15 May 2020 True Happiness Lies within Us and in the Joy of Others
Chong Lee Chen
Woman Division Leader
My mother started chanting in late 1970s because of family problems such as my father’s addiction to gambling and joblessness. My parents used to quarrel a lot because of my father’s hot temperament and financial difficulties. Furthermore, my mother contracted chronic thyroid and became very sickly. Fortunately, a relative visited her and shared with her about the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. She took up faith and through the leaders’ encouragement and support, she overcame her illness. My mother enshrined the Gohonzon in 1981 and went on to overcome financial difficulties and many challenges in life. Instead of complaining about my father, she chanted for my father’s growth and happiness. Eventually, my father quitted gambling, found a stable job and took up chanting together with my mother. My parents became more loving as they aged. Through my mother’s sincere and constant Buddhist practice and activities over the past 40 years, she has indeed transformed our family karma and gained countless benefits. She is now 80 years old, looking youthful and healthy for her age.
Beginning the Buddhist practice in primary school
I started practising together with my mother when I was in upper primary. I was an average student and was easily stressed during exams so I often “made use” of chanting for good results. I managed to do well from primary school to University. Benefits in my studies were my first positive experience of this practice. My greatest benefit is however my human revolution.
When I was young, I was very pessimistic and reserved. I also lacked social skills and had a low self-esteem. I had no goals in life except to study, read Chinese romance novels, day-dream and watch endless television dramas. However, because of my mother’s prayers and encouragement, I was motivated to join a number of SSA cultural activities like National Day Parade, Youth Culture Festival, and Student Division activities. I also attended discussion meetings, albeit reluctantly, because they were held at my place.
Gradually, I started to gain a deeper understanding of the great philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism and develop a more profound perspective of life and its environment. I was deeply impressed with the concept of human revolution as taught by second Soka Gakkai President Josei. He said, “Our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is directed towards our human revolution. We don’t just sit and wait for people or circumstances to change. Through our own powerful inner resolve and seek to exert a positive effect on our environment and all those around us.
Through my daily Buddhist practice and active participation in SSA activities, I went on to overcome my inner weaknesses and became more optimistic, hopeful and confident of my future. I am able to break through my smaller self, develop a greater sense of purpose and further expand my life condition to strive for the happiness of not just myself but also for others.
Fulfilling my mission as a teacher
Presently, I am a primary school teacher by profession. When I first started teaching, I was given graduating classes of low ability students, many of whom were facing disciplinary and family issues in school and at home respectively. I was very lost, frustrated and even broke down in front of my students during lessons. I nearly quit after completing my bond. Fortunately, through leader’s encouragement, I challenged the problems based on stronger faith. Instead of lamenting about the situation, I would always send earnest prayers for my students’ growth and happiness while striving to connect with them heart to heart. Thanks to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the strong belief that every student possesses a Buddha nature, I was able to bring out the best from each student to help them make wonderful progress in both their studies as well as character.
Time flies and I have been teaching for about 20 years. Although teaching is a very stressful profession, I am really glad that through my Buddhist practice, I am able to manifest the strong life force, compassion and wisdom to constantly strive to do my best as a truly humanistic and happy teacher. Instead of feeling pressured, my teaching job has given me so much joy and satisfaction to be able to make positive difference in so many precious young lives.
Striving to be the Sun in family
I was a Young Women Division Leader for 10 years, and after marriage, I continue to strive as a Women Division leader till now. I have also been a Sunshine Aunty (Women Division in-charge of primary school children) for the past 18 years, helping to foster humanistic leaders for the future.
Though it is not easy to juggle my time in work, family and SSA activities, I strongly feel that my responsibilities in SSA have contributed to my human revolution and empowered me with strong life force wisdom, good fortune to win not only in my work but also in my family.
Besides deriving great joy as a teacher, my Buddhist practice has also given me the good fortune of meeting my husband who shares the same faith and values and who is also a great father. Many people often commented how we could cope with four kids. As our kids grow up, there are many challenges in terms of their character building and studies. But, thanks to our Buddhist practice, our kids so far have given us more joys than frustrations. They all had the good fortune to be educated by many humanistic teachers in Soka Kindergarten and thus, developed a close bond with SGI President Ikeda, the school founder. My three older kids have also been taught to do daily gongyo since they were in K2. My husband and I constantly remind them that chanting is not just to bring forth wisdom to get good grades in studies but more importantly is to pray for world peace and for them to do their human revolution to develop upright character and good values in life. The daily practice has empowered them to overcome their weaknesses, become more self-reliant in studies and has also created good fortune for them to meet wonderful teachers and friends. Their daily chanting has also given them greater capacity to enjoy and do well in their studies as well as in CCA (co-curricular activities). In addition, my husband and I have always encouraged them to participate actively in SSA activities such as weekly culture group trainings, monthly discussion meetings and activities for students and youth. They also accompany us to many home-visitations and prayer sessions for members facing different challenges in life.
