Reaching for the Impossible
Margarita Morales Sánchez, SGI Cuba Young Women’s Leader and singer in the funk-rock group “Qva Libre”, shares her experience in faith.
Margarita Morales Sánchez
This year marks 20 years since SGI President Ikeda visited Cuba in June 1996, opening the way for people to practice Buddhism in the country. The organization has since grown from seven households in 1996 to over 1,000 members today. Also, in January 2007, the Cuban government officially recognized SGI-Cuba as a religious organization. Living Buddhism met with SGI Cuba Young Women’s Leader Margarita Morales Sánchez to hear her experience in faith and learn of the great development of kosen-rufu in Cuba.
Living Buddhism: Thank you, Margarita, for joining us all the way from Havana! Can you describe your upbringing and how your family encountered Nichiren Buddhism and the SGI?
Margarita Morales Sánchez: Thank you very much for this opportunity! I grew up in Camagüey, which is approximately 300 miles east of Havana. While my upbringing was filled with so much unconditional love and support from my parents, we struggled with poverty. My mother, father, older brother and I all lived in one room, with no privacy. In 2001, when I was 9 years old, my mother’s friend, one of the first members in Camagüey, introduced us to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Soon after, my mother received the Gohonzon and joined the SGI. She enshrined the Gohonzon in that small room where we all lived, and chanted morning and evening to improve our circumstances and find absolute happiness. While my father didn’t take up the practice himself, he fully supported my mother and even built her a Buddhist altar for the Gohonzon!
Did you starting chanting with your mother?
Margarita: Yes, I chanted a lot, but I wasn’t interested in attending SGI meetings or learning more about Buddhism. I did see actual proof right away, when we moved into a new home, which provided sufficient space for everyone. This practice also helped my mother develop the strength to confront diabetes and live her life without being limited by her illness.
With strong conviction, my mother often encouraged me to chant with her so I could achieve my goals. At the time, I was studying piano at a music school, but due to our financial struggles, we couldn’t afford one. In order to practice, I would stay late at school or go to a friend’s house on the weekends to use a piano. I chanted about it and, mystically, my school purchased new pianos and gave the old ones to students. I even got the best one! This was my first benefit.
How did you develop your relationship with SGI President Ikeda?
Margarita: I continued to chant through high school, mainly about school, my personal dreams and boyfriend problems. I moved to Havana after graduating from high school to pursue my dream of becoming a professional singer, and that’s when reality set in. I was in a new city, where I struggled to make a living, lacked confidence and felt all alone. I questioned whether I could really make it in the music industry.
I chanted with the attitude, Yes, I will achieve my dream for the sake of kosen-rufu! I learned that with Sensei’s guidance and the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I have the ability to create hope in any situation.
I also didn’t understand the mentor-disciple relationship, thinking: Why would my mentor be someone I’ve never seen and who doesn’t speak my language? But as I continued to face many difficulties, I began deeply connecting to President Ikeda’s guidance. Through studying his writings, chanting and practicing for myself and others, I realized all the work that Sensei had done for me and all humanity. I decided to take him as my mentor in life and to travel the same path of kosen-rufu.
Sensei’s words also filled me with the hope and courage I needed to confidently pursue my dreams. I chanted with the attitude, Yes, I will achieve my dream for the sake of kosen-rufu! I learned that with Sensei’s guidance and the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I have the ability to create hope in any situation.
Today, I’m a singer for the well-known alternative funk-rock band “Qva Libre.” Everything changed when I decided that my mission was not just to be successful, but also to be a musician who could spread hope to many people. A song released by our band became a No. 1 single and received several awards, such as the Cuerda Viva 2015, Cuerda Viva 2012, Cuba Disco 2013 and best fusion album at the Lucas awards in 2014. These successes led me to connect with and inspire many young people. I owe all of my success to Sensei’s constant encouragement and the Gohonzon!
Congratulations! In 2014, you became SGI-Cuba’s young women’s leader. Can you share with us your experience in fulfilling this responsibility?
Margarita: I have been able to illuminate the true nature of my life through striving for kosen-rufu with my responsibility. In February 2014, at 21 years old, I was appointed the young women’s leader of SGI-Cuba and began to visit the young women’s division members throughout Havana and the country. While I had no experience with leadership and very little confidence, I knew I had to do it in order to respond to Sensei.
We do have serious problems with our transportation system, as buses are often not on schedule and overcrowded. As a result, we sometimes wait for the bus for several hours. In these moments, however, I think about what Sensei went through to encourage the members, and all of my small struggles to visit members or attend meetings become an exciting kosen-rufu adventure.
Before meeting with members, I always chant to know what will encourage them. Sometimes we need to study together, other times we need to have a heart-to-heart dialogue and let tears flow, and we always chant with determination together to refresh our vow to use our lives to achieve kosen-rufu by giving hope to everyone we meet.
In January of this year, SGI Vice President Hiromasa Ikeda visited Cuba, and my mother and I both received the “Soka Victory Award.” When our names were announced, we cried tears of appreciation. Every day, when I chant to the Gohonzon, I look at that medal and determine to create victories for kosen-rufu that are worthy of that medal.
I also have a photo of President and Mrs. Ikeda near my altar. When I look at their photo, they always have this encouraging expression for me. When I don’t reach my goal, they look at me from the photo and say, “Continue.” And when I reach my goal, they look at me and say, “Continue.”
I truly believe that my greatest benefit of faith is to have President Ikeda as my mentor in life. When I face difficulties, when I feel so defeated, immediately following that thought is: What would Sensei think? Twelve million people are chanting, so how can I stop? I will persevere! Thinking of Sensei allows me to get over my worries quickly, which helps me chant with gratitude for my life and mission.
How do you handle your responsibilities in the SGI with your booming music career?
Margarita: This is very difficult, because my job is very hectic. Every day I have a mountain of tasks for work. When I don’t have concerts to prepare for or perform, I have recording sessions, radio interviews or performances or other rehearsals and all the preparation that goes into them. To be honest, I can get very stressed. Thanks to my Buddhist practice and Sensei’s guidance, however, every day I decide to achieve it all and show through my own example the Soka Gakkai maxim, “In faith, do the work of one; in your job, do the work of three” (September 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 43).
Each moment is a challenge for me to believe that I can do everything, but over time, I see myself growing and becoming more capable. Sensei’s words always inspire me:
Our wisdom is essentially unlimited. It can make the impossible possible. And it arises from the firm resolve to achieve something. Earnest prayer is the mother of wisdom. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 17, p. 212)
No matter how much I’m struggling or how anxious I feel, Sensei always inspires me to never give up and to win no matter what. As I engage in SGI activities and my work, I am convinced that my mission is to provide a great example so that not just my titles or achievements, but my behavior will be a source of endless inspiration for young people who are suffering.
What is your vision for Cuba’s kosen-rufu movement?
Margarita: First, I have so much appreciation for our pioneers, who have developed a marvelous organization here in Cuba, with more than 1,000 strong members. I will continue exerting myself without rest so that many more Bodhisattvas of the Earth emerge who can protect the legacy of the SGI and contribute to world peace.
Each day, profound appreciation for Sensei fills my life and although I haven’t met him in person, I feel that I am always with him in spirit. Muchas gracias, Sensei!