Experience

Superheroes Do Exist

And now Falcon Sang is one of them.

by Falcon Sang
LOS ANGELES

When I was young, I only wanted to be one thing: a superhero.

And it wasn’t just because of the capes, the super strength or the invincibility. I was far more intrigued by the sheer selflessness displayed in comics, television and movies by heroes who were supremely powerful, yet unconditionally benevolent. Growing up in a neighborhood full of violence and then watching on Sept. 11 planes tear a hole through American hearts and ideals, I wanted nothing more than to be the strong figure that people could depend on.

So, I tried everything . . .

At 16 years old, I walked around my high school condemning “sinners” and trying to show them the path of righteousness.

I became my track team’s captain and sang with the chamber choir to try and inspire as many people as I could. I even joined my city’s police department as a cadet, and decided I would chase down the criminals myself. After high school, I nearly enlisted in the U.S. Marines, fully aware that my dreams of an entertainment career would have to wait so that I could save the world.

After years of these efforts and beyond, I was left with one conclusion: superheroes do not exist.

People in my neighborhood were still dying, I was distanced from my family, and I could not understand why I had to work twice as hard as my peers to get half as far in my career. Despite my efforts, death and sadness continued to surround me and the people I cared about. I had given all of myself to everyone else, and had nothing left for me.

Anger boiled inside of me. I broke my knuckles on concrete surfaces and put holes in the walls of nearly every place I lived.

I had become lonely and isolated. I felt as if no one understood the mission that I had dedicated myself to, and I couldn’t understand why no one else was on this mission with me.

Anger, frustration and loneliness festered into a dark cloud of depression. As I saw more death and heartbreak, I began to have suicidal thoughts.

A low point came when, one night in March 2016, I stood in my kitchen with a knife to my wrist, trying to convince myself that I was not worthless. A few weeks later, I met an SGI member. A dying pigeon had made its way to our office door, and we took it upon ourselves to care for whatever life it had left. We made a comfortable resting place for the bird out of cardboard and paper towels. She leaned over and began muttering something under her breath. This was the first time I had heard the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Confused, I asked her what she was doing.

“Chanting,” she said. “Would you like to try it?”

“Nah, I’m good,” I said, skeptically. I had no idea what she was doing, but I had a vague feeling of warmth toward whatever it was.

Suddenly, I had a name, direction and philosophy for the ideals I had carried with me my entire life.

Over the course of the day, my co-worker explained Buddhism to me as we checked in frequently on our dying friend. At the end of the night, our pigeon passed on and we buried him, cardboard headstone and all.

I told her that I’ve always wanted to save the world. She said, “We call that kosen-rufu.”

“Well, I just really want to help others,” I replied. She said, “That’s called shakubuku!”

I shared that I believe everything happens for a reason. She said, “That’s called the Mystic Law!”

My interest was piqued.

I attended an intro-to-Buddhism meeting and observed the most diverse group of people I had ever seen gathered in one place. Suddenly, I had a name, direction and philosophy for the ideals I had carried with me my entire life. Additionally, there were 12 million other people who also believed in what I believe in! I had to learn more.

I received the Gohonzon on April 27. I can best describe finding this practice this way: My entire life, I had been walking around with a car key, not knowing which car it belonged to. And I spent my life trying to start up a different car every day with the same key. When I received the Gohonzon, it was like finding out that the key I possessed this whole time actually belonged to the most beautiful and remarkably powerful sports car, and starting the engine was everything I had dreamed it would be.

SGI President Ikeda says, “Only when you thoroughly polish your life does your true self become manifest, and the diamondlike brilliance of your individuality shines forth from the depths of your being” (www.ikedaquotes.org). My faith in the Gohonzon gave me every tool I needed to become the superhero I had always wanted to be.

Since receiving the Gohonzon, my life has moved in a powerful new direction: I have transformed old relationships, fostered beautiful new friendships, gained the interest of a major record label and recently took responsibility as a district young men’s leader. My mission has never been clearer.

Most important, I learned the greatest lesson of all: Superheroes do exist! They are called SGI members.

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