Many times our leaders tell us that one of the best way to gain benefits is by contributing to the success of our Gakkai’s activities, be it meetings, festivals, regardless how small or big the scale is. Surabhi Chandra, a WD from India, helped her district planned for the 3 May meeting and eventually achieved her dream, and more.
It all began with a dream. It always does.
I am Surabhi Chandra. I work as a marketing manager in an export company based in Noida.
I started practicing this wonderful life philosophy of Daishonin Buddhism way back in year 2001. As my understanding grew and faith deepened, like many other sincere devotees, I started nurturing the dream to be able to see and meet my mentor, Ikeda Sensei.
However, it was easier said than done.
As years went by, I started soaking in Sensei’s spirit through his writings and journals. Time and again it was said, what I eventually came to believe, that Sensei is very much by our side, in spirit though and not in person.
As I persevered in my pursuits of faith, moving from one area to another, vowing to do my best at the place of my mission, the dream somewhat got pushed to the subconscious mind.
It was in October 2009, while hosting an International Fair in Delhi, I had a chanced meeting with some buyers.
On first look, I took them as some Chinese suppliers. Eventually they turned out to be from Japan looking to get started with some accessories business from India.
To begin with, we were not very hopeful on getting started with them mainly on two accounts.
First, they were already in business with China and it was very difficult to compete on price. Second, we as a company, who till his point in time, have mainly catered to European and American brands, were not very sure of our abilities to meet the high Japanese standards.
However, these mental blocks were taken care of by the fact that the buyers got impressed with the product quality already in running, for a very high end Italian customer.
It must have given them a sense of confidence that we might be able to deliver what they are looking for. Secondly, we could work a way out to meet their price targets.
It was in Feb 2010,we received the first set of orders from them.
As things started to fall in place, my dream started to pave its way out to the forefront.
I very strongly felt a mystic connection with the work at hand and that it would lead me to my cherished pilgrimage.
There were all the right signs – the main buyer’s name had a surname “Ikeda”. Besides, one of the buyer actually turned out to be a Soka Gakkai member .
In just over a year, I did almost half a dozen shipments with the customer. For a new entrant, and seemingly an alien market to us, the business grew at an amazing speed reaching to a top 3 spot by the close of this financial year.
Not to say, the shipments were without any hiccups. There were lots of ups and down, and the major bone of contention being the quality issues that we till now, took for granted but were not acceptable by the Japanese customer.
As for me, every deadlock at work was challenged and overcome through the power of daimoku. In order to come closer to my dream, I had to build a solid business base for the company.
Meanwhile, my counterpart at Japan, made frequent trips to India during the course of final inspections. I ended up making a very deep heart to heart bond with her that went beyond the business horizons.
We were exposed to each other’s culture during the time we spent with one another, and made the most of it.
She became my window to Japan and I vice versa.
It was during one of her trips she expressed her desire to our MD to have me visit Japan as their guest.
Happy by the progress of the business, my director readily complied. It was at the beginning of this year that she sent me an official invitation.
I applied and subsequently got the visa for 3 months – mid-Feb to mid-May. I was all set to visit Japan in mid-March – right in midst of the spring to greet the cherry blossoms.
I was so near yet so far from my cherished dream.
As I was in the process of finalizing my itinerary and flight tickets, calamity stuck Japan in form of major earthquake and tsunami,the worst crisis faced by the nation post World War Two.
As fears of radiation spread following the blasts of nuclear reactors, everything came to a grinding halt. So did my plans to visit Japan.
There were travel advisory issued against Japan.
With economic recession looming large, sales also went down. The buyer was looking forward to capitalize the holiday season with new sales promotions but that also went to the backburner.
As an aftermath of post earthquake crisis, the buyer expressed their apologies for not being in a position to proceed with any official order bookings till the time they cleared their stocks.
It obviously meant an indefinite postponement on my visit for nobody knew as to when the situation would improve.
However, all these turn of events hardly proved a deterrent for me. Honestly, more than the actual visit or the subsequent business loss, at his point, I was more concerned about the safety and well being of the Japanese friends and families there.
I did whatever I could to the best of my capacity – through calls, mails and most significantly through prayers to reach out to them and express my genuine solidarity and support.
All this while, every other person whom I met though I was crazy to be even thinking of visiting Japan.
This only made me smile…I had friends there, who were alive and kicking.
It took a while and lot of prayers, before things started falling in place again.
I turned to the Gohonzon and chanted with full conviction to erase the devils of doubts from my mind.
With 3 May around the corner, I focussed my prayers to defeat the impending obstacles and work with united spirit towards the ‘eternal starting point’.
I drew inspiration from Sensei’s 3 May message, “Please be assured that all of you who have joined in this endeavour will definitely triumph over any obstacle and shine brilliantly leading a life of unsurpassed victory.”
With only 15 days to go before my visa expires, suddenly talks of my visit were renewed.
