16 Jul 2021 Triumphing Over Crisis with Lionhearted Courage
Elvin Poh Yiliang
Young Men Division
I come from a wonderful Soka family of four. My mother, the pillar of faith in our family, constantly reminds us that practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism can overcome every problem in life through faith and practice.
Since young, discussion meetings were held at my home and district leaders tried to involve us (children). During my secondary school days I joined in the meetings more actively, sharing simple daily guidance or activities update. I think it came quite naturally and the opportunity afforded a natural progression.
I know Ikeda Sensei as the founder of Soka Kindergarten when I studied there and as my mentor in life through SSA meetings. My relationship with Sensei developed while finding answers or solutions to issues through his writings. I would think about what Sensei would say to that person and offer encouragement accordingly.
Later, holding leadership responsibilities, I encouraged and guided members in their practice. However, I somehow felt that my own practice was lacking in depth. I searched for a breakthrough and decided to make a vow to dedicate my life to kosen-rufu and transform my life based on this vow.
My Battle with Cancer
In January 2019, I experienced pain on my left thigh which doctor said was likely a muscle strain. In March I made a long-awaited trip to the Hall of Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in Japan. Upon my return and subsequent urging from my colleagues I sought a second opinion and discovered my critical health condition.
The MRI showed a tumour of approximately 9 x 8 x 6 cm and preliminary diagnosis was stage 3 bone cancer, resistant to both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Thus, the only treatment was a high-risk surgery estimated at 16 to 18 hours to replace the hip and pelvis bone. I was shocked! I was only 30 years old, with many dreams yet to fulfil. The doctor told me that my leg had to be amputated and I might not even survive the year. It was very difficult to accept such reality.
Then, everything happened so fast. I could not think. I could only chant the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. With the support of family and friends from SSA, I chanted resolute daimoku to manifest courage and fighting spirit to face this greatest challenge of my life. I prayed to change poison into medicine and karma into mission, with the spirit of voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma. Seeking Ikeda Sensei’s guidance became a source of great hope. Sensei teaches that when we dedicate our life to kosen-rufu, there is no karma that we cannot overcome.
Five days later, the doctor told me there was a “strange twist” in his latest discovery. The tumour could be treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I am convinced that this change of events was the result of the daimoku we chanted.
A passage from “Reply to Kyo’o” reads “…misfortune will change into fortune. Muster your faith, and pray to this Gohonzon. Then what is there that cannot be achieved?” (WND- 1, p. 412) I am deeply grateful to my family and many friends of SSA who initiated daimoku sessions to fight alongside me. Many new friends, believers and members came together in faith to chant with me. Never would I imagine that my condition could connect people around me to Nichiren Buddhism, bringing hope and courage to them as well.
After many sessions of chemotherapy my tumour shrunk more than 50% and I only suffered hair loss. That was a major victory for me!
I Cannot Be Defeated!
Then, my next challenge of an 8-hour surgery in August with no affirmative rate of success brought up negative feelings of defeat. I wanted to give up. I even arranged my will and asset nomination. I kept feeling and thinking that I would not come out of the operation alive. I told my family to just cancel the operation and maybe I could get to live a few more days. However, with continued daimoku, on the day of the operation, I managed to summon up the courage that I would surely overcome this.
The operation was a great success. The surgeon removed the tumour and replaced the bone with an allograft. I had high fever daily post operation and my pulse was 160 even when lying on the bed. I do not remember clearly but all I know is that whenever I was half-awake I would hear my mother chanting beside me and I would chant together with her in my heart. With daimoku as my “lifeline” I fought every moment to manifest high life condition to pull through this ordeal. I finally got out of bed and managed to walk baby steps in one month instead of the estimated three-month time-frame. The doctor shared that prior to the surgery I only had a 20% chance to survive the year.
During this period, a senior leader constantly visited and encouraged me, sharing that he would be sending me penetrating lionhearted daimoku to continue to fight on and transform my karma into great mission. I was deeply encouraged by his great compassion and conviction. I also felt truly fortunate to meet the right doctors, have considerate and caring boss and colleagues, and work in a company that provided great welfare for employees.
I successfully completed the entire treatment regime in April 2020 and have returned to working from home now due to Covid-19. In “Happiness in This World”, Nichiren Daishonin wrote, “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo no matter what happens.” (WND-1, p. 681)
In retrospect, had I not decided to make the “Great Vow for Kosen-rufu” as my mission, I would not have summoned up the lionhearted courage to triumph over this crisis. My karma had truly turned into mission. I have a long journey ahead and I vow to continue to achieve breakthroughs in my health challenge.
In his guidance, Sensei said: “When your determination changes, everything will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fibre in your being will immediately orient itself towards your success. On the other hand, if you think, ‘This is never going to work out,’ then at that instant every cell in your being will be deflated and give up the fight.”
The recent World Youth General Meeting depicted the journey and contributions of Ikeda Sensei for worldwide kosen-rufu. Now is the time for us, the disciples, to continue the great work of Sensei. Making my mentor’s vow my own, I am determined to continue to challenge and overcome life’s adversity, using my life as actual proof of this practice to bring hope and happiness to the persons in front of me.
(Adapted from November 2020 issue of Creative Life)