Sent to Chant for a Better Life from RA, a WD (Women Division) member from New Zealand who has been practicing for 15 years, her testimonial will encourage and provide a good guidance to those who are currently pursuing their study, especially those trying to juggle it with work. RA’s experience relates how she overcame the challenges she faced while trying to complete her dissertation (thesis) as part of her master degree while having a full-time job. Her testimonial was shared with other members in Christchurch, New Zealand on 2 May 2010 when they were celebrating 3 May – the day that Daisaku Ikeda became the third president of Soka Gakkai.
Three years ago, in 2007, while we were still in Belgium, I started an online Master of Science course with the University of Liverpool. This online Masters is composed of two parts: the first part of the Masters lasted 16 months during which time I completed eight modules. The second and last part was the dissertation project.
Shortly after I completed the modules we migrated to New Zealand and to start a new life in a new country has its own share of difficulties, so I decided to stop the course for a while.
This while lasted for almost a year and I had no choice but to resume my studies last June lest I would not be able to get the degree.
So on 25 June 2009, I start the dissertation class. I have nine months to complete the dissertation which must be submitted by 28 March 2010. A dissertation is made of different steps: first, you develop a proposal of a dissertation subject. Second, there is the analysis and specifics part where there is a lot of research involved and, at last, the grand finale, the writing up and submission of the dissertation itself.
I have a full-time stressful job and it was very difficult to summon up the energy to study after a forty-hour week stint. I could not bring myself to study properly. It was not procrastination. I am not the type of person who would rather do tomorrow what she/he can do today. But I could find neither the energy nor the stimulus to study.
I was usually struck by the lower states of life and felt that I could not cope with one more, and far too much, additional effort. My studies dragged out and I tugged at making something out of it.
A lot of times I saw myself saying: “I will give up, I can’t do this.”
A lot of times I tried to reason and think, “come on, you have to be strong, you are at the last part of your degree, you have to finish your studies otherwise you will bitterly regret it later.”
A lot of times I tried to reason, but quiet despair dominated.
With a lot of effort, I managed to write a subject proposal and subsequently submitted the second phase of the project (the analysis and the specification part). The most difficult part remained to be done, however: the writing up of the dissertation itself.
Last January my husband’s family came from Belgium for a month and I wasn’t able to study. February came and I had two months to do the writing-up. The struggle began again. I could not pull myself together and many times I was on the fringe of giving up the degree.
It was then when Ros, our Group Leader, called me to get news from me. I told her it was a difficult time for me and she pointed me to the Gohonzon, “Chant so that you can finish your Dissertation.” It is funny that I never thought of going to the Gohonzon to chant for that.
So I started to chant.
The most relevant benefit of chanting was that deep down I decided to find a solution for what I felt was an insurmountable deadlock. I started thinking about what I could do to get some free time off work to write. That was not straightforward because our department was extremely busy and I did not think that was possible.
Also I am the only bread winner at home so I could hardly contemplate getting leave without pay. So I asked my manager whether I could keep on working 40 hours splitting the time per day as follows: nine hours during four days and four hours on Saturday morning so that I could have one whole weekday off at home to work on the dissertation. She accepted and I started the process of writing up.
Little by little I found the energy back to write. I had a hard schedule. I would get home dead-tired after nine hours at work. I would work late to write more chapters. But I was finally able to do something and most of all, I was finally enjoying the whole process. I had managed to transform hell and to summon forth Buddhahood.
On 25 March 2010, exactly nine months after I started the dissertation, I finished the writing up.
The day after I submitted the document and sent it to the University. I spent a few minutes looking at the screen where it read “dissertation submitted” as I could hardly believe it.
This experience enabled me to learn a few lessons: first and foremost lesson: everything begins with chanting. Over and over again, everything begins with chanting. We can tap much wisdom and energy by chanting in front of the Gohonzon.
Second lesson: Buddhism is common sense. I will always remember an experience from a Wellington lady who would explain her professional success to faith in the Gohonzon, and hard, very hard work. Same thing in my case.
There is no magic in this practice. Buddhism is common sense. Chanting gave me energy back to find the best solution to carry out my studies. I was able to transform hell into Buddhahood and to take the necessary action to be able to finish my dissertation.
A last word to Ros (left in the above picture). I will never thank the Leaders in the Soka Gakkai enough. They are the pillars of this organization and I am forever thankful for their diligence in helping members.
Thank you Ros for being there at the right time, at the right place and for saying the right words when I needed them most.
P.S. Two months later, early June 2010, the University of Liverpool wrote to me to announce that I have been awarded a Master of Science (achieved a B – very good – result).