Practise Faith to Overcome Life’s Ups and Downs

We constantly face many high and low moments in our lives.  The best way to overcome the numerous challenges we encounter is to practise Nichiren Buddhism, participate in Soka activities and chant daimoku. As shown by Victor Leong’s (a MD from Singapore) testimonial, life will turn out to be better than we could imagine with strong faith and practice.

I am in the accounting profession and like other professions, I face up and downs in my career too.

When I was at a lost as to what I should do with all the unhappiness in my daily existence, my sister asked senior Soka leader, Mr. Michael Tan to talk to me sometime in 2002.

He sat down with me for four straight hours at a coffee shop near my house and told me about his life experience. He also spent a lot of effort explaining his Buddhist practice and how he overcame his life struggles in the past 20 years of his practice.

He told me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and visit the Singapore Soka Association (SSA) kaikans (centres).

I asked Michael if I need to pay money to visit the kaikan and he told me it is free.

Michael also took pains to explain Buddhist concepts to me and told me I can read up about Buddhist practice through Soka publications, Creative Life and SSA Times.

He also told me that the Soka practice has spread to almost 200 countries in the world.

Although I am not totally convinced then, I can see that Michael was sincere in wanting me to improve my life condition and overcome my struggles.

After this first meeting with him, I decided to take up practice and started to chant daimoku.

I also learnt Gongyo easily and started to visit SSA kaikans for meetings and funeral rites. I also received Gohonzon in October 2002.

However, my life did not improve dramatically at the start.

I quit my job in 2004 after facing some difficulties with colleagues. I then sold books on the street and went cold calling, facing frequent rejections. I then joined the teaching profession for one year in 2005 but found that it is really not my cup of tea.

I then joined a small local trading company in Sin Ming as an accountant. With the switch from my previous teaching job to accounting, I face a steep pay cut.

However, recalling the years of struggle, I was not really poor and I still managed to put food on the table.

Sometime in early 2006, I was working as an accountant when one day, I received an overseas call out of the blue to meet the CEO of an airline company, Papua New Guinea Airline, for an interview.

I have sent my resume out some months back and forgotten about it.

I decided to go for the interview with the CEO, who is a Sri Lankan, at the Singapore Office at United Square.  After the interview, I forgot about it and was again absorbed into my accounting work.

One month later, I received another overseas call from the airline to go to Sydney for an interview with the board directors two days later, which means I have to fly the next day.

As I was too absorbed with my work, I told the person that I was not free.

Two days later, the same overseas caller called me again and asked me to fly to Papua New Guinea to meet the board of directors.

I agreed and flew over. When I arrived in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea, I was checked into a hotel near the airline office, in which I have been working with till date.

I met the board directors on the following Monday and the interview went smoothly.

I flew back Singapore on the same day and again almost forgot the whole event till the CEO called me another month later to offer me an expatriate position with housing and car provided.

The pay offered was better than all the Singapore jobs that I held. I decided to take it up and three months later, I resigned from my Singapore accounting job and left for Port Moresby.

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to be placed into a two-bedroom hotel residential apartment facing the airport.

I did not need to pay the rental and utility bills. I was also given a car and free petrol to move around.

Six months later, my wife and three daughters then 7, 11 and 12 years old left Singapore to join me in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in Jan 2007.

I also brought my Gohonzon to Port Moresby and continued to chant, i.e. I continued my practice even after I left Singapore.

It is different and challenging practising without the monthly Soka support. I did not have any Chapter or Zone meetings, no funeral wakes and no discussion meetings to attend.

I only have Creative Life and SSA Times to refer to. Even so, sometimes chanting daimoku can be monotonous. But I persisted with my Buddhist practice.

My three daughters applied for leave from their school in Singapore since Jan 2007 and continued to study in International Schools in Papua New Guinea.

The school fees for the International Schools in Papua New Guinea are more expensive than Singapore university tuition fees.

I am indeed fortunate to have the school fees for my three daughters being paid by my company. Although my daughters studied full time in Papua New Guinea, they set aside time every night to cover their Singapore schoolwork on their own.

As I work for the National Airline of Papua New Guinea, my children can fly back to Singapore during Papua New Guinea school holidays to attend Singapore school. My three daughters, Leong Jia Min, Leong Jia Qin and Leong Jia Yun Fiona attended a total of four years of full time international school education in Papua New Guinea.

It was a good fortune that the three girls cleared their Singapore Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) without much fuss and went on to be awarded a position in Kuo Chuan Presbytarian school in Singapore.

