Stephen Lim from Malaysia has been practising Nichiren Buddhism for 36 years. During this time, he has shown actual proof of his practice by overcoming his family karma. He faced financial hardship, including bankruptcy, a few times (there was a time when he and his wife did not have enough money to buy diapers and milk for their baby daughter), and also suffered from collapsed lungs at a young age. Stephen fought his battles and triumphed through strong faith in the Gohonzon, abundant daimoku and actively contributing kosen-rufu. He shakubuku many people, including his mother and siblings. For his never-give-up attitude in faith and fighting the situations he and his family were in, Stephen received many benefits and in the end, “change an unchangeable destiny”.
“Basing on happiness outside ourselves, even our most precious treasure achieved can easily becomes a dream of yesterday. The Daishonin taught that “earthly desires are enlightenment “. Sufferings… the greater the better, it is only with such obstacles that we can truly apply an earnest resolve in our prayer to over come and fulfilled our desire and transformed our lives to a higher state of condition Buddhahood. This happiness is the Treasure of our Heart, and it is indestructible.”
I first heart of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in 1969 (age 11) when my father enshrined the Gohonzon. We were told that all our prayers would be answered if we just chant, and found this hard to believe. But now, I can say it’s all really true.
My parents worshipped all kinds of deities and our house was like a temple. To my dad, who did not truly understand the practice then, the Gohonzon was an addition to the many deities by means of the more the merrier.
My family situation got from bad to worse.
In 1973, my eldest brother, who was 27 got married. When his son was three months old, he met an accident and bled to death with no one helping to send him to hospital. My mother knocked her forehead against the floor in front of all her Gods and Deities and asked what have she done wrong. Since then, she became very ill. About three months later, my father passed away.
During this time, some members came with the Gohonzon and we were asked to chant together for 30 minutes. After this, we were asked to have a look on my dad’s face, to my surprised he looked so calm and relax.
This was the first time I felt there is some kind of power in chanting.
After this, my second brother was at the verge of bankruptcy. With debts all around our waists, we decided to move away to as far as possible to avoid the creditors. While clearing out the things, we found the black box with the Gohonzon inside, full of dust and cobwebs. We decided to return the Gohonzon to my dad’s friend and ask him to send it back to Japan.
The Greatest Treasure of All
We were told that this Gohonzon left by my dad for us is the greatest of all treasures in the entire universe. He told us with great conviction, “Take it home and chant for two weeks, and if nothing happen I will cut off my head for you.”
With nothing to lose, my brother and I enshrined the Gohonzon in my room. Our initial experience with chanting was comical. When we started to chant for about two minutes, we broke into laughter and both of us were rolling on the floor.
We told each other to be serious and started to chant again, and then the same thing happen again. In fact, this was the first time in a long while that we had felt this kind of happiness. Like Ikeda Sensei said, when one begins to chant with an earnest resolve, the sun of Hope will rise in our heart and the darkness of our life will be dispelled.
From here on with this feeling of hope and courage, we never look back and begin chanting daimoku everyday without fail.
We started to participate in our SGM (Soka Gakkai Malaysia) activities. The journey to each meeting and back would take us six hours. After reaching home each time, I would relate whatever I have learned to my mum who was then very very ill, both mentally and physically.
Whether she listened or not, I would just go on talking to her. I told her that all our sufferings were due to the causes we made in our past lives, and all this can be changed through our strong faith in the Gohonzon. All poison will become medicine, sufferings will become happiness and misfortune will be followed by great good fortune.
After three months of shakubuku, my mother finally agreed to chant. I was so happy and lead her to my room to chant together. After about a week her health begin to improve and six months later she was like normal again.
With her belief and understanding, she chanted six to seven hours of daimoku each day. In fact, she prolonged her life for another 30 happy years. During this time, my three sisters also took faith.
Understanding and accepting this to be our karma, we made a vow and determined to change it no matter what. With the confident, courage and unity, we sent away all the statues and deities and decided to move back to our hometown and start all over again. It was tough though as we were still in debts and were buffeted like a small boat on a rough sea.
To Change an Unchangeable Destiny
A fortune teller once told us that our family had an extremely bad fate or karma and we would “vanish” one after another and nothing, not even god can save us.
As for me, he said that I would not live pass the age of 21 – I would either die in an accident, a fight or sickness.
Fortunately, I had the Gohonzon. With my belief and understanding, I determined not be defeated. Defeat for a Buddhist lies not in encountering difficulties, but rather in not challenging them.
