The Courage to Continue

by Dohee Kim, Korea



Dohee KimDohee (center) with her family

I was in elementary school when my mother started practicing Buddhism, and although I was encouraged to practice as well, I had little interest at that time. It was not until I was in my third year of high school that I finally began chanting.

I was in the process of applying to a music school and preparing for my audition and entrance exam, and was feeling quite anxious. I felt I was at a big disadvantage to students who had attended art schools. However, even though I was nervous, I was able to successfully pass the examination and, little by little, began to feel the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I decided that I wanted to learn more about Buddhism and actively began participating in SGI activities from that time.

From an early age, I studied hard at school, but our household was not harmonious because my father had a drinking problem. I tended to be a quiet, introverted child, unable to open my heart to my family or friends. Through my SGI activities, however, I learned that faith enables us to draw forth unlimited inner strength, and I increasingly became outward-looking and active.

It was at this point that I determined to take control of my life.

After I completed college and graduate school, I got married in my mid-20s, but various conflicts arose from differences in values and perspectives between myself and my husband. After getting married, I started neglecting my practice and also developed insomnia and experienced trouble breathing. It was at this point that I determined to take control of my life: I started to chant again and decided to get divorced and fulfill my longstanding dream of studying in America.

Life in the US was a struggle. Even though I worked part-time, I was sometimes unable to even afford a cup of coffee. But in my second year there, I won a scholarship and found work as a music teacher at a local community school and as an accompanist. My student life was both busy and bitter. With piano practice, study and work, my health failed, and there were times when I had to be taken to the emergency room. Through chanting, however, I was able to generate a strong life force which saw me through.

In my eight years of studying abroad, I acquired a doctorate in Musical Arts at the University of Texas at Austin and then completed a Performer Diploma in Piano at Indiana University. I also received a special award at the New York Artist International Annual Audition and came in fourth at the Padova International Music Competition in Italy. I was also able to give a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in New York.

However, due to my long years of studying abroad, my relationship with my family in Korea deteriorated. In particular, I resented my father, whose continued drinking was causing our family to suffer. One day, I read some words of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda: “Nowadays, there are many young people who don’t even love their parents, so how can they love others?”

related article My Life is My Greatest Treasure 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. As I prayed earnestly, I began to understand my father’s sufferings. In his later years, my father suffered from liver cancer. He had been opposed to our practice for 20 years, but I was finally able to encourage him to practice Buddhism and, in the end, he passed away peacefully.

Through my practice, I was able to realize my mission in life, polish my character and overcome my worries step by step. After returning to Korea in 2009, my mother, sister, brother and I were able to develop a relationship where we treasure each other. There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel the value of my family.

Since returning to Korea, I have been working as an instructor at several universities, and performing in recitals and ensembles. I have also presented papers at conferences and have had my writings published in music magazines. I am determined to grow and become the type of educator and performer who can give people the courage and hope to live.

[Courtesy, January 2012 SGI Quarterly]

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