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History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
In Buddhism it is said that one can create one’s own life. In his writings, Nichiren likens the heart to a skilled painter and says that we should conceive of our life just as we would like it to be as if we were a talented painter who could make his vision come to life on a canvas. Here is the way in which I have fashioned my life over the past few years.
Before practicing Nichiren Buddhism I was a timid person, alone, with little confidence, afraid of just about everything and therefore unable to form close relations with others. I did little, and I had no work, living off social security for most of the time in one small room.
In 1995, a friend introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism and when I had the chance to meet the leader of SGI Canada, I asked why, in spite of my training, I could never find work, and why I had no friends and had the overpowering sensation that I did not exist in the eyes of others.
She replied that in order to gain more good fortune, I should chant plentiful daimoku and also take care of others and become actively involved in SGI activities. I followed her suggestion and became involved in the publications committee of SGI Canada where I was able to read a lot of President Ikeda’s writing and gradually I began to open up to others, to raise my head.
My practice gave me courage, confidence and the ability to persevere.
My practice gave me courage, confidence and the ability to persevere. I found a bigger, brighter apartment and two jobs. Working as a professional house cleaner for elderly and ill people, which I hated, I was also taken on as a secretary-receptionist three days a week. Once again I sought advice from an experienced SGI member, admitting that while my searches for better work were so far fruitless, I dreamed of quitting my current jobs. I also told her that I felt extremely angry when faced with elderly or sick people in my work who were constantly complaining.
The response was quite strict! I was told that it was up to me to change my perception of my job, to see that I was really working as a bodhisattva—someone who devotes themselves to helping others. I was encouraged to use my prayer to increase my own energy and wisdom, and to really help these people. Exercising and developing my compassion in my work would create great value and increase my own life force and then my appreciation would naturally well forth. I was advised to focus on making myself a stronger person before I imagined quitting my job.
related article Creating a Satisfactory Outcome by Colin Bergamin, UK Colin Bergamin reflects on how his living and job situation encouraged him to chant for change in his life. I decided to take care of others and not let my anger dominate me. To my great surprise, the patients’ attitude seemed to improve, and complaints came more and more rarely. I still hated the work, but I did my best. I took the view that if I did not allow myself to be defeated by my worries and problems, they could help me to learn. I focused on ensuring that every person was satisfied. Little by little, I saw that this work was enabling me to increase my self-esteem. I saw my capabilities. I realized that this was the ideal job for me to develop my humanity and transform my anger. In Buddhism, so long as we are not defeated by our worries and obstacles, they can become a means to enable us to deepen our faith and the raw material for the construction of our happiness. Every morning I prayed to have the wisdom and courage necessary to take care of others.
I continued for a year and a half, until I decided not to do cleaning work any more. The part-time receptionist work was not enough to cover my living costs, and I struggled to feel confidence rather than fear. Fortunately it happened that my brother-in-law’s friend was needing a secretary. I was able to design my own office and now only work for 20–25 hours a week, while being paid a full wage. I am enjoying working part-time and I am getting to know people who travel on the same bus as me. I have a wonderful boss who appreciates my efforts, and I work in my own rhythm, without stress. Every day I feel gratitude for this new situation and to all those who have encouraged me along the way.
[Adapted from Women’s Victories—Canadian Women Practicing Nichiren’s Buddhism, Fall 2003, SGI-Canada]
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