Never Retreating a Step
Joung Mi Chu overcame the impossible with strong conviction in faith.
by Joung Mi Chu
World Tribune: Thank you for sharing your story with us. If you had to sum up your experience in a sentence, what would it be?
Joung Mi Chu: You can transform your destiny through this practice.
WT: Why did you join the SGI?
Chu: When I was in the first grade, a botched preventative procedure left me with such severe lower back and leg pain that I wanted to cut off my bottom half. My overall health declined severely from there, and I became a nervous and sensitive child. When I was 11, my aunt encouraged my mom and me to try chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Soon after, my health gradually improved. By the time I graduated from high school, my pain had disappeared completely.
WT: How did this experience change your perspective on life?
Chu: It implanted in me a strong conviction in the power of the Gohonzon. I felt as if I got to live a fresh new life. My whole family received the Gohonzon together in 1988.
WT: How did you apply this experience to your life?
Chu: Seventeen years ago, my daughter, Gahui, was just 10 months old, when she suddenly fell to the floor screaming in pain. My husband, Young Han, and I took her to many medical centers in Seoul, South Korea, where we lived, but it still took us 40 days to learn that her kneecaps had been fused to the bone because of a bacterial infection.
You can transform your destiny through this practice.
Only a year later, my son, Brian, was born with a crumpled left foot that required an immediate cast. My husband, at the same time, was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, and a large lump was found on his lung. The lump was in such a critical position that it couldn’t be biopsied. And to top it all off, I collapsed from exhaustion, with numbness and pain from a herniated disc. I suddenly felt as if I were reliving the painful memories of my childhood.
WT: With so much going on at once, how did you respond?
Chu: I found the conviction to challenge my struggles head-on in a passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The Opening of the Eyes.” It states: “Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 283). With that spirit, during the day I delivered the SGI Korea newspaper to local members, visited and encouraged them, and shared Buddhism with others. And in the evenings, I took care of my children and often chanted until dawn with a strong determination to transform this unbelievably difficult time—no matter what—as my mission for kosen-rufu.
WT: What was your turning point?
Chu: My daughter needed surgery, and the doctor told us that he might need to amputate her legs if it went wrong. I summoned forth courage and determination based on Nichiren Daishonin’s words, “Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1000). Deep in my heart, I chanted every day in the hospital as if it were a life-or-death battle. The surgery was successful, and within two months, she recovered fully.
WT: How was the rest of your family?
Chu: For my husband, we chanted for the best doctor, the best medicine and the best outcome. After nine months, he was able to leave the hospital lump-free. My son’s foot healed. I also came to live without pain. It was a series of unbelievable breakthroughs.
Although we had a difficult time making ends meet at the time, I was so appreciative of my practice, and I wanted to contribute even one small drop of water into the vast stream of kosen-rufu to repay my debt of gratitude to the Gohonzon, the SGI and Sensei. Even with the little we had, I made sustaining financial contributions.
WT: What an amazing experience. How did the rest of your life change through engaging strongly in your practice?
Chu: Both of my children—Gahui, now 17, and Brian, now 15—became completely healthy and are leading joyful lives. In 2002, we also opened our first fashion and accessories store. Our business has since grown to 44 stores in Korea, with four in China. We moved to the United States as part of a business expansion last year.
It is such a pleasure to start my path here for American kosen-rufu. When I joined the SGI, I remember learning that President Ikeda came to the United States in October 1960, and I determined to one day contribute to kosen-rufu in America just like Sensei. I know it looks like I came here for business, but in my heart, I really came here to spread Buddhism! I am taking English classes and have already taken on leadership for our SGI-USA Korean language group in Los Angeles. Language should not be the barrier to doing kosen-rufu. It really is all about courage and challenge based on faith.
WT: What is your determination for the future?
Chu: Looking back, my life has been full of challenges. However, President Ikeda says, “Not advancing is retreating—this is true not only of faith but also of study, work and all areas of our lives” (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 280). I am determined to continue advancing day after day with courage for kosen-rufu. If anything, my struggles have taught me that I can win over anything through my absolute conviction in faith and by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
As long as I keep moving forward, expanding my life condition, raising my children to be capable leaders who will contribute to kosen-rufu, I can repay my debt of gratitude to my mentor, President Ikeda, who showed me how to lead an undefeated life. This new chapter in my life in the United States is just beginning, and I am embracing it with my whole life.