Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
by Paul Makwati, Zambia
I was an only child. My father, who was the breadwinner in the family, died in a car accident when I was only three months old. My mother couldn’t find a good job, and the two of us led a humble life. Everything was hard and happiness seemed completely unobtainable. As a young boy at school, I envied friends whenever they talked about the support they received from their parents. I thought there was no hope for me and I felt low all the time.
When I was 19, a friend introduced me to Buddhism. My mother was against my new religion, but I asked her to give me some time so I could prove its validity.
After beginning to practice Buddhism, I became fascinated by the personality of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and his explanations of life and the teachings of Buddhism.
A mentor in faith is someone we look to as a leader who can distill the practical wisdom of the philosophy.
I remember the late general director of SGI-Zambia, Dr. Kala-bula, explaining the principle of the mentor-disciple relationship. He said that a mentor in faith is someone we look to as a leader who can distill the practical wisdom of the philosophy. This clicked so hard in my mind, and I started following Daisaku Ikeda’s guidance seriously.
It is through my understanding of his guidance and applying it to my life that I have overcome my misery—the feeling that I’m not worthy or capable, that I have to rely on someone else to assist me, or that I cannot achieve what I want to.
I have been practicing for 20 years now, and I have realized that in order to live we need an ideal. This doesn’t mean idealizing a person. For me it means recognizing and reaching for the ideal of Buddhism that a person of exemplary character has fully embraced.
For example, the fact that my mentor overcame tuberculosis in his youth, defying doctors’ predictions that he would not live beyond the age of 30, gave me the determination and confidence to overcome jaundice, which I had suffered from for three years, through my Buddhist practice. And Mr. Ikeda’s example and encouragement for us to create harmonious families has enabled me to find a wife with whom I enjoy one of the best relationships in the world.
related article My Life is My Greatest Treasure by Fern Brown, Canada Fern Brown describes how her Buddhist practice has helped her to come to terms with an unhappy childhood and become a stronger person and a campaigner for pedestrian rights. I own a grocery store and a secondhand clothing business. Mr. Ikeda’s guidance and his encouragement to take action and never lose hope have been instrumental in enabling me to keep my businesses going through the recent recession.
Following the path of mentor and disciple has enabled me to become a person who is respected by people in my community, by my wife and children and my mother, who lives with us in our home. I am no longer prone to feelings of hopelessness and misery, and the sense of hope that is in my life has infected my mother and my extended family. My mother now supports me a lot and also benefits from following Mr. Ikeda’s guidance.
In any field of life, be it athletics, academia, professional life or religion, having a mentor is a tremendous benefit. It has helped me realize my ability to do things which I would have felt to be beyond my limitations.
One’s greatest enemy is within one’s own life. Often it is the arrogance which prevents us from appreciating and seeking to learn from others. This arrogance also prevents us from achieving optimal results in any area of our lives. Humility is at the heart of the mentor-disciple relationship, and it is also the key to developing true confidence.
I feel deep gratitude to all those who have encouraged and guided me in my Buddhist practice. It is my hope that each person can experience the joy of having a great mentor in their lives.
[Courtesy, January 2010 SGI Quarterly]
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