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Buddhism in Action for Peace
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Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
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I lost my father to kidney disease when I was seven. He was a loving parent, a devoted husband and a sincere, genuine man.
My father ran a small print shop business for my grandfather in Hong Kong. During the last three years of his life, my father's condition worsened until he was bedridden. My grandparents, however, offered no assistance, and two days after my father died, they disowned my mother and me. We were left with nothing, not even a place to stay.
While looking for work, my mother ran into a friend. When she learned about our situation, she immediately introduced my mother to the SGI. My mother had pretty much given up on religion after trying many while my father was ill. With nothing left to lose, she decided to give Nichiren Buddhism a try.
Soon after my mother started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, my father's business associates contacted her. They had learned what my grandparents had done and wanted to help my mother open her own printing business. My father's clients also called and said they would support her.
This was a bold venture for a single woman to undertake in Hong Kong in the early 1970s. But with confidence and wisdom gained from her prayers, she opened her own business. My mother worked countless hours, often doing hard manual labor, to reestablish our lives.
With my mother's hectic work schedule, I was usually at home alone. I took up hobbies I could do alone--photography, reading and computer programming. I got so used to being by myself, though, that I became an introvert. I shied away from social activities and had problems expressing myself to others. related article Deepening Conviction by Shikha Singh Shikha Singh from India describes how she and her husband were able to transform the family's financial situation and human relationships through their Buddhist practice.
I did, however, attend SGI youth activities in Hong Kong and received tremendous support from the local members. Even so, by my late teens, I still had not established my own Buddhist practice and lived a rather sheltered life.
My mother, becoming aware of my self-centered nature and my dependence on her, decided to send me to the United States to pursue my college education. While I'm sure was difficult to send her only child thousands of miles away to a foreign land, I know now that she did it out of deep compassion for my growth and happiness.
I attended two semesters at the University of Oklahoma and later transferred to the University of Texas in Austin to study computer science. In both cities, I was immediately embraced by the SGI-USA members and invited to district meetings. I began learning more about the practice and faith of Nichiren Buddhism as I listened to people from all walks of life share their experiences.
I was given many opportunities to participate in district activities. Initially, I wasn't comfortable speaking in front of others, but because my leaders were so sincere and supportive, I felt I should at least try. The first time I read aloud from the World Tribune at a meeting, I held the newspaper in front of my face to avoid eye contact with others. But as I repeatedly challenged my shyness and continued to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I became more comfortable speaking at meetings. I eventually assumed responsibility as a young men's leader in the district.
My young men's leader in Austin was also a fellow student at the university. He had a strong sense of mission to work alongside SGI President Daisaku Ikeda to create peace. He inspired me to study President Ikeda's writings as well as the fundamentals of Nichiren Buddhism. He patiently took time to explain various Buddhist topics in ways that I could relate to. I began to apply what I was learning to my daily life. related article Committed to Justice by Alvin Sykes Civil rights activist, Alvin Sykes says his practice and study of Buddhism strengthened his determination to fight for justice and deepened his belief in the power of dialogue.
As I became more active in SGI-USA, I found that the activities in which I supported "from behind the scenes" furthered my growth to a greater degree. Like other youth members of the activity support groups, I stood in the parking lot greeting members as they arrived for meetings and as they returned home. Through my efforts, I gained a deeper understanding of President Ikeda's behavior--how he ceaselessly shows his deepest appreciation for others' efforts--and I was able to expand my own capacity to care for the people around me.
These activities constantly offered me new challenges. I planned monthly world peace prayer meetings and coordinated logistics for numerous major events. With each new responsibility, I gained more confidence in myself and learned how to work cooperatively with others--skills one cannot learn in the world of academia alone.
My Buddhist practice propelled me to complete a double degree in Information Systems and Management at the University of Texas in Austin in 1990 and then land a great job. Even though the U.S. was in an economic recession, I secured more than 20 interviews and was offered jobs from four highly regarded companies. Meanwhile, many of my classmates from other countries couldn't find jobs and had to return to their homelands.
I have been with a leading telecommunications company for close to 14 years and have enjoyed a trailblazing career. I led the development of the software infrastructure for the company's core network and played a key role in the launch of the nation's first high-speed wireless data network in 2001. I now oversee the company's technology innovation activities.
I've been invited to speak at nearly 40 industry conferences across four continents and serve on advisory boards at numerous high-tech companies. I was also awarded six U.S. patents for my inventions in communications technology and have 20 more pending applications at the U.S. Patent Office. As a result of the value I've created for the company, I am the unique recipient of both the company's highest technical achievement and business leadership awards.
One of my most gratifying professional recognitions was being named Asian American Engineer of the Year at the 2002 National Engineers Week, along with Nobel Laureate Leo Esaki and former Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, Chang-Lin Tein. related article An Open Life by Michele Di Mascio Through practicing Nichiren Buddhism, Michele Di Mascio was able to to come to terms with his homosexuality. Through efforts to support his HIV-infected partner, Michele entered upon a journey with leading world scientists to find a way to eradicate the HIV virus.
I'm confident that the wisdom and fortune I have gained through supporting and protecting my local SGI organization and taking care of members directed my life toward developing a momentous career. The values I learned from President Ikeda, likewise, have enabled me to be a humanistic, yet effective leader in the role I play at work. Most importantly, I have learned how to overcome obstacles through the power of prayer and taking action. I learned how to be victorious in my daily life, using my Buddhist practice to bring out the limitless capability inherent in my life.
Not only has my career blossomed, the previous shy introvert is now married to a caring and beautiful woman, Carol, and we have two darling daughters, Vanessa and Serena. We are very grateful to our mentor in life, President Ikeda, for providing us with the most wonderful organization in which to practice Nichiren Buddhism--the global family of the SGI. And I am so appreciative for the wisdom and compassion that my mother had for me at such a critical time in my life.
[Adapted from an article in the March 21, 2008 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photo courtesy of the World Tribune]
With Appreciation Comes Happiness
by Leonides Arpon, USA
Creating a World Where All Belong
by Sinéad Lynch, Ireland
by Nitin Upadhye, India
Embracing the Cycle of Life
by Gwen Harris, USA
The Deepest Loss
by Aiko Matsumura, Japan