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Finding Out My True Identity
My parents both had serious problems with alcohol. They lived in that pain all their lives and, of course, subjected their kids to neglect, anger, fear, you name it. But I also knew love from my grandparents, who took good care of me.
I was introduced to Nam Myoho-renge-kyo in 1987, 15 years ago, while I was a student at a Community College. I received my Gohonzon, and, for six years, I took care of my grandmother, who was sick with cancer, my legally blind grandfather, and my younger sister — and I also had my own daughter to care for.
In 1989, I received my degree in sociology. Then I lost my grandmother the day before Thanksgiving, and I lost my mother the week after Christmas. I had to take my grandfather to the hospital on my way to my mother’s funeral, because he was having a stroke/heart attack. Life was hard. Because at the time I did not understand the power of the Gohonzon, I became afraid of all the things happening in my life and I stopped chanting.
After a few years of going nowhere, I decided I needed guidance for my life. I went back to the temple where I had received my Gohonzon, but everything had completely changed. In order to chant there, I needed an interview with the priest and I needed the right credentials, none of which I had. I dropped the idea of chanting for another four years.
Then, over the Christmas holidays, I decided to clean out my dresser drawers. I came across my old Gohonzon — I had kept it all those years. I looked at it, and thought to myself, “This thing is too pretty to be stuffed in a drawer.” I knew it reflected the beautiful life deep down inside myself, which was why I had held on to it all those years. I unwrapped my Gohonzon and tacked it on my living room wall, like a picture, with a thumbtack. (No protection, no reverence, just tacked up!)
About a week later, my neighbor stopped in to visit me for the first time. We were just neighbors who spoke in passing, not close friends. When she entered my house, she asked “What is that on your wall?”
“What do you think it is?” I replied.
“Yes, it is,” I replied.
“Oh!!!!!” she exclaimed, “You must take that down off the wall.”
I laughed. But she was persistent. Then she informed me that there was another person who lived in my building who had a Gohonzon. Now I had two people looking at me with amazement and wonder. We took the Gohonzon down that evening and put it away once again. But this time, things would be different.
I still did not know the power of the Gohonzon. I was certain that I really didn’t need to have this Gohonzon enshrined, but finally I was persuaded to enshrine it again. I got a butsudan, and we placed it on a little tea server, which was all I had. I started coming out to meetings, but deep down, I still resisted the idea of its importance. Then one day a member was going to discard her old butsudan and get a new one. I took her butsudan, painted it, and made a prayer place for my Gohonzon in my apartment. It was beautiful to me.
Because deep inside I’ve always loved to chant, I went to the meetings for Daimoku. It seemed no matter how fast they went, I could keep up, but not with Gongyo; that was just too hard for me. So I would say a few lines and just stop, and let others continue doing Gongyo. But then the competitive side of me took over and I became determined to learn Gongyo. I got a tape, and started practicing. It was very slow for me.
Then my life began to change for the worst, it seemed. I was working two jobs trying to make ends meet, after leaving my husband. This meant my daughter was home alone — a latchkey kid — and she started acting up in school. At the time, I didn’t know it, but a neighbor was feeding and taking care of my daughter, along with his own two daughters. Years later, this gentleman became my husband!
I started to practice on a fairly regular basis, but things got worse with my daughter — she got in trouble at school and with the law. I was in court with her more times than I can count. I had to quit my evening job and make ends meet with only one income. Deep inside, I was afraid of losing control of my situation, and that seemed to be what was happening. Then someone said to me that your experiences are just life, and having faith in the Gohonzon will help you though these experiences.
Two months later, I was evicted from my apartment, and I became very afraid. I put my things in storage and started chanting and praying even more. This time, things were different: in spite of what was happening to me, I was calm for some reason. I decided to take whatever the Universe sent my way. I was developing faith.
I moved in with my sister and had to walk a mile and a half one way to catch the bus in the morning, and then back at the end of the workday. I walked with my Walkman tape player, chanting daimoku and doing Gongyo along with the tape. Then my daughter, who had been placed in a detention center, was sent to Baltimore for three months for drug recovery. About the time she was to be released, I moved again to live with my aunt. The situation was terrible financially and other ways too. I hated where I lived and did not even have enough money to make it back to work one more day. The County was also going to kick my daughter out of school because we lived in the wrong County. I had to find a place and fast.
I made inquiries and one day I received a call about an apartment. I was so desperate I told the lady I would take it sight unseen, but she said no, I’d have to see it. I had no car, so I took the Metro and bus and walked until I found the place: a big, ugly, green house on the hill, where I would live with my daughter for the next year. This is where my life would change again. I kept remembering what the members said, that this was my life experience and, with the Gohonzon, I would be all right. I still did not practice as I should. I am a hard sell.