Difficulties only truly become our karma or destiny if we run away from them without a struggle. We must fight for as long as we live. We must live and struggle with great determination to the end said Ikeda Sensei.
When I was 17, while racing on my motorbike, I suddenly blacked out and rammed into a wall below a flyover. I saw my body lying there and how I was sent to hospital. As the light in the operating room light shone on me, I went into total darkness, feeling extremely cold and the only sound I heard was Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
My mother was chanting for me non-stop. After three days and three nights, I regained conscious with all my memory intact. The doctors had predicted otherwise.
At 19, I started my first interior design and furnishing company only for about six months. One night when I was alone at my office, a family debtor and a heavily tattooed guy came and demanded for repayment.
When I said I could not pay them at that moment, they started to smash everything in my office and threw anything they could lay their hands on at me. Strangely, I was calm and could control my temper, fervently chanting daimoku in my heart.
And when he took a piece of sharp wood and wanted to poke my eyes, I lost my patience. Just as I was about to react, strangely the debtor’s friend pulled him out and after a while, they left.
Later, when I went to make my report at the police station, he was there too but with bandages on head and face as he was involved in another fight. I told the police what happened when he was at my company and he was arrested.
A year later, I was admitted to hospital with a collapsed lung that was filled with fluid and blood. The doctors immediately drilled a hole into my chest, inserted a tube and pumped out the fluid.
I was x-rayed almost everyday and after a few days, my skin become yellowish. The exterior of my lungs began to be filled with fluid again. The doctors ordered an extraction to begin immediately from my back. I have to be seated with my hands rested on a table while they inserted a long needle into my back.
After it was removed, and I asked, “Doc. Is it done?” He replied it was not as the insertion was not at the right spot. The process was repeated and fortunately, this time was right but after half way through, I nearly fainted and the process had to stop.
The amount of fluid removed was more then half a jug and the doctors said there was still about the same amount inside my lung that needed to be removed the next day. I was very weak by then and when my mum visited me that evening, I told her, “Mum, I don’t think I can make through again tomorrow”.
With tears in eyes she said,”Son, you were the one who said everything can be transformed with Faith, how can you give up?”
With those words, I felt a strong hope and courage within me. I said to myself, “I must win in this no matter what “. With all my breath, I chanted daimoku.
The next morning arrived and I was brought to the same room. This time was very “strange”. As I sat down and the process began, it was just like I had just chanted one Nam-myoho-renge-kyo when the doctor removed the needle and I ask him if it was inserted at the wrong spot again. He replied that that was not the case as the process was completed in about half an hour, showing me the jug that was filled to the same amount extracted yesterday. After two days, the X-ray showed that my lungs had returned to the normal size.
I would need to go for an operation if this did not happen. I recovered in three months, in half the predicted time by the doctor.
Mission in Sabah
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is two and a half hour flight by air from my hometown Klang, Selangor. After my recovery, I was offered a job in Sabah.
With the guidance from my SGM leaders that this is the place to fulfill my mission and propagate Buddhism, I accepted it. I went with only RM170 in my pocket and celebrated my 21st birthday there. It was just like being reborn in a new place.
I worked there for 11 months. In 1981, I started an interior design and furnishing business again but with two partners. At the same time, I also initiated our first discussion meeting in Kota Kinabalu with only four people. The number of members grew very fast, and so did our business. In 1983, we had 135 new members who received their Gohonzon from the priest who came to Sabah.
In 1984, I got married and ventured out into my own business with a RM1 million project in hand. Unfortunately, recession hit in our country at the same time. Shortly after, my wife became pregnant. However, my business started to shrank.
Finally when my daughter was born after a 20-hour labour and by C-section, I was on the verge of bankruptcy. The court sealed my office and factory and the bank gave us notice to move out of our first house.
I recalled a quote from Ikeda Sensei: “The practice of Daishonin Buddhism means living with the unshakeable conviction that the most painful and suffering times, are opportunity for changing our karma, for doing our human revolution and that no matter how difficult the situation… We will ultimately be able to transform them into something positive and benefits for our lives without fail.”
With the belief and understanding and with six hours of daimoku, I began to feel joy and courage in my heart. Despite all that, cradling my baby girl in my arms left me speechless with even greater joy.
I was so poor then that I could only pay the doctor with a post dated cheque. Left with only RM5, I could not even buy my wife post-natal food. When the clearance date of the cheque approached, my financial state did not improve, so we had to sell off all our wedding jewellery.
