President Ikeda said, “It is important that our prayers be specific and concrete. Being vague and unfocused when you chant is like shooting an arrow without looking at the target. When you chant, it should be with a strong and passionate resolve to make your prayer a reality. To have the attitude, “If I chant, everything will be all right” is just wishful thinking. Earnest prayer – prayer infused with one’s whole heart and being – cannot fail to be communicated to the Gohonzon.” This was what Elsie Cheong, a WD member from Singapore, did when she was faced with the challenges she faced. Everytime she encountered an obstacle, including a life-threathening one, Elsie would chant with strong prayers to overcome it to show actual proof of her practice.
I have been practising Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism for 27 years and I must say that my practice of faith has brought very significant transformation in my life.
When one person in the family becomes ill sick or encounters a mishap, all in the family would be worried sick. I vividly remember the day I started chanting out of desperation and incredible panic when my elder son, Adrian, then seven years old, had an accident at school.
He tripped and fell, hit his head and sustained a fractured skull. He was rushed to the hospital and directly to operation theatre.
After a week, the wound turned septic and a second operation was carried out. Unfortunately, he was allergic to the muscle relaxant and fell into a coma.
The Best Decision I Ever Made
At that point, I recalled that the strength of my parents was their practice of Nichiren Buddhism. My mother encouraged me, “To change your karma, and to realize the full recovery of your son from his head injury, you must embrace this wonderful Buddhism and not despair! Believe in the immeasurable power of faith in the Mystic Law!”
After chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together with my parents and members from the district over a period of time, Adrian gradually began to recover and eventually, was give a clean bill of health by the doctor.
Through this experience, I was absolutely convinced of the greatness of the Mystic Law and in December 1984, I received the Gohonzon, the object of devotion in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made in my life.
My parents had taken up faith in the Daishonin’s Buddhism in 1975 in Malaysia when my father had a stroke and was half paralysed as a result. Through diligently carrying out the practice of faith, study and practice, he eventually recovered and even accepted leadership responsibility in the SGI organization in Malaysia.
The year 1995, was an eventful year for me. That year, my father suffered another major stroke and passed away peacefully.
For the first time after my father’s passing, I began to have a deeper understanding of the Buddhist concept of the eternity of life and the true meaning of Buddhahood.
Shortly thereafter, we moved to Australia and settled in Sydney. This was a dream came true as I have always wanted to live there, and where I knew my children would have a good education.
Things seemed set for a blissful future. We made a group of wonderful friends and enjoyed ourselves together.
Despite outward appearances that I was doing fine in life, in actual fact, it was not. Complaints and ingratitude quietly emerged.
As a result, I suffered chronic insomnia and started taking sleeping pills and anti-depressants. My practice became inconsistent and gradually led to my poor emotional and physical state.
My life condition was at an all-time low.
My Experience with Cancer
In the summer of 1995, two months after the death of my father, I had a car accident. Although I was only driving at a moderate speed, I skidded and slammed head-on into a bridge.
Within minutes, the ambulance arrived and took me to the hospital. The paramedic and police said the accident could have been a fatal one as my car was a total wreck.
However, I was only treated for shock and drowsiness. My blood test showed traces of tranquilisers.
I used to think that since I was practising Buddhism, my life would be smooth-sailing and I had nothing to worry about; this was a misconception of this practice of faith which I did not realize and amounted to disrespect for my own life.
The accident was the start of more unhappiness. I refused to identify many unresolved issues, which was damaging to my well-being.
Feeling depressed and exhausted most of the time, routine tasks assumed mountainous proportions. I lost weight and noticed that my hair was falling out excessively.
My practice continued to slacken further.
Then, came the fateful day in May 1996. Till today, it remains painfully etched in my mind.
I received the shattering news that I had cancer. “But I never smoke or drink!” was my first thoughts. I could not accept it.
My tongue and neck soon became noticeably swollen. The prognosis looked bleak and I was told that perhaps the cause of my sickness could be traced back to some 16-18 months ago when I started experiencing tremendous mental stress.
Despair and helplessness pervaded my entire being. I was in a state of denial couple with shock and disbelief. What I feared most, “cancer”, was in my body!
When I was younger, I had a very unpleasant experience which led to my phobia of cancer.
My sister-in-law, whom I had little affection for, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thereafter, she isolated herself in depression. I told her about Buddhism and chanting but she chose not to believe.
As I witnessed her suffering, it dawned on me how cancer could plague and destroy a family’s happiness. And the worst thing was the fact that cancer could happen to any one, rich or poor, young of old, men, women or children alike.
Sadly for my sister-in-law, the cancer spread throughout her body and she died a miserable death, leaving behind two young children.
After this incident I thought to myself, “If cancer strikes me, I would kill myself rather than experience the suffering it brings.” That was how much I feared cancer.
I came home from the consultation, angry with the Gohonzon and myself. At that point, I started to doubt my practice, “Will I ever be able to overcome my illness through faith in the Mystic Law?”
My family was also badly affected. Thoughts of death raced through our minds and all we did was shed tears as we extended loving assurances to one another.
