“Life is a struggle. Since that is true, let us make it a victorious one. Everything starts from here.” This is a guidance from President Ikeda. No matter what difficulty we face, what challenges lie in front of us, overcome and change your life through strong faith, daimoku and participation in kosen-rufu activities. With renewed faith and determination, Aarti Gupta from India achieved victory.
My name is Aarti Gupta and I have been practicing Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism since 2004. From the time I embraced this practice I experienced numerous benefits and to this day, I continue to stay amazed at the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The experience I am sharing today is very profound to me because it challenged and changed me as a person – it is what I call my human revolution.
The year 2010-2011 bought a series of challenges – all related to my father’s health.
My father was a high blood pressure patient and few years ago, was diagnosed with chronic renal failure. Last year, his kidney function deteriorated and to continue to live, he required regular dialysis.
It was heartbreaking for my father to accept this life-altering event but he started adjusting to this change that required routine hospital visits.
However, with each visit, he would come back more drained with a series of complications and side effects of dialysis and his health started to decline rapidly.
To say that this time was trying for the family is putting it mildly. Every day was a battle. I worried for my father; and I worried for my mom’s health too.
Those who have battled long-term illnesses know how difficult it is to see their loved one go through pain and continue to provide care under tremendous emotional and physical stress.
For me, there was an added layer of worry – I worried about long-term care, as both my brother and I are staying overseas.
In the short-term, I temporarily relocated to India till things stabilized. When things stabilized; I returned to US though continued to stress about the situation. I hoped that the worst was over. But I was wrong. As Sensei says, “Struggle is the unchanging reality of life and of the universe.”
In March 2011, 4 months into the treatment, my father was taken to the ICU under serious condition. He had a collapsed lung, hypertension; hyperthyroidism; advanced Parkinson-ism; loss of speech and his kidneys were not functioning.
He now needed a ventilator and dialysis to stay alive. His prognosis was grim.
The first few weeks, I cried, I felt helpless and it pained me beyond words to see my father like that. To not be able to understand what he was saying was the worst of all and some days he would not remember his family at all.
It was heart breaking.
By now, it was 3 month since he was in ICU. While I was coming to terms with this change, the worry mounted – the hospital bill was running at an incessant pace and the amount was non-reimbursable. Also, there was increasing pressure from the hospital administration to move my father into a ward for patients with low life expectancy.
When my family doctor asked me if I wanted to consider this, I broke down. My only question was – will he get better and come home? I asked knowing the answer but maybe I just wasn’t ready to accept yet.
With so much going on, it was a challenge to stay positive. But amidst this despair lies my benefit.
For the last couple of years, my practice had slackened. I was attending meetings sporadically; and was chanting irregularly.
But in the summer of 2011, I renewed my faith and for this, I thank my father from the bottom of my heart. In the past, when I had setbacks, I would be assailed by doubts. But this time, as I renewed my efforts, I did not despair.
This time I resolved, to chant for total victory for my dad and for my family.
There is a famous Gosho passage that reads, “Suffer what there is to suffer and enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens. Strengthen your power of faith more than ever.”
For the first time in my practice, I understood what this meant. I prayed from the bottom of my heart for the grace, courage and wisdom to triumph over my current circumstances – it was my challenge to show proof of faith – to not be defeated.
As Sensei said, “Life is a struggle. Since that is true, let us make it a victorious one. Everything starts from here.”
I started chanting again; re-subscribed to the World Tribune, the Buddhist paper in US and made a determination to share my experience.
I also started chanting for members to be victorious over their struggles. Whilst this seems easy, but it was hard to put it in practice when I was going through so much.
However, just summoning compassion to chant for others challenged me on so many levels.
How can you tell others with conviction that you can overcome this if you don’t apply it to your own situation?
As I started chanting for others, I felt energized; positive and each day my resolve to triumph over my own challenge strengthened.
I felt every cell in my body resonating with daimoku and the chant – You can do it.
As the Gosho reads, “Spare no effort in offering prayers with firm faith. It is not that my resolve (to save you) is weak. Rather, it depends on the strength of each person’s faith.”
With such inspiring words, how can I but not succeed.
My prayer was resolute: (1) For my father – Healthy body. Healthy Mind. Dignity of life. No pain. No suffering. (2) To continue to provide the best of care at the best facility. (3) Emerge stronger from this experience and deal with my present trial with courage and grace.
After an intense battle over his illness and 4 months of ICU stay, the doctors gave us the final prognosis – It was time to let go.
I went home and I cried in front of the Gohonozon for hours. But there was not an iota of doubt in my mind – Yes, it was time to let go.
My father had been through enough with all treatment options exhausted. It was time for him to move on to a healthier body and find his peace.
Yes, there was heaviness in my heart but at the same time profound peace and gratitude – gratitude that I got advance notice to say goodbye, that I could spend so much time with my dad, bond with him in my own way, and be there with him till the last, every inch of the way. But above all, I was at peace knowing that no effort was spared.
My father passed away on 10 July 2011. It took me a year to write this experience – Happy Father’s Day dad, wherever you are; I know you are in a better place. Thank you for everything. I miss you and I will always love you.
As I look back, I count my blessings – all my prayers were answered.
My father’s battle could have been prolonged but it was not. It was my heart felt prayer to not move my dad out of his present care due to financial constraints, and I did not – he continued to receive the best care in the private hospital till his last.
And we got reimbursed up to 60 % of the total hospital bill. From expecting nothing to eventually paying less than 50% of the total bill – it was a benefit I never even imagined.
And while coping with this life event, I did not have to quit my job to and received tremendous support from my company.
My heart-felt thank you to my SGI family, my mentor – Ikeda Sensei, my loving friends and family and my work colleagues. I could not have done this without all of your support.
I would like to end by sharing what I have learned and continue to learn through my Buddhist practice:
- Buddhism is win or lose, and win you must because that is the only way. And sometimes winning is in trying. Sometimes winning is knowing that while you can’t control the outcome, you can control how you respond to the occasion and give it more than your best. And if you stumble, get up, dust up and keep going.
- YOU can change your karma NOW, right at this very moment and reap the joy of good fortune now and not in some distant lifetime.
- All prayers are answered and sometimes the answer is in looking deeper; it is in the intangible. It is in that ‘absolute’ happiness.
- Fill your heart with compassion. And remember this at all times – good and bad. Just because you are suffering, don’t forget to pray for others. Rise above your own sufferings.
- Life is full of limitless possibilities – all you need to do is tap into yours and do abundant daimoku. With this practice nothing, absolutely nothing is insurmountable. The only thing holding you back from whatever you want is you yourself.
- And above all as the Gosho teaches have faith not like fire but like flowing water- steady, strong, CONSTANT.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my experience.