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Life Stories

Healing Action

Practicing for self and others, I transform my family from the inside out.

Friendship—Miki DePalm at her home in San Diego, Calif., October 2023. Photo by Sydnie Stottle.

by Miki DePalm
San Diego 

In the early ’90s, few knew or spoke of post-traumatic stress disorder. When my first husband, a U.S. Marine, returned from a year’s deployment to Somalia, I didn’t understand the changes that had taken place in him. Mostly, we got along, but the occasional outburst made me wary. One, in the summer of ‘94, frightened me badly enough for me to take our son, Jymmia, and run away. 

For months, a friend had been encouraging me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but I’d always turned her down. In my desperation I called to say, “I am ready to change my life.”

That week, I attended my first district meeting and grasped with my life: This is why I came to America. To meet the Gohonzon. 

At first, I chanted a fearful kind of daimoku, worried for my son. But chanting gave rise to the courage to take action. Within six months, I gotten a divorce, full custody of my son, a full-time job, a safe place to live and a brand-new car. I also realized that my husband had experienced something on his deployment that was beyond his control. I felt no fear or malice. Compassion arose from my life and, with it, a prayer for his happiness. 

Three years later, I remarried. In the first year, my second husband acquired custody, one after the other, of his five children. With him I had my second child, my daughter, Hina, in 1998. Raising so many children in a small house on a shoestring budget often reduced me to tears. One night, chanting at my wit’s end, I vowed to transform my karma. Soon after, I heard a senior in faith say that the shortest path to do so is by sharing Buddhism with others. 

That year, I introduced three people, including my best friend. She had recently lost her husband in a motorcycle accident and, devastated, she refused to leave her house. 

“You’ve got to try,” I said. With her late husband’s best friend, we managed to get her out to a discussion meeting. 

There, she looked up just long enough to say that her husband was dead. A hush fell, and then an older woman spoke up. 

“My husband died of an overdose,” she said. “I wanted to kill myself. Instead though, I found this practice and it saved my life. I’ve experienced so many beautiful things since then, and I’m so happy I’m still alive.” 

Later, my friend would tell me what she had felt at that meeting—like someone had put a salve on her inner wound.

Still she wouldn’t chant, and I wondered what it would take. 

 “This practice can make anything possible?” she asked me. 

“Yes,” I said, no hesitation.

“Like bring my husband back?”

“Yes!” I said, then thought immediately: Miki, what??

That day, I chanted intensely: Somehow my friend’s gonna feel her husband is with her. The next day, she told me she had.

“Whaddya mean?” I asked, worried. 

Music, she said, from a wind-up box her husband had bought her. As she chanted late into the night, it had begun to play where it rested on the nightstand. I don’t know if all the words in the world could have moved my friend to take faith, but that music did. She began her practice in earnest and grew brighter day by day. As I supported her and she emerged from her pain, my own grew small.

Ikeda Sensei says: “Merely thinking about our own problems more often than not causes us to fall even deeper into despair. … Taking action out of a concern for others enables us to heal our own lives” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 5, p. 259).

This, I realized, was what had been missing from my practice. And I vowed to practice strongly for myself and others. Having just finished vocational school to become a pharmacy technician, I determined to get a job where I could meet many young people to share this Buddhism with them.

Miki and her co-workers (l-r) Lio and Ron who are now members of the SGI, San Diego, Calif., October 2023. Photo by Ana Halili.

Despite my lack of experience, I was hired at a Naval hospital with 100 co-workers, half of whom are active-duty young sailors. I started introducing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to someone every day at my job. At first, I was laughed at—Buddhism to them was a statue or trinket of a laughing man rubbing his round belly. They’d do that—rub their bellies and laugh.

A youth leader came to visit my son, and I mentioned how hard it was, how I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever practice Buddhism with me at work. He told me: “Miki, maybe there’s nobody now. But one becomes two, two becomes three, three becomes four, five, seven…”

Taking heart, I began sharing Buddhism again at work. One co-worker was undergoing triple bypass surgery. I went to his room while he was recovering. “Can I chant for you, next to you?”

“Yes please, thank you.” So I did, and he loved it. He wanted to start his own practice and received the Gohonzon. Three years later, he passed away but so happily that his daughter decided to receive the Gohonzon, too. So it was like this, one by one by one. 

By 2018, 17 co-workers were practicing Buddhism. My husband and I struggled to pay the mortgage and thought we’d lose our house, but most painful was watching our daughter admitted to a psychiatric hospital after a serious mental breakdown from which doctors warned she might never recover.

That September, I invited 10 guests to the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival. My daughter, with lots of daimoku and the support of her young women’s leaders, also took part as a Byakuren member. Soon after, my marriage ended, but on good terms. Pained as I was, I realized that, for me, this really was the best outcome. And pained as I was, my life really was so wonderful. That year at work, I helped another seven youth receive the Gohonzon, and they all received lots of benefits!

My daughter has had breakthroughs and relapses, ups and downs. But she has always loved to chant. She chanted fiercely to transform her mental health and by Nov. 18, 2020, she had, making a full recovery.

In 2019, I was promoted to supervisor and have completely transformed my financial karma. I have a good relationship with both my ex-husbands and a wonderful relationship with my children. These days, I feel—how can I put it… so light and… so simple? Instead of hellos, my co-workers greet one another with “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!” They have big dreams and are bursting with life. Surrounded by friends, I’ve gained the confidence that through practice for oneself and others, everything will work out in the best way possible for everyone.  

October 20, 2023, World Tribune, p. 5

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