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My parents divorced when I was 14 years old and, when my mother remarried, I went to live with my grandparents. It was during this time, in 1985, that my grandmother’s neighbor introduced my mother and me to Nichiren Buddhism, assuring us that we could transform our situation and conquer our hopelessness and unhappiness.
Chanting infused me with enthusiasm and energy. I had always had lots of dreams and learned that it was up to me to make them happen.
From an early age I had to learn what it means to be responsible for others. I started my first job when I was 14. Just before I turned 16, I was hired by one of the largest insurance companies in Brazil with an excellent salary and benefits. Now, as the only provider for my family, I was able to offer my grandparents the comfort that they deserved. I also took on various responsibilities within SGI-Brazil (BSGI), particularly taking care of younger members.
In 2000, I ended a turbulent romantic relationship that I had been suffering in for over 10 years. I determined that I would become truly happy.
The following year, I participated in an SGI youth training course in Japan. This was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. I was deeply moved by the care and warmth I experienced from everyone there, particularly from SGI President Ikeda. From his words and his actions, I felt his deep concern for each of us to lead happy lives, his desire for us to develop the strength and wisdom to be able to confront whatever difficulties we might encounter in our lives.
related article Bridge from a Soundless World by Shin’ichi Yoshida, Japan As a baby, Shin'ichi Yoshida was diagnosed as being deaf, but he practices Buddhism in the Soka Gakkai through sign language, chanting and the warm-hearted support of his group who also learned to communicate through sign language. Nevertheless, back in Brazil, the accumulating stress of my various responsibilities and the ending of my long-term relationship was beginning to cause me emotional instability, which spiraled into serious depression. My responsible attitude had always made me appear strong, always with a smile on my face, but now I felt and looked fatigued and hopeless. I lost weight and my health worsened. I felt I had lost my grip on life.
On top of this I felt ashamed to be in such despair; I thought that as a leader within BSGI I should not be experiencing this. Not long thereafter, I endured three major crises and needed to be taken to a psychiatric first-aid clinic. I could no longer do my work as an independent insurance broker and began accumulating debt.
I feel now that the suffering that I endured has given me a deeper understanding of life.
I was still trying to maintain my responsibilities in BSGI’s young women’s division. Around that time we determined that we would each exert ourselves in talking to others about Buddhist philosophy. I, however, felt at the end of my tether and was even questioning my faith.
Through the encouragement of a fellow member, I decided not to give up and to pursue this goal. The purpose, she reminded me, was to help other people who were suffering.
As I began to talk with others about my Buddhist practice and the innate potential we each possess to transform our lives, a change started to occur. By encouraging others and giving them hope, I began to feel hopeful and energetic myself. The more effort I made for other people’s happiness, the happier I felt.
In a very natural way, my depression became a thing of the past. I was able to return to work and began to relate to people as I had in the past. I completed a postgraduate business degree and, in 2006, opened my own company.
I feel now that the suffering that I endured has given me a deeper understanding of life. Because of these difficulties, I can more effectively help young people to overcome their own problems. I want to help raise young people who radiate the splendor of life, able to transform adversities into happiness. Because of my sufferings, I can appreciate that much more the sweet taste of victory in my life.
[Adapted from SGI Quarterly, October 2007]
The Power of Friendship
by Peninah Achieng-Kindberg, UK
The Inoue Brothers—An Ethical Future for Style
by Satoru and Kiyoshi Inoue, Denmark and UK
Fighting for My Daughter: Finding My True Mission
by Rachel Aspögård, Sweden
A Fierce Determination to Live
by Jharna Narang, survivor of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks
Creating a World Where All Belong
by Sinéad Lynch, Ireland