My Family Revolution

How Cynthia McCright’s family revolution came about through believing in her brother’s Buddha nature.

United—Cynthia McCright helps her brother, Justin, begin his Buddhist practice following his brush with death. Photo: Yvonne Ng.

by Cynthia McCright

When I attended my first SGI meeting three years ago, I learned that people have the power to change. And there were so many things I wanted to change about my family and myself.

To name just a few:

• Whenever my mother and I had a discussion, it ended in an argument.

• My brother, Justin, was in prison. When he sent me letters, I rarely responded. And if I did, it was with anger and blame.

• I had never met my father. Because of that, I suffered from a feeling of inferiority when I compared myself to other girls.

But after receiving the Gohonzon on March 3, 2013, I had some hope that things might shift. One of my first benefits was that I had a respectful, argument-free conversation with my mother. Then something else also changed: I began to look forward to my brother’s letters. Instead of ignoring or criticizing him as I had before, I would respond to him by sharing SGI President Ikeda’s guidance.

Through my SGI activities, I learned to set and challenge goals. As a major step toward my family revolution, I decided to surprise my brother—whom I hadn’t seen in two years—with a birthday visit on Feb. 22, 2014. To my surprise, my mother, who had sworn she would never visit him in prison, accompanied me. We had a wonderful time filled with laughter and smiles, and the three of us chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together.

With my family situation looking up, I also started focusing on my career. Before I started chanting, I’d had terrible work experiences. I quit my last job, gave up my apartment and spent a year couch surfing and dabbling in drugs. In the very first job interview after I started chanting, I found an ideal position at the wellness center where I work today. As time went on, patients and doctors praised me for my kindness, patience and efficiency. I attribute this to my SGI young women’s behind-the-scenes Byakuren training, where I learned to respect everyone and to move swiftly to support the members. I have received raises and been entrusted with more responsibility.

I also love to work out at the gym. My trainer was so impressed with the improvement in my strength that he encouraged me to enter a Strongman weightlifting competition. I took first place in June 2014 and qualified for nationals. My trainer asked if either of my parents was a competitive weight lifter, but since I didn’t know my father, I couldn’t say.

Finally, it was time to look for him. A wise leader suggested that my father might be too ashamed to look for me, and that, since he was only 22 years old when I was born, he might have felt incapable of parenthood. I chanted about this insight and summoned the courage to face my fear of rejection.

When I told my mother that I wanted to look for my father, I expected a bad reaction. But, to my surprise, she helped me find him on Facebook. I stared at his picture in shock. We were identical!

As I chanted to meet my father, I felt a deep sense of appreciation for his role in my existence. The next morning, when he accepted my friend request and commented on one of my weightlifting videos, I realized that he still didn’t know who I was. I wrote to explain, and he responded that he was shaking and excited, and wanted to meet me. A few days later, we sat across from each other at a restaurant in Brooklyn.

I determined to transform the part of me that doubted my brother’s Buddha nature.

I was stunned to learn that he is a bodybuilder and was a two-time National Powerlifting Champion! He was so happy that I’d had the courage to find him. He has been kind and supportive ever since, and has even come to a few Buddhist meetings.

When Justin was released from prison in May of this year, our family revolution continued. I invited him to live with me and soon sensed that something was troubling him. I encouraged him to chant with me and come to a meeting, but he declined, saying, “The streets don’t care about religion.” I told him he had to change his karma, but he got angry and called me selfish.

As I chanted for my brother’s protection—and to transform the negative qualities he saw in me—his attitude gradually changed. He agreed to attend an intro-to-Buddhism meeting. Although he showed up when the meeting was ending, I introduced him to some young men’s leaders. Later that same night, he went out. When I woke up the next morning, I learned that he had been arrested for burglary. My compassion quickly turned to anger.

My leaders encouraged me, and I determined to transform the part of me that doubted my brother’s Buddha nature. A few days later, he called to say that his arrest had been a case of mistaken identity, and that he was coming home. I waited for him, but a few hours later, my sister called with the news that, in another case of mistaken identity, he had been shot.

When I arrived at the hospital, he was awake and alert. Six bullets had entered his body, but missed every vital organ and nerve. That same evening, he checked himself out of the hospital and invited a young men’s leader to our home. He said he knew he needed a change and determined to have a better life through Buddhism. After their heart-to-heart dialogue, he decided to join the SGI and received the Gohonzon that night.

I’m happy to report that my brother—the 16th person I have introduced to the practice—is doing incredibly well.

A few weeks ago, in my biggest competition ever, I came in fourth place in the world and became one of the first Pro Strongwomen in the U.S.

With so many wonderful changes that have taken place through my practice, I have a personal goal to help 1,111 people receive the Gohonzon by Nov. 18, 2030, the Soka Gakkai’s 100th anniversary. I vow to continue doing my own human revolution—and my family revolution—so we can live lives of absolute happiness.

(p. 5)