Experience

With Gratitude Comes Victory

Reflecting on how Buddhism enabled him to remain confident amid a brush with death, Anthony Davis says, “From a young man who had thoughts of suicide, to becoming someone who was now fighting to live, I had nothing but appreciation.” Photo by COURTNEY HILL.


How dedicating my life to kosen-rufu, based on appreciation, saved my life.

by Anthony Davis
DES MOINES, IOWA

When I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in 1980, I was depressed, had suicidal ideation and was constantly filled with rage. My relationships, especially with my father, who strongly opposed my Buddhist practice, were strained, and I had severe financial problems.

I soon realized that I had found something extremely powerful in Nichiren Buddhism. My first benefit was that my anger and depression began to subside. At times, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and learning gongyo brought an overwhelming joy I had never experienced before.

For the next 20 years of my practice, I fully enjoyed the support of many SGI members and leaders, who truly cared about my happiness and wanted to see me accomplish my dreams. They supported me through some dark and desperate times—facing a housing eviction, the end of cherished relationships, a diabetes diagnosis with many complications and the death of loved ones.

One day, it dawned on me that all of the victories and breakthroughs in my life were due to the support I received from my SGI family and the encouragement of my mentor, SGI President Ikeda. Truth was I had been lacking in appreciation.

Nichiren Daishonin writes:

The old fox never forgets the hillock where he was born; the white turtle repaid the kindness he had received from Mao Pao. If even lowly creatures know enough to do this, then how much more should human beings! . . . What can we say, then, of persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism? Surely they should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country. (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 690)

I had heard for years that the spirit of joyful gratitude is essential in the correct practice of Nichiren Buddhism, but I had not fully taken it to heart.

Around 2004, when the annual May Commemorative Contribution activity came around, I received encouragement from a senior in faith, who reminded me that financial offerings were never based on a sense of obligation, or with a heavy feeling. Rather, when I contribute, I should feel light, refreshed and joyful, thinking, I’m so happy and grateful that I can support the SGI!

I came to the realization that I needed to participate in making financial offerings to the SGI, the organization that had helped me open my life to great benefits while working to establish true peace and happiness in the world.

I committed to making a personal goal for the May Commemorative Contribution activity each year and to participate in Sustaining Contribution.

And since I began making heartfelt financial offerings, I have consistently improved my living conditions and gained the freedom to do things that I thought were previously impossible.

For instance, I was offered a job paying more than twice as much as I was making previously (with an improved work environment). I also completely resolved a six-figure debt with the IRS.

Several years before my father passed away in 2011, our relationship had transformed. He accepted my Buddhist practice, and I gained deep appreciation for our difficult relationship, because it led me to the Gohonzon. At his memorial service, I spoke on behalf of the family at his church, sharing President Ikeda’s encouragement on the eternity of life.

That same year, my therapist noted that anger was no longer a main force of my life; I had shifted my basic life tendency.

In 2013, I faced my own mortality. I was suffering from kidney failure and undergoing dialysis every day. I was told that I would have to wait five to seven years for a transplant. I asked myself, What do I live for? I resolved that advancing kosen-rufu was the purpose of my life and to do that I needed to change my karma. From a young man who had thoughts of suicide, to becoming someone who was now fighting to live, I had nothing but appreciation.

With that spirit, I decided to name the SGI-USA as my beneficiary by joining the SGI-USA Millennium Legacy Society—pledging to make a financial commitment toward the advancement of kosen-rufu even after my passing. It was a profound experience looking beyond my present life
and solidifying my vow to eternally contribute to kosen-rufu.

Less than two months later, I received a successful kidney transplant. I realized that I must have a mission to continue fighting for kosen-rufu.

Today, as the Iowa-Nebraska Region men’s leader, I’m determined to continue repaying my debt of gratitude by supporting others to experience the great joy of life, based on our shared vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. My dream is that the next generation will also take these values to heart, so that we can truly build a society of peace and happiness.