Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
by Elizabeth Penioso Pernites, Philippines and Japan
Ninety percent of the goods we use are transported by sea at some stage. Japan’s busiest seaport (Nagoya) alone, for example, sees some 200 million tons of cargo moving through it annually. My job involves installing software on ships that assesses ships’ stability, which ensures they can be loaded safely, and training crew members to use this software. A few years ago, I could not have imagined I’d ever find myself working in marine technology and engineering.
My work experience in Japan, after moving here from the Philippines in 2000, was in factories and as a telemarketer. At the beginning of 2003, I was in the process of separating from my Japanese husband, jobless and heavily in debt. Fortunately, a friend introduced me to the president of the company I currently work for. Despite my depressed state, he saw some potential in me and took me on as a part-time trainee employee. Around the same time I was introduced by friends to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism.
related article Acting Locally by Yongjie Yon Yongjie Yon, Canada. Involvement in SGI leads to his developing a confident self enabling his participation in community engagement such as the Earth Charter. My new job was more challenging than I had anticipated, and I soon felt like quitting. As well as my own lack of experience and confidence, I also felt ostracized by the other employees. Outside of work, several of my relatives and friends seemed to have turned against me after my decision to become a Buddhist, and so I was considering quitting Buddhism as well. I felt alone and helpless. Reading through some SGI magazines, though, I was moved by the experiences of several people who had overcome difficulties much greater than mine. I realized how cowardly and weak-willed I was being.
With a renewed sense of determination to uncover my potential and self-worth, I reapplied myself to my job. The people with whom I work are English-speaking ships’ officers from different countries hired to run the newly built vessels in which we install our software. I realized that there were often misunderstandings and tensions that arose between our clients and the company through miscommunication as a result of language differences. I found I was able to establish an understanding with clients and resolve many of the problems. As a result of the positive feedback the company began to receive, I was offered a full-time position.
I realized that it was the change in me—bringing out my courage, perseverance and patience—that had led to the changes in my workplace.
I applied myself to studying to improve my skills, and my Japanese coworkers became my allies, helping me with technical issues. We began to work as a team, consolidating our efforts and ideas and motivating each other.
Talking about these unimaginable changes with my fellow SGI members, I realized that it was the change in me—bringing out my courage, perseverance and patience—that had led to the changes in my workplace.
SGI President Ikeda has written that when a ship is caught in a storm, the best thing to do is to face the waves head-on. In the same way, we need to confront our problems with strength and hope. The ocean for me symbolizes the wide and deep expanse of life’s eternal challenges. As we travel across this ocean, leaving the shallow waters of fear and foolishness, we are able to purify and develop our lives, gaining knowledge, experience and a sense of life’s profundity. The beauty of the ocean lies in the vast mysteries that lie beneath its surface—the immense potential we all possess. Without the will to explore this, to confront challenges and delve into ourselves, we will never be able to experience these wonders.
I feel a huge sense of gratitude for the encouragement I have received from members of the SGI and SGI President Ikeda, which has helped me courageously set sail on the ocean of my life.
[Courtesy, April 2010 SGI Quarterly]
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