The buyer said that though they were not in a position to book any orders but if I were fine to visit them and discuss other agendas, they look forward to welcome me.
My joy knew no bounds. Immediately, I proceeded with final bookings.
However, the date of my departure coincided with the district 3 May commemorative meeting.
This was the opportunity I was looking for… to make maximum positive causes before I take the final plunge.
With the back-to-back hectic office schedule and last moment preparations at work, I immersed myself in the 3 May preparations.
I did my best to extend my wholehearted support, reaching out to members to ensure their joyful participation. After all I was going to the land of Sensei and I had to report victory on my district’s behalf.
I flew out in the morning of 8 May while the 3 May celebrations were on. It turned out to be a great meeting. We had registered a victory.
I carried the vision of my mentor in my heart and silently prayed all throughout the journey and as I touched the land of the rising sun.
The first instinct on arriving was to board the next train to the SGI HQ and run and greet Sensei.
But of course, I was there on an official trip. My work has actually helped me realize my dream.
I was very clear that I had to create maximum value out of the trip as far as work is concerned.
I went on to do exactly the same, even though if it meant non-stop train rides, skipping lunch to accommodate back-to-back appointments.
After taking care of couple of official engagements, I finally arrived at Shinanomachi railway station on 11 May.
My heart leapt with joy as I saw the glow sign indicating way to SGI HQ.
The area from the station to the SGI building is marked with various signature buildings like the SG headquarters annex, the prayer centre, and the Min-on culture centre.
In my deligently practiced Japanese, I went on greeting the security at each of these spots and telling them, “Watashiwa sensei mitasu” (I will meet Sensei).
They would look and smile at me …beyond words we understood the common language of faith.
At the SGI HQ, a very warm and embracing staff welcomed me. They were delighted to know that I was from India.
However, I barely registered what they said…for the first few seconds, I went completely numb and kept parroting –“I come here to meet Sensei,I will meet Sensei”.
The support staff, alumnus of Soka University said that Sensei was not there – something I always knew but never believed.
However, the mere mention of it was overwhelming –I almost broke down. It took me some time to get back to my normal self – Of course, Sensei was not there in person but I could feel his aura everywhere…
It seemed as if he was watching over me. I had carried some souvenirs for Sensei on behalf of the district, which I handed over to the staff.
In return, I was given many gifts that I took back home for the members.
As a prized possession, I got myself photographed with two very beautiful portraits of Sensei and Mrs Ikeda by the support staff.
It did seem as if my mentor stood next to me in person. I traversed a journey in faith that cannot be put in words.
From the HQ, I went to the SGI prayer centre where I chanted a lot of appreciation daimoku.
On the journey back to my hotel, I saw him everywhere – on the train, at the station, on the roads. Even though, I did not see my mentor, I felt as if he was with me.
I came back to home after a week’s stay and cherished these memories of a lifetime.
However, my sojourn in Japan has not been without other achievements.
For a purely vegetarian person, who cannot have any egg content in food on account of allergy complications, to survive a week in Japan savouring the Japanese and French cuisine is just next to a miracle.
Besides, though my work limited me to central Tokyo, I was fortunate enough not just to travel the length and breadth of the city but also visit the lovely countryside and the famous Narita shrine.
With the people who are either not English conversant or shy to speak the language in public, communication came easy to me and I made very strong bonds of friendship.
All this was made possible because of a shoten zenjin, an elderly gentleman who is the agent to my Japanese buyers.
Born an Indian, he had almost spent his lifetime in Japan. In fact, he was instrumental in introducing me to his neighbours, a Gakkai family who has been practicing since Toda sensei’s time.
It was a beautiful encounter.
A devout Muslim himself and even though a non-practicing Gakkai member, his assistance at every crucial hour made my journey enriching and wholesome. I continue to pray in lot of appreciation and his good health in times to come.
Besides him, I believe its my family’s unflinching support, especially my husband, helped me achieve this milestone.
In times of distress, when everyone around advised me not to undertake this voyage, he stood by me.
In fact, he helped me nurture a strong seeking desire to go and meet Sensei – “If not now, then when?”
My faith grew on his conviction because of which I could proudly proclaim ourselves to Sensei, as a kosen-rufu family, we firmly determined to do our best.
The icing on the cake has been that the main customer I visited has actually come back with an order.
My interaction with their team helped erase certain doubts and gave them confidence to place new set of orders with us.
This seemed a distant possibility just prior to my visit. Subsequently, I was also awarded the best merchandiser in the Annual Seminar held around end of May.
Unseen virtues bore visible rewards.
However, more than a sense of achievement, the whole journey has been a humbling experience.
It made me realize what a miniscule of effort I am making as compared to what our mentor has done (and continues to do) to take the kosen-rufu movement forward.
I had made a silent determination to Sensei that I would endeavour to fulfill to the best of my capacity.
This milestone is certainly not a culmination but an eternal starting point in my journey of faith.