Ikeda Sensei said in one of his guidance: “When we encounter obstacles and persecution, it is all the more crucial that we exert ourselves with even greater determination. The more tempestuous the wind that buffets us, the more we must press on with even stronger faith and conviction. This is the behaviour of a true disciple of Nichiren Daishonin.” In overcoming her karma, this YWD from the Philippines faced many challenges, including a chronic depression due to an unfortunate incident in the past. Despite the hardships she encountered, the YWD continues to chant and move forward in her faith. This is an open letter she wrote to President Ikeda, which she would like to share with everyone.
I can’t thank you enough for propagating the Mystic Law to the rest of the world. I am a Young Women’s Division member from Cebu, Philippines. I started chanting five years ago.
I remember that when I came to the SGI center in Cebu, I was depressed, alone, and unhappy and you can even say that I was dying.
I had suffered chronic depression as long as I could remember.
In 2007, a few months before I started chanting, I suffered a nervous breakdown when something happened that would remind me of my childhood. You see, when I was four years old, a mentally challenged relative molested me.
What made things worse was the fact that my parents eventually found out. Probably because of shame or because of guilt, they pretended that nothing happened. I was kept as a dirty family secret.
For years I lived in shame, guilt, sadness and unhappiness. I grew up introverted, depressed, unhappy, and alone and you can say suicidal.
Although I never attempted to kill myself, I constantly thought about dying. In fact, I prayed constantly that I would die.
My life was miserable.
My entire existence was filled with suffering and pain. It is not an exaggeration to say that I never experienced happiness until I started chanting.
Of course, it would be many years of chanting, before I would be able to really smile and be happy.
Just one month before I was introduced to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I found myself in the psychiatrist’s office. She saw that I was shivering uncontrollably and crying.
I told her that a relative of mine had tried to court me. What made it so unbearable for me was the fact that what was taking place reminded me of what happened to me when I was four years old.
I was 29 years old at that time but the pain of being molested was still fresh on my mind.
You can call it mystic or perhaps it was really my destiny to chant, but believe it or not, the psychiatrist mentioned unfamiliar Buddhist terms to me.
She said, “In Buddhism, they call this repeated pattern, ‘karma’. It is your karma to be molested as a child and it is happening again with your other cousin. Your karma is to have your relatives be sexually attracted to you. What you need to do is to have your family karma cleansed so that the next generation will not suffer the same fate.”
I was a product of almost 15 years of Catholic upbringing and education. Although I had heard of the word ‘karma’, it was the first time that someone explained to me the concept.
What was so strange was that my own psychiatrist was telling me something about Buddhism. This was not the first time that this happened. My sister introduced me to concepts of Buddhism in early 2000 but she studied Hinayana Buddhism.
In 2005, one of my patients (I used to be a Physical therapist volunteer at a hospital) told me about Buddhism. She practiced Pure Land Buddhism though but I remember I read the books that she gave me. I also remember buying a book about Shakyamuni Buddha in the year 2003.
When my psychiatrist mentioned Buddhism, I really couldn’t understand how it was relevant to my condition. She told me that I might need to take anti-psychotic or anti-depressant pills.
She warned me however that I may become suicidal and may even attempt to take my own life. She told me that I would have to take it for two years but would have to be monitored because I may kill myself within those two years.
I thought about taking the pills but I knew in my heart that taking anti-depressants was not the solution.
I had seen one of my relatives spiral into depression when she started taking anti-depressants. I just took the sleeping pills and brain vitamins that she prescribed to me. After two or three sessions, I stopped going to her.
One month later in March 2007, I would be introduced to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo through my female cousin.
Her husband who is half-Filipino, half-Japanese was introduced to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo by a Japanese member who was visiting the Philippines at that time.
When my cousin told me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo so that my wishes would come true, I didn’t hesitate. I started chanting almost immediately. Never did I imagine that chanting would totally change the entire course of my life.
Unfortunately, change didn’t happen overnight. I was one of the ‘lucky’ members who would experience great problems the moment they started chanting.
I can laugh about it now when I look back.
The obstacles and negativity that started coming out were relentless and lasted for years. As I am now approaching my fifth year of practice, I am able to see that it was for the best.
The first years of my practice allowed me to chant like no other member has chanted before. I was exhausted from work but still found the time to chant for two hours.
There were times that I would sleep on the floor due to exhaustion.
I chanted, chanted and chanted.
I had no other recourse because symptoms of my depression became stronger and stronger.
I could only rely on your words of encouragement to get me through the day. I would read your guidance and encouragement before and after I chanted.
Your guidance and the guidance of other members have encouraged me to never give up on chanting.
One member in particular is the SGI member who I will always be indebted for the rest of my life. She is an Indian Member and is a member of the Bharat Soka Gakkai in Mumbai.
She told me to work on the technical aspects of my chanting and gongyo. Call it mystic, but she was never meant to stay in the Philippines for three years.
For some strange reason, her studies were extended. She shared to me everything that she knew in the three years that she was here.
She left in early 2011 as I was in the process of finally overcoming my battle with depression.
I am so deeply grateful for that SGI member. I am also deeply grateful for you, Sensei.
If you had not created this organization, I would never have met a wonderful person such as that Indian SGI member who never gave up on me.
One of my wishes was to be able to feel gratitude. This wish has come true as I approach the fifth year of my practice.
Growing up, the concept of gratitude was alien to me. I could never be grateful for the life I was given.
For me to feel gratitude not just for my life, but also for my mentors in this practice, is such a big deal for me. I know that I am alive today, only because I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
I have already started to chant to lead a life full of value. I have already chanted that people who need Nam-myoho-renge-kyo would seek me and I would find them as well.
I have introduced Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to all of my friends, officemates and relatives.
Some of them have already started chanting. Two relatives received their own Gohonzon. One office mate also received a Gohonzon in 2011 after three years of chanting.
I still can’t see the complete picture yet. I haven’t achieved everything I had set out to do.
Unlike before, I am more hopeful for the future. My greatest benefit is the inconspicuous kind, the kind of benefit that I had lamented when I started chanting.
In fact, I openly complained about it. I would say, “Why are most of my benefits the inconspicuous kind? Why can’t I be like the other members who have visible benefits? Why can’t I see my benefits with my own eyes?”
I realize now that having strength, courage, compassion, determination, perseverance and patience should be the benefits that ALL members should chant for.
They are the best kind. Although you can’t see these benefits, you can certainly feel them.
I can’t see my benefits but I feel them. I feel that I am a more confident person. I feel happier and more determined.
What I can see though is that I have started changing the course of my life from one filled with misery and from one filled with hope.
During the first years of my practice, I would always repeat the Gosho passage and the passage that you would always emphasize in your Buddhist encouragement.
The passage goes something like this: “Winter always turns into Spring.”
For someone like me who has experienced Winter all her life, I am hopeful for when my life will turn into Spring.
Words can’t express my gratitude.
That is why as an act of gratitude, I always do my part in spreading the Mystic Law to everyone that I meet.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.