In Control of My Own Happiness
Sarah Bishop on her journey towards SGI-USA’s gathering of 50,000 youth in 2018.
by Sarah Bishop
When I was first introduced to Nichiren Buddhism in 2010, I was genuinely interested in the practice but was afraid of the repercussions from my very religious family.
In May 2012, my dad passed away suddenly from a stroke and heart attack, and the next year, I lost my mother to lung cancer. Months before my mother’s passing, I received the Gohonzon after realizing that I didn’t need to rely on a higher power outside myself, because I already have the Buddha nature within.
During my mother’s final days, I was able to move home and take care of her, even though we were not on the best of terms. As she fought for each breath, we established a turmoil-free relationship, which I will always be grateful for.
After her passing, though, my life became a blur. I struggled with anxiety attacks and severe depression. I kept moving from place to place, getting into arguments with friends and being forced to leave each time. I was in the same situation over and over again. At one point, I contemplated suicide; I wanted to die rather than face my life.
I was fighting a war inside. At times, I would go to meetings and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo every day. At other times, I would stop. This went on for nearly two years. I would always chant for something when I needed it desperately, but once I saw results, I didn’t feel the need to keep practicing. Instead, I chose to find comfort and happiness by partying and drinking. I thought that if I was sad, then it was OK for me to drink away my worries.
Ultimately, the poor decisions I made stemmed from the belief that I didn’t deserve better.
Earlier this year, a friend and fellow SGI member asked if I wanted to join a young women’s Ikeda Kayo-kai study group. I gladly accepted because I wanted hope.
We read volume 1 of SGI President Ikeda’s novel The New Human Revolution. In one scene, a Japanese woman, unhappy in the U.S., wanted to return to Japan. President Ikeda told her that unless she changed her karma, her problems would follow her wherever she went.
This point deeply struck my life, because I desperately wanted to run away from my problems. He also said, “If you seriously exert yourself in faith, then you will not fail to become happy”(p. 39).
I took these words to heart and began chanting to develop my life. It’s easier to blame someone or something for our problems, but through this practice, I have come to realize that I am responsible for my actions, and have complete control over my own destiny and karma. For the first time in a long time, I actually have hope for a bright future and a better Sarah.
I am chanting to the Gohonzon each day to transform my relationships with friends and family, and I’m consistently attending SGI activities. I now have a stable living situation, and I am determined to return to school in the fall, find a job that will support me and help create a district in Lebanon, Pennsylvania (where I live).
Toward our gathering of 50,000 youth in 2018, I want to share Buddhism with as many young people as I can, so that they can change and become happy, too!