Change Begins Within Myself
by Aurélie Neame Koueli
I met Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism in 1992. At first, I was the only member of my family who didn't feel positive toward the practice, but later, in 1996, I decided to join the SGI. I had powerful migraines which were making me suffer terribly, and even the sedatives I took didn't really ease the pain. One night when I couldn't sleep at all, my older brother convinced me to try chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a remedy, and at last I was able to have a peaceful sleep.
Through chanting, I was able to transform many things in my life as a young girl, including my family life, which had always been full of conflict. In particular, I struggled with a difficult relationship with my father. However, as I studied Nichiren Buddhism, I realized that the real cause for my unhappiness existed within my own life. I determined to transform myself by praying for my father's happiness, which eventually changed my relationship with both my father and the rest of my family. The distance between us shortened little by little, and eventually he also began to talk to me with a smile on his face. In addition, my migraines quickly vanished.
But the most noticeable change concerned my studies. I redoubled my efforts and started to shine in my studies. I brought home several certificates of merit to the great surprise of my parents, because I had been a very mediocre student until then.
After graduating in business administration and international trade law, I did my final dissertation on the Law of the Sea. I was searching for a way to eventually be someone who can contribute to my country's development, and while I was preparing my dissertation, I discovered an area of law which completely energized me--the legal structures that protect the marine environment.
Buddhism teaches the concept of oneness of self and environment, the process whereby the mutually interrelated human life and its environment operate together in a creative way. This made me realize that the health of the environment depends upon a change in the awareness of each individual.
My course teacher was a specialist in international maritime conventions and quickly taught me the basics. An Antipollution Police Unit (UNIPOL) had just been created. I participated in the legislative and administrative setting up of UNIPOL by establishing its core documents. The quality and efficiency of my work convinced my course teacher to personally negotiate my long-term employment at the Ivorian Center for Combatting Pollution (CIAPOL), where I had worked for three months as an intern as part of my course.
My work environment is often quite challenging but I love this job and my ardent wish remains to become a lawyer specializing in environmental cases. I am currently looking into opportunities to train in the environment field abroad.
Today, because of the sociopolitical and economic situation in Côte d'Ivoire, the degradation of the environment is at a very advanced stage. Pollution is growing on a large scale, and the three elements of water, soil and air are very polluted--putting people's lives in danger.
Nevertheless, my colleagues and I at CIAPOL are doing all that is possible to ensure that Ivoirians can live in a more healthy and balanced environment. Sometimes it is hard for me to feel that my efforts are making a positive difference and I occasionally wonder if I should continue. But Buddhism teaches that you are the protagonist who is capable of opening up your own life. I'm responsible for my life, and I am making the best effort I can--where I am today--to contribute to the future of my country.
[Courtesy, April 2012 SGI Quarterly]