Jia Min, the eldest girl, who is 17 years old this year, became the top student in Port Moresby International School for two consecutive years in 2009 and 2010, even after she jumped one grade from the seventh to ninth grade in 2009.

In 2010, Jia Min scored As for all her subjects in the IGCSE (International) exams in Port Moresby.

My three daughters and wife, Jennifer then left Papua New Guinea in Jan 2011 so that my eldest daughter can prepare for her GCE ‘O’ levels at the end of the year.

While they were back in Singapore, I continue to remain in Port Moresby.

In Jan 2012, Jia Min received her ‘O’ level results, scoring eight straight As (4A1s and 4 A2s).

The results were remarkable, considering the fact that she was away from Singapore for four years, and she missed three years of secondary school education in Singapore.

My youngest daughter, Fiona also scored well enough in her PSLE results to get into Ang Mo Kio Secondary School in 2012.

My second daughter, Jia Qin did well enough to become the top student in Port Moresby International School in 2010 (Grade Nine). After Jia Qin returned Singapore in 2011, she also did well enough to be among the top few students in her secondary three class in Kuo Chuan Secondary School despite also being away for four years.

While my three daughters became Soka Future Division members and participated in the recent Chingay parade in 2012, my wife Jennifer is now busy with the her Sunshine aunty role.

My three daughters also chant regularly everyday and strongly feel that the daimoku help them overcome the problems they faced in their schoolwork.

My work in the national airlines of Papua New Guinea, as usual, went through ups and downs.

Despite the difficulties, my contract with the airline was renewed for another 3 years from 2009 as the board of directors were very happy with my work.

In the past 5 years, my family and I visited Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and recently, Tokyo.

My expatriate contract enables me to fly with the airline at a very low fare. As such, my family and I can fly back and forth from Papua New Guinea and Singapore every two to three months.

In the latest trip to Tokyo, I did not have to pay for my family and my air tickets. We visited Toda Sensei Kaikan in Shinjuku and received a warm reception from the Japanese leaders.

We also visited Min On Cultural Centre and listened to a piano recital by a very sweet young Japanese lady. We then visited the Soka bookstore further down the street before ending up at the Shinjuku Kaikan and did evening Gongyo there.

Although we did not understand the Japanese lecture, we could feel the sincerity as the Japanese members as the speech went on.

Although I wanted to bring my children to Tokyo Disneyland, they told me they would rather visit Soka University, which is a good one-hour away by train from Shinjuku, Tokyo.

We went to the university a day before we left Tokyo and were glad the weather was perfect.

We walked around the huge campus compound and my daughters were impressed with the facilities.  The scenery was great and we all love it.

At the university exchange program centre, we met a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singaporean exchange program student, who advised us on the enrolment in Soka University.

Owing to language barrier, my daughters will have to study Japanese full time for another year before they can be enrolled into the university and as such, we will need to give a serious thought to the university program in the near future.

I must say that life is full of twist and turns and many people suffer untold misery.

For me, I received many good benefits during my 10 years of practicing Nichiren Buddhism.

The biggest benefit is actually not the material possessions that I acquired over these past 10 years of consistent practice.

In fact, the greatest benefit is that my family members are healthy and my children studied well.

For myself, the biggest benefit I got these past 10 years is to be able to wake up every morning and find peace with myself internally and with universe.

I have striven to improve my human relations skills through human revolution and must say I can still improve further.

I must thank my senior leader, Mr Michael Tan who introduced me to my Soka Buddhist practice.

I would also like to thank Mr Phua Thye  Juat, Serangoon South Men Division Leader, who has not stop encouraging me all these years through my practice.

In addition, I want to express my deepest gratitude to SGI President Ikeda Sensei who provided us with the opportunity to practise this Nichiren Buddhism.

Last but not least, I would like to thank all Singapore Soka leaders who have guided Singapore Soka Association and all the members and believers to what it is today.

I will continue to practise Nichiren Buddhism the Soka way and find opportunity to share my experience with others so that they can benefit from good fortunes too.

Victor Leong
Men Division Member
Serangoon South Chapter, District 4, Whampoa Zone

From left: Victor Leong (me), Jennifer Lim (my wife), Leong Jia Qin (second daughter), Fiona Leong Jia Yun (youngest daughter), Leong Jia Min (eldest daughter)

Front row from left: Jennifer Lim (my wife), Leong Jia Min (eldest daughter), Fiona Leong Jia Yun (youngest daughter), Leong Jia Qin (second daughter). Second from right (standing): Victor Leong (me)


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