Standing Up for the Dignity of Life
How Sonia Schmidt learned that her efforts for kosen-rufu and achieving her dreams were one and the same.
by Sonia Schmidt
It amazes me how much both my inner and outer life have changed since I received the Gohonzon on July 21, 2014. Before, I was always seeking the approval of others and didn’t know what my path was. But since practicing this Buddhism, I am learning to trust my life and move toward my dreams with unshakable conviction.
I was born and raised in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I grew up in a fairly typical middle-class Swiss family. Though we didn’t lack for anything material, I would often hear my parents talk about money and it became a source of anxiety. As I grew up, we became increasingly distant, and I became estranged from my father.
I was the first member of my family to graduate from university and then, following my parents’ wishes, I obtained a master’s degree in law. But my true passion is music.
In 2012, I mustered the courage to quit my job in civil court to pursue my dream in Los Angeles. Before I left, I reassured my worried friends and family members that even though I didn’t exactly know how I would make it happen, I was determined to work in the music field.
My first year in L.A. was tough as I struggled to earn a living and adjust to life in a large American city. I began to doubt whether I had made the right choice leaving everything behind. But soon enough, I started making friends, and many were musicians. One of them introduced me to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the SGI. I had been trying to build some kind of belief system for myself, and I had a view of the Mystic Law without knowing it. When I was introduced to this awesome philosophy, everything seemed to fall into place.
One of my young women’s leaders suggested I write and perform a song for a chapter meeting. I chanted abundantly, and found myself able to pen, and perform, my very first song. As I took on responsibility as a district young women’s leader in the SGI-USA, I determined to make music my life. Before I had started chanting, I didn’t know it could be possible for me to be a musician, but after I started chanting, I realized that there was no other way.
I believe that the more people I introduce to this practice, the happier I am in my own life. SGI President Ikeda says: “We cannot be truly happy while others remain miserable. Nor is the misery of another that person’s alone. The more happiness we bring to others, the happier we ourselves become. As long as one unhappy person remains, our own happiness cannot be complete” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, p. 189). I chanted fiercely to overcome my limitations and to be able to share Buddhism with an even more open heart, chanting especially for my family back home.
A friend in Switzerland, whom I had introduced to SGI Buddhism, received the Gohonzon, as well as two friends in L.A. At the same time, my music was taking off. This was the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I determined to transform my ongoing financial insecurity along with my music career, and started making monthly contributions to the SGI even though my finances were tight, out of my appreciation for having encountered this practice.
I released my first song, which was promoted on a variety of music blogs. Unfortunately, that was still not enough to file for an artist visa and stay in the country. Not defeated in the least, I redoubled my efforts to support new members and soon after that, with the help of some friends, I filed for a visa on the last day of the deadline.
It became clear to me that there was no separation between my efforts for kosen-rufu within the organization and my efforts to achieve my dream. Every time I introduced a friend to Buddhism, or supported SGI activities, did home visits, or spent time sincerely chanting or studying, another part of my life would open up.
After attending an extraordinary SGI training course in Japan, I returned to Switzerland this past winter. I had come to understand, through chanting to the Gohonzon, that my deep-rooted lack of confidence in my own worth was directly connected to family karma, and I was determined to change this.
I was invited to play an acoustic set on Swiss television for a music show, which both validated my career choice and made me feel empowered. Spending time with my parents was challenging. But I realized that, because I had chanted so much for my family’s happiness, the Mystic Law was presenting me with the perfect circumstances to expand my courage, wisdom and compassion, and to do my human revolution. I took full responsibility in establishing a sincere communication with both of my parents. I opened up to my mom for the first time about my career choices and had an amazing heart-to-heart conversation with my dad. We decided to stay in close contact, to establish a continuous dialogue and to have a better understanding of each other.
Now I see how far I have come in such a short time. In December, I was appointed the young women’s leader for L.A. Sunshine Zone, joyfully fulfilling my vow to be part of the American kosen-rufu movement. I am now able to experience a high life condition during any struggle and feel happiness in the depths of my life.
I’m writing songs with more regularity now. I’ve sponsored seven people to receive the Gohonzon and am determined to introduce another 20 to this practice in the next year, as we build a movement of 50,000 youth who will gather in 2018 to stand up for the dignity of life. My mission is to win no matter what for kosen-rufu, to believe in my own limitless potential and to encourage the young women in my zone to do the same.
We really do live in the saha world; there’s so much suffering out there. That’s why I think that kosen-rufu is the only answer to our societal problems. We all need to respect the dignity of our own lives.