The Courage to Continue
by Dohee Kim
I was in elementary school when my mother started practicing Buddhism, and although I was encouraged to practice as well, I had little interest at that time. It was not until I was in my third year of high school that I finally began chanting.
I was in the process of applying to a music school and preparing for my audition and entrance exam, and was feeling quite anxious. I felt I was at a big disadvantage to students who had attended art schools. However, even though I was nervous, I was able to successfully pass the examination and, little by little, began to feel the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I decided that I wanted to learn more about Buddhism and actively began participating in SGI activities from that time.
From an early age, I studied hard at school, but our household was not harmonious because my father had a drinking problem. I tended to be a quiet, introverted child, unable to open my heart to my family or friends. Through my SGI activities, however, I learned that faith enables us to draw forth unlimited inner strength, and I increasingly became outward-looking and active.
After I completed college and graduate school, I got married in my mid-20s, but various conflicts arose from differences in values and perspectives between myself and my husband. After getting married, I started neglecting my practice and also developed insomnia and experienced trouble breathing. It was at this point that I determined to take control of my life: I started to chant again and decided to get divorced and fulfill my longstanding dream of studying in America.
Life in the US was a struggle. Even though I worked part-time, I was sometimes unable to even afford a cup of coffee. But in my second year there, I won a scholarship and found work as a music teacher at a local community school and as an accompanist. My student life was both busy and bitter. With piano practice, study and work, my health failed, and there were times when I had to be taken to the emergency room. Through chanting, however, I was able to generate a strong life force which saw me through.
In my eight years of studying abroad, I acquired a doctorate in Musical Arts at the University of Texas at Austin and then completed a Performer Diploma in Piano at Indiana University. I also received a special award at the New York Artist International Annual Audition and came in fourth at the Padova International Music Competition in Italy. I was also able to give a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in New York.
However, due to my long years of studying abroad, my relationship with my family in Korea deteriorated. In particular, I resented my father, whose continued drinking was causing our family to suffer. One day, I read some words of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda: "Nowadays, there are many young people who don't even love their parents, so how can they love others?"
As I prayed earnestly, I began to understand my father's sufferings. In his later years, my father suffered from liver cancer. He had been opposed to our practice for 20 years, but I was finally able to encourage him to practice Buddhism and, in the end, he passed away peacefully.
Through my practice, I was able to realize my mission in life, polish my character and overcome my worries step by step. After returning to Korea in 2009, my mother, sister, brother and I were able to develop a relationship where we treasure each other. There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel the value of my family.
Since returning to Korea, I have been working as an instructor at several universities, and performing in recitals and ensembles. I have also presented papers at conferences and have had my writings published in music magazines. I am determined to grow and become the type of educator and performer who can give people the courage and hope to live.
[Courtesy, January 2012 SGI Quarterly]