For about four months, we could only have instant noodles for our meals. Things got so bad that I even sold off my wife’s last most precious thing – her wedding ring. Despite these tough times, joy and laughter never left us.
We were confident that with our strong faith, everything is possible and all misfortune will be followed by great good fortune. I vowed to prove the power of this Mystic Law by standing up from where I fell without borrowing a single cent from anyone. And as the Gosho reads, “The colder the winter, the nearer to spring and the darker the night the nearer to dawn.”
One afternoon, I met a debtor and told him of my impoverished state – we not only had run out of food but the milk for our daughter too. Along our discussion, I even talked to him about Nichiren Buddhism.
He chided me, saying, “Look what this practice has done to you. Yet, you are still telling people to chant!”
I told him that is the reason why I am practicing so hard to change my karma. When I reach home, the first thing my wife reminded me was the milk for our baby was the last. Then I said, laughing, “Feed her with yours.” Then she replied, “Where I got anymore”, and broke into laughter.
I told her not to worry and to let me finish my two hours of daimoku first. That very evening, this debtor I met earlier unexpectedly came to my house just after my chanting, gave me RM100 and left. It was as if I was dreaming.
The Daishonin taught us that we can definitely defeat the devilish functions and Buddhist gods will definitely appeared right at the moment when we needed most even if he is from 10,000 miles away. That is why we must be firmly resolved in our faith with the spirit of our mentor.
It was also at this time that our first SGM’s contribution for building our main gaikan in Kuala Lumpur approached. I had pledged to contribute RM10,000 a year earlier. But now, I did not even have RM10.
Understanding the significance of this, I told my wife that no matter what I must repay my debts of gratitude. We decided to sell the last “valuable” thing at home – our refrigerator for RM1,000 and contributed that amount.
I was the YMD chief in-charge at that time, and the whole ceremony went very successfully. On my way home, I was pursued and stopped by a staff of the finance company that was suing me.
However, I was in for a huge surprise. Instead of being chased for payment, I was given a job to furnish a house within 14 days with a budget of RM40,000. I was given RM20,000 cash in advance and later, another 16 units of semi-detached houses to furnish.
Within a year, I was back in good business. Strangely, I had also renovated four goldsmith shops which landed me with more then RM100,000 of bad debts, which the owners repaid with jewellery instead. So, as a great benefit, my wife’s wedding jewellery were replaced 10 times and with a bigger diamond ring.
To Be Fearless No Matter What with a Spirit of Never Giving Up with even Greater Hope and Courage
In 1987 when my son was born, my business was again on the verge of bankruptcy. I had lost almost everything and had to move to a rural area.
With even greater determination to start all over again, this time with my most earnest resolve to strive and change once and for all this karma and carry out the mission in my life to propagate this Nichiren Buddhism for the happiness of all humanity.
As taught by our mentor to apply the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other, I made this great vow to achieve kosen-rufu. When we unite our hearts with our mentor and chant with firm resolve, we can summon forth unimaginable power and strength from within our own life.
I strengthened my faith even deeper with more daimoku and do more shakubuku. From small single jobs of a few thousand ringgits, my business began to increase each month and grew till I was able to secure projects worth over RM2 million.
From within five to eight years, I was able to clear all my debts, buy lands, build my own factory and even my million-ringgit dream house on a hill.
Now after 36 years of earnest practice in this faith, I truly believe and understand that there is no path to attaining Buddhahood apart from struggling for kosen-rufu together with our mentor Ikeda Sensei, and practice with his spirit.
With our faith in this attitude, our lives will fuse with our mentor and his state of Buddhahood will act to manifest ours. This joy is the greatest joy of the world of Buddhahood that can defeat even the fundamental darkness and overcome any adversity.
It has proven to me the truth of our Nichiren Buddhism practice, that all our prayers will definitely be answered.
More importantly, nothing is more valuable then the happiness of my heart. Thanks to daimoku and sufferings, it is truly the mother of realization, the “raw materials” with which to construct our happiness.
“Fundamentally, with faith in the Gohonzon, everything that happens is a benefit.”
I have all I wanted. Most of all, I have a very happy family with my daughter a practicing lawyer now and my son soon to be an architect. Both are also very active in SGM.
My only desire now is to share Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism with as many people as possible, contributing the rest of my life for Kosen-rufu.
With my best regards to all of you. Thank you.