The doctors said they would try their best to treat the cancer but the shock I experienced could not be treated. No matter what they said, they could not give me hope or courage.
At that moment, I suddenly recalled the many experiences shared by fellow members and how they overcame many of life’s adversities based on power of daimoku and how they changed their lives.
Actual Proofs are the Best Encouragement
I immediately sought guidance from my senior in faith. She encouraged me by quoting one of Daishonin’s writings: “Believe in this mandela with all your heart. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?” (WND-1 p 412)
She told me to chant sincerely and not to even think of death as that would be allowing negativity to seep into my prayer and my life.
As the day to my surgery drew nearer, I increased my chanting, strongly supported by my family and fellow members.
I chanted for strength and courage to go through this ordeal with composure and confidence instead of despair.
I resolved that now is the time to change my karma. Based on earnest prayers, I refused to succumb to this illness. I wanted to win and work for world peace and give my time to support others in similar predicaments.
However, I was worried sick about the cost of the surgery and hospital bills as my health insurance had in fact expired.
But with my good fortune and protection from the Buddhist gods (protective forces in the universe), we found a Professor who specialised in Head and Neck cancer in one of Sydney’s best teaching hospitals.
He gathered a team of medical doctors, including a neck surgeon, a plastic surgeon who specialised in micro-surgery, a dental surgeon and a team of interns to carry out the operation.
Every expense, radiation and post-operation treatment, like dental treatment was fully covered by the government. What good fortune!
With this, my battle against cancer began.
During the operation, the cancer in the tongue and thirteen lymph nodes from the neck were removed; a piece of flesh was taken from my left arm to repair half of the tongue as well as four back molars were removed to give space to my new tongue.
The surgery took twelve hours. I was in the hospital for three weeks; the first week in intensive care and the rest for various treatment and speech therapy. What followed was seven weeks of daily radiation.
My mouth and throat were inflamed and was filled with painful ulcers. My lower face was burnt and swollen; tissues and muscles were destroyed, including my salivary glands.
I was very sensitive to my own mortality and quite often gripped by a fear of a relapse. Cancer and its treatment have a tendency to invoke powerful negative emotions.
While my anxiety was often suppressed, feelings of anger, self-denial and depression could not be contained.
As I chanted daimoku on the hospital bed, I told myself that if I had to die, I must have a painless and peaceful death.
If I still had a mission to fulfil in this world, then I must have the strength and courage to fight and show actual proof of the power of the Gohonzon.
But as I chanted, I felt a surge of courage and hope welling forth from the depths of my life. I decided, on my own accord, that cancer was not a death sentence.
I realised that happiness or unhappiness, it all decided by myself and that I must base my actions on my practice of faith. By so doing, I would definitely win and be victorious.
Through this experience, I began to realize that I am the main player in how I respond to illness and it is crucial that I must take ownership for all outcomes in my life.
I summoned forth the courage and strength and made a vow to dedicate my life for the realization of kosen-rufu.
Slowly but surely, I treaded the path to recovery.
There were ups and downs during the process but one thing was for sure – I was recovering for sure.
With daimoku and faith as my pillar of support, warm and constant encouragement from my family and fellow members, I was finally able to recover fully.
I have been cancer-free for 15 years now and have since received profound benefits and protection for my family.
More Actual Proofs of Faith
In 2008, we received more amazing benefits and actual proof. My daughter, Emily, was ready to have a baby after five years of marriage.
I chanted for her to conceive before the year ended. My daughter could not really believe that my Buddhist practice would actually help her in any way.
For this reason, I was determined that to show actual proofs to my daughter. On December 28, three days before the “deadline”, Emily found out she was pregnant. It was a fantastic news for the family.
My adorable granddaughter, Alexa, is now a bouncy and happy twenty-four- month-old bundle of joy.
My husband, Tet, supported me all the way through my ups and downs in life and has now joined me in organisation activities after witnessing the change in me and the family.
At the beginning of 2010, Emily confided that she would like to have a baby brother for Alexa and could not stop worrying if it would happen again.
The opportunity came for me to once again offer prayers based on faith to manifest the beneficial power of the Mystic Law.
Again, I set a goal for my prayers to be realized latest by November, in time for Alexa and the new-born baby to attend the Fortune Baby ceremony which takes place on National Day, August 9, 2011.
I knew in my heart it has to happen and did not allow any doubt to creep in. November 28 brought actual proof again and my grandson was born prematurely on June 30, 2011but in time for the Fortune Baby ceremony. He is a healthy and robust little bundle of joy.
Looking back, it is truly amazing to see how far I have come in health, family and achieving my dreams.
Most of all, I have emerged more courageous and stronger with each obstacle I surmounted. I have also realized with my life that prayer is the essence to victory.
If it were not for my illness and challenges, I would probably not have been honoured with my current life as a Buddhist.
Therefore, I now see all that has happened to me as an opportunity to turn poison into medicine.
Life is never without challenges, I know there will continue to be obstacles along the way but I remain undeterred as I know that I am able to overcome them all through my Buddhist practice.