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My Favorite Gosho

"In an age such as this one cannot help but thirst for the way. You may hate this world, but you cannot escape it. "

Letter to the Brothers

Melanie Merians, USA

When I was young, I escaped my growing inner darkness through books, poetry, movies and theater. As a teenager, my social world narrowed as I lived through fictional characters.

I graduated college quite young and began traveling and working my way around the world. Once again, I thought that if I could just escape my life, I would find happiness.

In the course of my travels, I climbed to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru. The clouds parted, the sun shone down on the magnificent Inca ruins, framed by the Andes peaks, and I stood there thinking: This is beautiful, but I might as well be in a subway tunnel under New York. I'm still unhappy.

At that moment, I understood that no matter where I traveled, no matter what language I spoke, I could not escape my own inner world. I decided to go back home and face myself. I returned to New York, where I soon encountered Nichiren Buddhism. Of course, with my distrusting, cynical and solitary nature, I did not attend a Buddhist meeting right away. In fact, it would take years before I could bring myself to attend any "organizational" activity. But even as a closeted Buddhist, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in secret, I began to feel positive.

Eventually, I took the plunge and attended SGI meetings, but all of my feelings of unhappiness surfaced whenever I interacted with others.

I escaped once again, this time into the study of Buddhism, especially The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. Imagine my shock and dismay when I came across the passage "You may hate this world, but you cannot escape it."

Religion had always seemed somewhat escapist to me, and I assumed Buddhism was no different. Through my practice, I came to realize that when I avoided problems, I didn't escape from life--I just delayed living it.

Now, 28 years into my Buddhist practice, my greatest joy is to be me--a Bodhisattva of the Earth, most alive and fulfilled when sharing Buddhism and supporting the extraordinary network of human happiness called the SGI.

Escaping is no longer necessary; I am already free.

[Courtesy of World Tribune, SGI-USA, May 2008]

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