We strongly believe that these activities have cultivated in them a bigger heart and respect for the common people. We hope that they will grow up to become humanistic leaders who can contribute to Kosen-rufu and to the betterment of society.
Triumphing over Son’s Illness
In August 2015, my husband and I were overjoyed when the doctors declared that my then 11-year-old boy, Shin Yee’s illness was in full remission, and he did not have to go back for annual review anymore.
Shin Yee was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, juvenile dermatomyositis, at the age of three. It is a rare inflammatory disease that can cause fatigue and muscle weakness. When he was five, Shin Yee suffered from severe muscle weakness and started to experience great difficulty even in walking and climbing stairs. He was hospitalized for three days and was given steroids to suppress the immune system. Thereafter, he had to go hospital for weekly injections and underwent many blood tests. As a result, he had to stop attending his favourite gym lessons at Soka Kindergarten and could not engage in play like normal children.
Initially, my husband and I were heartbroken, and Shin Yee was also very depressed. Fortunately, my husband and I were able to see this problem from the correct perspective derived from the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. Instead of doubting the Gohonzon and lamenting our fate, we understood fully that this was our family karma. The only way to overcome it was through forging stronger faith and creating more noble causes through our active contribution to kosen-rufu. Immediately we resolved to chant abundant daimoku to change poison into medicine and transform karma into mission. My husband and I continued to fulfil our respective missions in the organisation and also encouraged Shin Yee to learn gongyo and challenge this illness together. To the surprise of his doctors, he responded very well to the treatment and recovered speedily within a few months. His doctors commented that among many of their patients, Shin Yee was the only one who recovers so speedily and completely. The doctors were really amazed and delighted.
Due to his illness, Shin Yee has been doing morning and evening gongyo since he was five. In the process, his faith not only helped overcome his illness but also enabled him to make great progress in character building as well as in his studies.
He is a very caring brother at home, a responsible prefect and counsellor at school and also been conferred the Principal’s Character Award twice in primary school. He is now physically healthy and very active. He is currently in his school Wushu team, enjoys martial arts training, soccer and hip hop dancing. Having seen by so many doctors and nurses since young, he has learnt to appreciate their noble contributions. Thus, he is studying very hard now as he would like to be a doctor when he grows up.
Giving Joy to Others
Another aspect of my Buddhist practice that has given me much joy is to give joy to others. Since I have benefitted from practising Nichiren Buddhism, I always tried to share this philosophy with my relatives, friends, neighbours and students, who have graduated and who stayed in touch with me. If the opportunity arises, I do share with them the Buddhist philosophy to inspire them to do well in studies and to become upright people.
One of them was from my first batch of EM3 class for lower progress pupils. I remembered when I taught this young girl in primary six, she was doing badly in both English and Mathematics. She was also very reserved and quiet. However, through her hard work, she was promoted to secondary school. Knowing she was struggling in her studies then, I passed her a book, “Discussion on Youth” written by SGI President Ikeda and introduced her to the SSA Student Division in-charge who took good care of her. She took up faith and participated actively in Students Division and other activities. Through her sincere faith and practice, she went on to study in the polytechnic and subsequently graduated from University. This was not an easy feat for someone who was from the EM3 stream. Despite the fact that her parents were believers of other religions, they saw positive changes in her, and allowed her to enshrine the Gohonzon in her room. Now she is doing well as an accountant and actively contributes as a youth leader in SSA.
Cherishing the joy and honour of striving for world peace together with my mentor, President Ikeda, I am determined to continue to exert diligently in my faith, practice and study so as to further develop the capacity, wisdom and compassion to fulfil my varied roles and responsibilities in life and in kosen-rufu. I am sure this is the best way to live a truly fulfilling and happy life of no regrets and eternal youth.
Lastly, I would like to share a cherished guidance for women. President Ikeda says,
“Social status, material wealth, and power are fleeting and can disappear in a flash. Furthermore, they are not necessarily a guarantee of true happiness. In fact, they can lead people to become preoccupied with vain, superficial concerns, plunging them into unhappiness, or sad lonely existences without true friends they can rely on.
Nichiren Daishonin declares; ‘More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all’ (WND, 851). Of course, its essential to enjoy a modicum of material comfort and to be active in the social realm, but our heart and our faith are crucial. As the Daishonin writes. ‘It is the heart that is important’ (WND, 1000)
When we are resolved to work for the happiness of others and realisation of kosen rufu no matter what our position in society, and to make our way forever with the Gakkai and our fellow members come what may, we will enjoy immeasurable benefit and our lives will overflow with boundless happiness.”