Feature

Standing As a Proud Pillar of My Family

by Lipi Chowdhury
Yonkers, N.Y.

Though I may be a person of little ability, I have reverently given myself to the study of the Mahayana. A blue fly, if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles. (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 17)

I had always enjoyed financial stability, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, I was forced to face my deep insecurity in my ability to provide for myself and my family.

I supported not only my partner and myself here in the United States but also my aging parents in India. The international organization that I worked for had already faced budget cuts for a few years before the pandemic, and many people in my professional and personal environment had been laid off, including my partner. What would happen if I lost my job? I feared.

Since I was 15, I had dreamed of working as an international civil servant, but I didn’t have confidence that I would achieve it. At 21, I was introduced to the SGI and the peace proposals that Ikeda Sensei has submitted every year since 1983 to the international community, including the United Nations.

Reading these and his other writings made me aware of my unique mission for peace and the power of our inherent human dignity. As I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I made a vow to work toward this. I was accepted as an intern in my dream organization and offered a job there right out of graduate school. Now as a full-time staff member, I have directly contributed to the peace and development of several war-torn countries.

Despite my many victories, the pandemic somehow crippled me from accelerating my life. When the May Commemorative Contribution activity came around, I made excuses to not participate. I shouldn’t give during a global financial crisis. My partner is struggling with work, so I’ll just take it easy this year. I need to save money in case I lose my job. This was my make-believe world. My fear wasn’t based on reality; it was “what if ” fear, antithetical to what Sensei teaches. I had to believe in my victory, not my failure.

I chanted that regardless of my decision, I would have no regrets. The more I prayed, the more appreciation started bubbling up from within: My Buddhist practice had led me to my dream job, to a wonderful life partner and to a life full of passion and purpose. I achieved all the goals I had set in my youth. I felt like the proverbial blue fly that travels ten thousand miles clinging to the tail of a thoroughbred horse (see passage above), and the SGI was that thoroughbred.

That’s when I realized that my fear stemmed from a lack of belief in my Buddha nature and in my prayers to be protected in the crucial moment.

Uncomfortable with this attitude, I chanted to overcome my “what if ” fear of an insecure future and show my fellow members and friends the way to overcome their hardships.

Sensei continues his efforts for worldwide kosen-rufu, never flinching, no matter the obstacles. I decided to embody this spirit and challenged a bold May Contribution goal out of my appreciation for my practice and determination to do my part to advance kosen-rufu. Looking back, I feel so much joy that I was able to give at the most difficult time.

My role as a pillar of my family was put to the test again in September 2020, when my mother called, saying, “Baba (father) will not survive more than five days.” I had been dreading this call as his health had been declining for several years. My work modalities allowed me to go to New Delhi to care for him while still getting paid.

My father was given only days to live, so I chanted hours by his bedside and read Nichiren’s writings to him daily. Although not fully out of the woods, he was discharged after eight weeks and, through his determination to live well, has prolonged his life without machines.

These experiences have enabled me to find great joy in supporting my family. Being a pillar for my family and community is no longer worrisome but gives me a sense of utmost fulfillment. Having started a new job working directly with the senior leadership of the organization, I look forward to sharing Sensei’s peace proposals and discussing practical ways to implement them.

Most importantly, I have renewed my confidence in my prayers for a safe and secure existence, and I am overflowing with appreciation for my Buddhist practice and the Soka community.

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