Illness Is Not an Obstacle
How the Brady family transformed karma into mission with the roar of a lion.
by Chris Brady
My wife, Emiko, and I are the real Brady bunch—we have three boys and three girls, and 16 grandchildren. We all practice Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism. My wife and I joined together 40 years ago, and we are an extremely close-knit family. So when I found out last August that my 15-year-old grand-daughter, Saiya, was in the emergency room with what looked like a brain tumor, I was stunned.
For the past month, Saiya was having migraine headaches that were affecting her vision and changing her personality. Numerous trips to eye doctors revealed nothing, and she had been told simply to stop using her computer and phone so much.
Back at the ER last August, Tom, my son and Saiya’s dad, was in a daze. Everything had happened so fast. An MRI had revealed that Saiya needed surgery, and soon.
My immediate response was one of my favorite Nichiren Daishonin quotes:“Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What illness can therefore be an obstacle?” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 412).
Let’s roar together! I thought. I called my wife, explained the situation and asked her to gather the family for a chanting session for Saiya’s victory. I was two hours away, fishing on the Columbia River, so I jumped in my car and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo all the way home. Everyone in our family, including spouses and significant others who were not SGI members, all went to my house and chanted with us for hours. I arrived just in time to do evening gongyo with them. We determined to chant every day for Saiya’s total victory.
The experience brought me back to my earliest days of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In 1981, while in the Navy and stationed on a ship during special operations, I had received a message that Emiko was having problems during her pregnancy and had been hospitalized. I knew it might be weeks before another ship would bring more news. The only thing I could rely on was the Gohonzon. I chanted as much as I could, praying for absolute victory and a healthy baby. What else could I do? When word finally came through, it turned out that shortly after my abundant chanting began, my wife left the hospital without any further problems.
This kind of actual proof brought me even closer to this practice. I was on two ships that had the Gohonzon enshrined on them, and I would make photocopies of SGI President Ikeda’s guidance and bring it with me whenever I was deployed, so I would be able to read his encouragement every day. As a new member, I challenged virtually everything about myself. I had turned my back on practicing anything for a long time, and I had always thought that the cause problems was “out there.” But this practice, I discovered that my problems are within—and so are my solutions. The answers can be accessed through the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
I don’t need to wait for something or someone else to change things for me.
I took the August 2015 Living Buddhism for Saiya’s dad to study while in the hospital. This issue had President Ikeda’s “Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace” series on “Transforming Karma Into Mission.” We determined to do exactly that for Saiya! We set goals and chanted earnestly together as a family for the best doctors, best hospital, best treatment plan and fastest recovery, with no complications. We chanted for total victory, but also to be able to share that victory with others as proof of the power of this practice.
The neurosurgeon at the local hospital thought it was best to send Saiya to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, which is known for its highly trained surgical teams. This was a bene t we had chanted for. There was a possibility that Saiya might su er some memory loss, so just before her operation, Saiya and her dad made a pinkie promise that she would not forget him, no matter what. As she was wheeled into surgery, there were no tears, only confidence. Saiya told us not to worry and that she would see us in a few hours. Her courage was inspiring to us all.
The surgery took 10 hours and was a complete success. Half an hour after the operation, Saiya opened one eye to see my son, Tom, standing there, waiting. “Hi, Daddy,” she said. With tears of gratitude, he realized Saiya had not forgotten him. I went in soon after that, and again she opened her eyes and said, “Hi, Papa.” Wow, what a moment.
Upon her discharge only ve days later, the pathology came back on the tumor; it was found to be completely benign. From diagnosis to surgery to discharge was 12 days. Two weeks later, Saiya returned to school. And now, almost exactly a year later, you would never think this confident young lady had gone through major brain surgery.
President Ikeda, in the August 2015 Living Buddhism, says: “Because of the principle of ‘earthly desires lead to enlightenment,’ suffering becomes enlightenment and happiness. The greater our problem or sorrow, the greater the happiness we can change it into. This is the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That’s why those who chant do not fear anything. There is no need to” (p. 59).
I believe that we’re the ones who don’t let the Mystic Law work to its maximum power in our lives. We’re almost afraid to challenge it. I used to say, “Let’s make the impossible possible,” but didn’t know that I could really do that myself. Now I know that I can be the agent of change myself; I don’t need to wait for something or someone else to change things for me. It’s so easy to start. It’s just getting my mind to say, “I’m going to.” And there are all of these Bodhisattvas of the Earth just waiting to emerge. That’s why it’s still so important to me to introduce people to the SGI. When I talk to someone about Buddhism, I think, What is it in that person’s life that I can touch? If there’s a problem out there, we can overcome it and show people how big this practice is.
My granddaughter Saiya celebrated her sweet 16 in April, and to her family, nothing could have been sweeter. Every victory we have chanted for has come to pass, and will continue to do so, through our strong faith in this life-affirming practice.