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Life Stories

Facing Forward

Uniting with me in prayer, my son takes responsibility for the happiness of his family.

Harmonious family—Louise Auwae with (l–r) her grandson Ekemona Miner Jr.; daughter-in-law Donella Pillos; and son Ekemona Miner Sr., in Oahu, Hawaii, June 2022. Photo by Abriasha Miner.

by Louise Auwae
Maui, Hawaii

Until recently, my son Ekemona Sr., chanted only when he got bad news or wanted something trivial. But in June 2021, he began to chant with his heart for the first time, when his son, Ekemona Jr., fell into a deep depression and failed the seventh grade.

Ekemona Jr., or Ole, as we call him, is not a tiny boy. He’s big. But very, very shy. Maybe this is why the bullies had begun to pick on him. When his father called me, I got Ole on the phone. 

“At school, I can’t trust no one,” he told me, “not even the teachers.” Another time, talking about the bullies, he burst out: “I just want to hit them!” 

When the son suffers, so does the father. That’s how it is with ohana, with family. But when the father moves in a positive direction, so does his ohana. That’s why I have always encouraged my son to sit down, open up his altar and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; to read Ikeda Sensei’s guidance and come to SGI meetings. But like a song you’ve heard so many times that you don’t hear the words, my son didn’t really hear me anymore. That’s how it is, too, sometimes, with ohana

I live on a different island, but speaking with the three of them—Ole, his father and his mother, Donella—I could sense that, day by day, Ole was crawling deeper into a hole. He didn’t want to go to school—didn’t even want to come out of his room. When schooling shifted online, Ole refused to attend on his computer, even with the camera turned off. For his parents, it was becoming more and more difficult to believe there was a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Things came to a head in June 2021, when I got a call from the principal telling me Ole had failed the seventh grade. “I’ve been calling his parents,” he said, “but no one has called me back.”

“Hold on,” I told him, and called my son, who always picks up when I call. I merged the calls, and we faced the dilemma together. Yes, the principal had bad news, but an opportunity, too: Ole could attend summer school to pass the seventh grade.

On that call, I really encouraged my son, “Together let’s change this suffering into joy. This is not about you; this is about your son, his suffering.” Deep down, my son knows the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Now, he had nowhere to turn but to the Gohonzon. We both made a determination to chant—chant to win! Morning and evening, I would text him, “See you in front of the Gohonzon, together with Sensei.” “Hai!” he would reply. “See you there!”

The father was chanting. He shared with me, “Mom, I am determined to change this situation.” At first it wasn’t easy, but he reminded himself why he was in front of the Gohonzon: for the victory of his son. Each day, chanting became easier for my son, and he started to increase his daimoku. As summer school approached, my son kept chanting, with the spirit: “No matter what, my ohana will win!” He began to understand that, when unhappy with what he is seeing and feeling, it is his responsibility to make a change in himself—one based on the winning strategy of the Lotus Sutra. While chanting for Ole’s happiness, my son made a list of what else he wanted to see in his life. He chanted for his career and for the happiness of Donella and his two daughters. I chanted for him to see the power of his prayer. Soon, I began to hear in his voice a new joy and confidence. And he was checking off one goal after another.

With his father’s support, Ole attended a couple of SGI meetings online, with his camera off. He was especially impressed by the other kids at a future division meeting, who were so open about what they were going through, who did not hesitate to discuss their struggles and, in fact, connected with one another more deeply by sharing them. 

Summer school was on the horizon—the first day of July. But Ole said he would not go. True to his word, when the day arrived, he refused. Over the phone I could hear my son urging Ole to get ready, gently at first, and then, as the bus drew nearer to the bottom of their hill, with greater frustration. The bus came and went, and Ekemona made a decision: abandon his strategy and double down on the strategy of the Lotus Sutra. He sat down to chant, letting all his emotion pour out in front of the Gohonzon. Donella, who doesn’t normally chant, joined him, and together they determined to open up a new chapter for their ohana

The next morning, I texted him as usual, “See you in front of the Gohonzon.” Right away he shot back, telling me he was already there. A few hours passed, and then my phone buzzed. It was a picture message from my son: Donella, Ole and him beaming in the truck as they drove down to the bus stop, Ole in his bright new school clothes and backpack. My son tells me Ole got ready all by himself that day, and just came out of his room, backpack and all, while his father was chanting. He tells me he almost fell out of his daimoku chair. 

Ole finished his summer school to graduate to eighth grade, which he also graduated, this past June. When he did, Donella told me that he had tears in his eyes. “Why?” I asked, alarmed. “He says because he’ll miss his teachers!” she said. 

The difference in Ole today from who he was a year ago is the difference of night and day. He gets straight A’s, enjoys school and likes his teachers and classmates. He comes home with his homework already done, smiling.

My son attends his district meetings and continues to practice Buddhism. Though we live on different islands, we chant together in the mornings for the happiness of our ohana, to win together with Sensei, understanding that victory begins with us.

Q: What advice would you give the youth?

Louise Auwae: I read each guidance from Ikeda Sensei as though it were addressed to me, personally. Sensei is saying, in short: Louise Auwae, I believe in you! Please don’t give up! I know you can win! Guidance from the mentor is meant to be taken personally, but it’s up to the disciple to do that.

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