The Surest Way to Happiness

Saatvika Rai on transforming her family through Buddhism.

Deep bonds—Saatvika Rai with her husband, Vivek Ram. Photo: Vivek Ram

by Saatvika Rai

My childhood in India was filled with anger and fighting. While my family tried to project the image of perfection to everyone around us, my mother and I both suffered deeply at the hands of my father. When my parents divorced, I cut all ties with him.

When my mother first started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the SGI, I was completely against her practice. But after seeing a change in her, I became a member, too, in June 2002. I was 19 and failing all my classes in my first year of college. I turned to the Gohonzon and SGI President Ikeda’s encouragement for hope.

Through the power of the practice, I began transforming each of my sufferings. I met a wonderful person—Vivek, who today is my partner and best friend. We married in 2011 and moved to the U.S. to pursue our higher education. But as the stress of pursuing my Ph.D. increased, I slipped into a deep depression. I cried nonstop for days and lost my desire to finish my education. Soon, I even lost the desire to live.

Chanting seemed impossible under these circumstances, but I pushed myself to take my pain to the Gohonzon. Like polishing a mirror, I began to see my life more clearly and realized the source of my suffering: I was holding onto deep pain and resentment toward my father.

I began making every cause for kosen-rufu I could, with the conviction that these were opportunities to change my life. 

For so long, I waited for an apology from him, and so I had viewed my happiness as something beyond my control. I realized that both depression and conflict had been passed down for generations in my family, and I determined to take on the challenge of transforming our collective karma into mission.

SGI President Ikeda writes: “Lessening karmic retribution is not a simple settling of our karmic accounts; it implies a fundamental transformation of our lives, whereby we put a stop to the negative cycle of suffering and delusion and enter a new positive trajectory of happiness” (Learning from the Writings: The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 155).

I began making every cause for kosen-rufu I could, with the conviction that these were opportunities to change my life. I would visit members and participate in Byakuren Group (a young women’s training group) filled with appreciation. I chanted fiercely “as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground” (On Rebuking Slander of the Law,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 444). Then armed with prayer, I made every effort to share this practice with the person right in front of me—as an act of respecting the Buddha nature inherent in both our lives.

Sensei writes: “Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of sowing. Forming even the smallest connection with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ensures that the seed of Buddhahood will endure and eventually sprout” (July 31, 2015, World Tribune, p. 4). I made a strong determination and wrote to President Ikeda: “Sensei, I will win in my life and be the queen of propagation. I take responsibility for kosen-rufu. You can count on me.”

Around that time, our campus club held an SGI event and I was able to help a young woman receive the Gohonzon. The joy of watching someone become empowered by joining the SGI was indescribable, and I gained the confidence to share the practice with even more people. Thereafter, I was able to help nine more people receive the Gohonzon and join the practice, including my amazing husband, cousins and friends. Even my grandmother joined the SGI, and we now practice as three generations!

Deep down, however, I still suffered from my relationship with my father. Desperate to overcome my suffering, I began chanting to see the Buddha nature in him and believe that he deserved to be happy. As soon as I made this determination, I found out my father was to have a life-threatening surgery. I immediately picked up the phone and spoke to him.

In his voice I could sense fear and anxiety, and I summoned up the courage to ask if we could chant together. It must have been the change in my inner determination that he responded to. I chanted for about an hour over the phone (as he listened). My prayer for his life changed—instead of wanting an apology from my father, I wanted him to have the tool of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to become truly happy. I realized that his mission was to give me life and lead my mother and me to the Gohonzon, with which we would overcome any suffering.

After a successful surgery, the first thing my father told me was that he chanted by himself in the intensive care unit and that it really helped him. I felt genuinely happy for him, and I knew right then that we had transformed our family karma on a fundamental level.

While I cannot change the incidents of my childhood, I no longer suffer because of them. My intense efforts have helped me expand my life and win over depression. My mission now is to give courage to all those who may have suffered similar struggles. It has taught me that I can deepen my prayer and compassion for anyone’s life.

Today, I enjoy a wonderful marriage and my husband and I support each other’s hopes and ideals. I am completing my Ph.D. and starting my dream job as a university professor. My life is filled with hope and joy. Having full conviction in the power of this practice, I am even more determined to help hundreds and thousands of people build a connection with SGI Buddhism. This is the surest way to happiness!