Realizing the Significance of Life
by Suphang Rujanawech
I am a Buddhist by birth, but I had never clearly understood Buddhism until I met a Japanese friend who came to install and implement computer systems for the company where I worked as an IT manager in Thailand. At that time my life was in a miserable condition, my marriage was falling apart, and the business I ran on the side was going downhill. I ended up heavily in debt.
In 1996, this friend of mine told me about Nichiren Buddhism. He said that Buddhism stresses how sacred and precious life, especially human life, is. He told me of the letter by Nichiren which reads: "A single day of life is worth more than all the treasures of the universe," and explained how we can have an influence on our environment by practicing Buddhism and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I realized that trying to escape could by no means help me solve my problems.
Before meeting this friend, I was honestly thinking of dying or running away from my sufferings. He gave me two books which I finished reading in no time. I was deeply impressed and started chanting. As I read more, I felt I had found the true significance of life and how we should lead our lives as human beings.
I was very impressed when I saw that SGI President Daisaku Ikeda wrote that "the purpose of life is to achieve happiness. The spirit underlying the culture of genuine community, peaceful coexistence, is no different, aspiring to establish indestructible happiness for all living beings." I feel there is great truth in these words. Although I had received a good opportunity to study abroad, I had successfully graduated in computer science and I had capability in my work, I was not happy. Gradually, by chanting, I could feel I was able to gain wisdom and bring forth my full potential. Instead of blaming others, I began to feel more confident in coping with problems in life and learned to live more creatively. My life has changed and become better since I started practicing this Buddhism. My marriage ended with separation, but we are now good friends. My financial situation also improved, and I was able to negotiate with the creditors and gradually pay back my debt.
We human beings have great expectations of the benefits that information technology and genetic engineering will bring. Yet I feel it is tragic that what has followed the global march of civilization is the retreat of a tradition of coexistence, the art of living together. Working environments are now very competitive, and coworkers are losing a sense of friendship. Family relationships are fading and becoming weaker. I think compassion is a key factor to heal and improve human relationships.
I am now starting to work as freelance translator. I have translated many books concerning IT, and, as a graduate in computer science, I find Buddhism and computer technology astonishingly alike. Buddhism views everything from the perspective of the law of cause and effect, while the computer is a technology that developed from the law of logic, on the basis of input and output. Buddhism is a means to develop wisdom, while computers develop knowledge. I feel that there is no contradiction between Buddhism and technology.
In addition to my work, I also help my sister run an Internet shop, and there I teach children to use computers. I always encourage them to search for knowledge and useful information from the Internet instead of using it only for "chatting" or worse. I also translate books concerning Nichiren Buddhism into Thai as I feel the need to share with others what I have experienced from practicing Buddhism.
Young people in today's world are growing up with technology. They are digitally but not spiritually mature, and many people live their lives without any goals or sense of direction. Religion may be the last thing they think about.
I feel that it is necessary to encourage the youth and people of this world who are obsessed with high technology to recognize that Buddhism is a contemporary issue, not obsolete. If we can help young people perceive the correct way to lead their lives, we are sure to have more capable youth with a positive vision who can lead their lives happily and steer the world toward peace and harmony.
[ Courtesy October 2002 SGI Quarterly ]