by Devan Beck
Our activities for kosen-rufu, our efforts to transmit the Mystic Law, constitute a most fundamental struggle to revitalize human beings and firmly establish within society a spirit of respect for the dignity of life. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 3, p. 14)
I was raised in a small town in Idaho, where racism was rampant and overt. A brunette was the most diversity we were exposed to. I was a leader in the Mormon church but still had many unanswered questions, such as Why do people suffer, and How should we deal with it? At 38, I embarked on a new spiritual journey. Something about Buddhism really spoke to me, but enlightenment felt out of reach.
That changed when my family and I were introduced to the SGI in 2013. We had just moved to a new area in Malibu, California, and our next door neighbor began taking walks with my wife, Lynn. After many dialogues about Buddhism, Lynn joined the SGI-USA in February 2017. I was circling and observing, often enjoying a cigar on the patio while meetings were being held in our home.
While I had a successful law practice and beautiful family, inside I felt no joy; I was numb. As I started participating in SGI activities, I felt like I was orbiting this peaceful, inspiring group of people who had their own gravity. I was also attracted to the concept in Nichiren Buddhism that I could immediately change my karma and do human revolution.
My first prayer was for my daughter’s happiness, as she had struggled with anxiety and depression. Week by week, month by month, she regained her spirit and eventually returned to school. Now, she’s on track to graduate from high school next year and has inspiring dreams.
Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I learned that I could transform any situation, including the hopeless state I found myself in this June, as the evil of racism played out front and center in our country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a once-in-a-century crisis, but the heartbreaking murder of countless Black Americans like George Floyd is evidence of a crisis of a millennia.
I took my frustration to the Gohonzon and decided to use the tools of my Buddhist practice to tap into my Buddhahood. I shifted my mental state and, by doing so, realized that kosen-rufu is the most profound answer to my question about the meaning of human suffering.
I decided I could empower people of all backgrounds by sharing Buddhism with them. I realized that I am a Bodhisattva of the Earth and have experienced suffering so that I could empathize with others, connect heart-to-heart and support them in overcoming their hardships.
Ikeda Sensei writes: “Shakubuku, an act of supreme compassion, is a lion’s roar directed toward the goal of reviving the goodness in people’s hearts and bringing dynamic vitality and creativity to society for the benefit of all. It is a spiritual struggle of the loftiest dimension, one that seeks to conquer devilish functions, break through darkness and delusion, and actualize true, lasting happiness for humankind. And it is powered by a fighting spirit that resembles that of a fearless lion king” (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 160).
Before joining the SGI, if someone had asked me about a solution to society’s ills, I would have shrugged my shoulders and said, “What are you gonna do?” Now, I plant the seed of the Mystic Law in their life to help them connect to their Buddha nature.
This year, one of my friends began attending SGI meetings. While we are very different on the surface, we now share the common belief that all people want to attain happiness and peace, and have deepened our friendship. There is great joy that comes from sharing our practice, hope and faith with others.
My Buddhist practice has taught me that there is always something I can do for the sake of peace and justice, starting with what’s right in front of me. My wife and I take leadership in the SGI community and truly enjoy supporting other members in faith. My children have also benefited tremendously, and we enjoy attending meetings as a family. I now feel a renewed excitement for life and look forward to a future of infinite possibilities.
The crises of 2020 have given me the opportunity to test this practice—to become part of the solution to the world’s ills.