Establishing Health and Happiness
Jonny Price shares tremendous benefit through making serious efforts to advance kosen-rufu.
Before our first daughter, Victoria, was born, my wife, Kimiko, and I found out that she would be born with a birth defect. It was our first big challenge as a young couple, but we utilized this opportunity to unite together and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the best outcome. Though she was born with a cleft lip and palate, and has endured many surgeries, Victoria has developed into a vibrant 14-year-old, who is passionate about music and life.
When she was 12, she also battled a life-changing cancer scare through which she determined to share Nichiren Buddhism with her friends. As a result, one of her friends joined the SGI! Soon after, we were informed there was no cancer.
We have overcome so many health issues as a family. Today, in addition to Victoria, Kimiko and I have three wonderful children: Kenichi (12), Alexis (11) and Naomi (7).
Our biggest health challenge, however, came when Naomi was 21 days old. We rushed her to the hospital due to a high fever and breathing complications. Our whole lives changed from that day.
Naomi was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, which had attacked her so severely that over 75 percent of her brain was dead. Doctors said that she would never be able to walk, move, eat, breathe, see or hear. If she lived through this ordeal, they said, it would take months if not years for her to leave the hospital. We were devastated. My wife and I were at a loss about what to do.
Many of the amazing SGI-USA pioneer members and our seniors in faith, especially SGI President Ikeda, encouraged us, and we were able to determine to turn this terrible poison into medicine—to create value from this daunting situation.
Kimiko and I studied President Ikeda’s guidance. In one lecture, he explains the three meanings of myo of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo: to open, to be fully endowed and to revive. Explaining that myo means “to revive,” he says:
[The Lotus Sutra] has the power to revitalize and invigorate even those facing the most adverse and intractable circumstances and enable them to attain Buddhahood (the principle of “reviving”). By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and teaching others to do the same, we can concretely manifest the power of “the single character myo” in our own lives. That is the wonderful benefit of Nichiren Buddhism. We carry out our Buddhist practice in order to profoundly engrave “the single character myo” in our lives and to master its meaning through experience. (July–August 2008 Living Buddhism, p. 57)
We chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo night and day for victory, with many members supporting us. After three weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit, Naomi’s condition dramatically improved. While our daughter was in the hospital, Kimiko shared Buddhism with 64 people. I also talked to 15 people about this amazing practice. Through these efforts, four friends received the Gohonzon. Surprisingly, 38 days after being admitted to the hospital, Naomi was able to come home! Though she cannot walk, she can do many things the doctors thought she wouldn’t be able to do. She can move her arms and legs, she eats with the help of a feeding tube, she breathes on her own, she can hear through one ear, and though blind in one eye, she can still track things with her other eye. By no means is Naomi’s condition in the clear—every moment is life or death, with respiratory issues, kidney stones and her thinning bones—but for us, this is proof of the power of prayer and taking action to spread the ideals of Nichiren Buddhism. Though doctors said she wouldn’t survive past 4 years of age, she turned 7 last May!
While dealing with Naomi’s health condition, I was also challenging a work-related injury from five years before. Fortunately, my employer let me work on light duties, but shortly after Naomi returned home, my hours were cut and my work status changed from full time to part time. I also needed to begin occupational therapy.
Though we could have taken this as a hard blow, my family and I saw this as a great benefit. This would give me time to finish my college degree—a longtime goal that I’d always struggled to accomplish due to my lack of confidence and laziness toward studying.
So, I went back to school in January 2009, on a very limited income, with a large family to support, as well as having taken on leadership responsibility in the SGI-USA as a zone men’s leader. I viewed each moment during this period as a time of training together with my mentor, President Ikeda.
A clear sign that I had broken through my negative tendency toward school came when I graduated from college in July 2010 with top honors and, despite the economic downturn, had a job lined up.
The celebration was short-lived, however, when I found out I would be taking a 35-percent pay cut compared to my last job. I was overwhelmed by the thought, How will I support my family?
Determined to make ends meet, I devoted myself to my new job, developed and trained new employees, and was given the opportunity to lead a national project. Through these efforts, I received pay increases that brought me back to my previous level of income short of just one dollar.
I remember being 10 years old and dancing hula at a meeting in Hawaii that Sensei attended. When struggling, I’d look at the photo from that time and ask myself, What is my mission for kosen-rufu?
Last July, I started working for the SGI-USA in Honolulu. In this way, I feel that I can repay my gratitude to Sensei and Mrs. Ikeda, and to my family and the members of SGI-USA Pacific Zone.
Recently, our family received another great benefit. We were contacted by a foundation that grants wishes to critically ill children. Though this foundation usually offers family trips to places like Disneyland, to our benefit and surprise, they equipped our home with a solar energy system and three air conditioners—all of which helps our daughter Naomi with her respiratory issues while also significantly cutting our energy bill.
I can now see that the health and happiness of my family and the growth of the members around us are barometers of how serious I am in advancing kosen-rufu toward 2030 and beyond. I will continue to work ever harder in all aspects of my life and to support all those around me.