During this time, living in this extremely tiny room, I developed a happy life condition. I still did Gongyo on my way to work in the morning on the train and on the way home. And I always seemed to run into SGI members going to work.
Then it happened — something that would help me understand the meaning of “being at one with the Universe.” One day, I was sleeping on the floor on a small cot (we had no bed) and I was in a deep sleep. I started hearing birds chirping really loud, as if I was one of them and they were one of me. It was so loud — I begin to wonder why they were so loud. I tried to figure out if I were asleep or awake. I knew if I were awake, the birds singing would continue, but if I were asleep, then the birds and the feeling of connectedness was at a deep state of my consciousness. I woke up and heard nothing. I knew then what it meant to be one with the universe around me; it was wonderful. I no longer feared letting go of anything. The roof over my head, my furniture, my clothes: they were nothing. I only had that experience once, but it stays with me to this day. The power of living in the NOW, not the past, not the future — NOW.
Change is not always visible; my changing happened inside me. I never chanted for things, only to be able to change who I was from the inside out. One day on my job, a woman visited and said she could show us how to take $50.00 a month, invest it, and make money. I knew I spent that much on magazines and I was tired of having nothing, so I went to talk to her.
I once heard a parable about the man who sat on a box all his life, and would ask passersby for money. Then one day, one of the passersby said to him, “I have nothing to give you, but what is in that box you are sitting on?” and the man replied he did not know. “Look in the box,” the passerby said. When the man looked in the box, he found it was full of gold.
The man on the box would become me. And the passerby would be this woman I was talking to. Ask yourself the same question. Pay attention, look into your boxes! This lady asked me what did I own? I answered nothing, but she would not accept that; she kept asking that question: What did I own? I finally begin to talk about some papers and property that maybe I owned and maybe I didn’t. She told me to look into this and she said if I owned it, I would be worth a lot of money, and if I did not own it, I could throw away the papers and stop carting them around with me.
So I looked into it. I had a real estate agent do all the work free of change to found out if I owned some property and my life really began to change. I still practiced Gongyo very, very slowly, and I was still living in a tiny room, but I had faith that things would change. Then I received the call that would change my life. The agent called and asked if I was sitting down. He had good news and bad news. I said give me the bad news first: I owned taxes on this property. The good news was it was indeed my property. And it was worth much more than I could imagine: over half a million dollars. I had been sitting on the box and never looked inside! I had kept this paperwork for 18 years — the age of my daughter. Fear of the unknown had kept me INACTIVE all that time. It would be another two years before anything would happen. I would move again and get my things out of storage and sell everything I owned. I didn’t know it then, but the universe was having me make room in my life for something new.
I have had to give up what I had carried around for years: old furniture, clothes, past problems, and life situations, worry about what might happen in the future. I got rid of it all and it is wonderful. I finally relied upon the Gohonzon, trusting it completely. I discovered it will provide for you as the universe provides for the birds. What I have to say to you is: In time, things will change and the conditions that produced your desires and fears will be gone. Why cling? Move forward into your future. This is my future now: a new home, my best friend (my new husband), a new grandson, and my daughter is now maturing in mind and spirit and doing better.
And I continue to listen to Gongyo and to chant dimoku, but now in my new car. My internal changes have become visible. Faith equals prayer and chanting plus ACTION. No action = no faith. Doubt limits you from what is already yours, but faith unlocks the door allowing you to walk in and receive benefits. Things change, things happen, and happen fast. I learned that you must be ready, mentally and physically, to receive these changes/benefits. You must be ready for the journey to begin or it will not begin. You must be attentive to the path of your true life. Not indifferent or afraid — which is the path to alcoholism, depression, anxiety. Happiness is not found at the end of the road, it is the experience along the way. Take each moment of your life and enjoy it, work though it and you will find a lot of reasons to be happy each day. No need to worry about tomorrow and forget to live today. Live NOW.
What is my determination now?
I am greatly inspired by the experiencd you have shared..! Amazing Faith & Amazing Will power!
Warm wishes to you and your family!
Glad that my post gave you inspiration!!! <3
thank you!! same warm wishes to you too :)
Aww that is sweet, but I am also trying to get to some level!! my opinion is, that levels are exactly the none recognition of being there. Meaning, that all it takes is to be humble and to keep trying through love, compassion, and some level of effort...<3
Just that opinion you have, gives you a level!!! :)
What a beautiful and an inspiring experience! My problems are like moles compared to your mountains. I have to come back and read it again.
Thank you and have pleasant days and weekends ahead.