a better understanding of the practice, I gifted them each with a testimony book. Till date, I have given out 76 testimony books.
My earnest prayers and propagation efforts enabled me to appreciate the beauty of “practising for oneself and others”. Through my compassionate act of sharing this wonderful practice with others, I saw great benefits too, not only in my academic results but also in the form of greater confidence and optimism. All these are the benefits of my human revolution.
During my Secondary Four mid-year examinations last year, I failed four papers. However, by my preliminary examinations in September, my scores were above average and I even scored A1 for my Elementary Mathematics! I was greatly motivated and worked even harder for my General Certificate of Education (GCE) O-Level examinations. When I received my results in January 2019, I jumped for joy. I scored 8 points and was eligible for admission to junior college!
My victory did not end here. For the marked improvement in my studies and outstanding efforts as a girl guide in school, I was awarded the Edusave Scholarship Award, Edusave Award for Achievement, Good Leadership and Service (EAGLES) Award and Edusave Character Award (ECHA) by the Ministry of Education. My school also presented me with the School Values Award for displaying the school values of compassion, integrity, responsibility, respect and resilience.
The best accolade came from my classmates who voted me as the most hardworking student in class. They told me I was positive and cheerful; some even sought advice from me. I am deeply grateful to my Secondary Four classmates for they have helped me become a better person. Furthermore, I am happy that I have achieved a breakthrough in communication. Looking back, I can see why I was posted to this school four years ago—to fulfil a mission only I can fulfil!
While the past four years were tough, I am glad I did not compromise my commitment in Soka activities. Besides the monthly discussion meetings which I have never missed and to which I have often contributed, I also took part in the SSA Youth Friendship for Peace Festival 2014 and the Chingay Parade 2017. Even though I missed the Youth Summit, I chanted abundant daimoku for the success of the event and was in the audience watching the performance. To express my deepest appreciation and gratitude to the organisation and Gohonzon, I used 40% of my monetary rewards to make a donation to SSA.
Although I am young, it doesn’t mean that I do not possess the power to transform my karma. On the contrary, precisely because I am young, I want to break through my lesser self and be a source of light for the many young people around me by upholding this guidance from President Ikeda: “If we flinch when difficulties arise in our path, we only make the situation worse. Rather, if we face them bravely, we can definitely overcome them. Adversity is an opportunity to learn and become stronger and wiser. No matter how challenging the situation, if we have the determination to learn from it, we will never be deadlocked. So I say to all of you, my dear friends of the Future Division: Learning is to challenge. Learning is to be undaunted. Learning is to persevere. Learning is to be victorious.”
In the Year of Soka Victory, as we advance towards the 90th anniversary of Soka Gakkai, I resolve to do my morning and evening gongyo consistently and chant at least an hour of daimoku every day; I want to share Nichiren Buddhism with at least 120 people in these two years and actively participate in four division and Student Division meetings. I will perform in NDP 2019 as a youth division member and score my best ever results for my GCE A-Level examinations in 2020!
(Adapted from SSA Times issue 601 published in March 2019)