Becoming the Sun of My Family
Jenny Ye discovers how developing compassion for her father is the key to bringing her family together.
by Jenny Ye
As a third-generation SGI member from South Korea, I understood from an early age that my grandparents and mother practiced Buddhism to develop fortune and happiness for our family. But the reality was, I felt far from fortunate.
When I was just 3 years old, my father lost his job. This was the start of six years of unemployment that tore our family apart.
My father turned to drinking to cope, and from that point on, I have many memories of him yelling at my mother and blaming her Buddhist practice for our family problems. One night, he became so drunk that he threw out all our SGI publications while demanding that she stop practicing.
My mother safeguarded the Gohonzon at the local SGI center in South Korea. Returning home from school, I was always filled with anxiety not knowing whether my dad had been drinking. Our entire family atmosphere would change depending on his mood. As the oldest sibling, I grew fearful and submissive.
Throughout everything, my mother remained resilient in her faith. Every time she chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, she would become bright and strong. It was through her that I began to see the power of Buddhism to give people hope and courage during the most difficult times.
As I prepared for high school, I decided to test the power of the practice by chanting to get into a competitive international boarding school in the nation’s capital, Seoul. Amazingly, I got in!
I left the countryside to start my new life in the big city. I did well in school and felt on top of the world—until it was time to apply for universities. After learning that I hadn’t been accepted to any of my choices, I felt frustrated and betrayed by my Buddhist practice.
To make matters worse, my father decided to take complete control of my education and forced me to attend his alma mater in our small hometown. He even selected my major, elementary education.
The circumstances I had once resented turned out to be the exact conditions necessary for my life to blossom.
When most students begin their university education, they are full of hope and excitement, but I was full of anger. I went for guidance, crying to my leader that I did not understand why I was so unhappy even though I was doing my best. She related an analogy from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings about developing strong roots like a mighty tree that can withstand any fierce wind. It became clear to me that I could not blame my environment for my unhappiness. I had to become strong-hearted.
One way I was encouraged to build such an indestructible self was through taking on SGI leadership to support members in faith. I also introduced Buddhism to others and chanted abundantly every day to reveal the power of my life.
I could feel myself gradually changing. I naturally felt brighter and more powerful, and all my struggles started to take on real meaning. I began to understand the lives of other young people— some who worked overnight while going to school, and others who had physical disabilities or who had to give up their education to support their families. Throwing myself into SGI activities opened my eyes and heart to a dynamic world full of people challenging their own unique circumstances. This made me appreciate my own situation.
Arriving home at night after Buddhist activities, I would greet my father with a high life condition, just like I did with SGI members. As I reflected on his difficult upbringing—from being raised in a poor family with a sick father and having to assume responsibility for his siblings as a youth himself—I felt so much appreciation for everything he had done for our family. And after years of resenting him, I began to see my father as an individual rather than an authority figure.
We became closer and even started to go mountain climbing together on the weekends. I finally felt I was living SGI President Ikeda’s encouragement to become the “sun” of the family. It was during this time, two years ago, that my father decided to allow the Gohonzon back into our home. It was a moment 20 years in the making.
With newfound courage, I chanted to create the most value with my education. I decided to pursue a study abroad program in 2015 at the University of Nebraska Omaha. I determined to open the way for kosen-rufu in Nebraska, so that I could show my appreciation to Sensei. Through this prayer, I started an SGI student campus club, where we held intro-to- Buddhism meetings and helped one young man join the SGI!
After solidifying that my mission for kosen-rufu would be here in the United States, I was accepted last year to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I changed my major to the field of
computer science with hopes of closing the gap between technology and its implementation in the classroom. This time, I had my father’s full support. We are closer than ever now, and he even sends me text messages, saying, “Thank you my daughter” with cute emojis!
When I graduate from school next year, around the time of the “50,000 Lions of Justice” gathering, I am determined to bring my father to an SGI meeting in Madison and have secured a job in the U.S.
As the new Wisconsin Region young women’s leader, I want to unite with all the members to reach out to many young people in Wisconsin and awaken them to the greatness of their own lives through this practice. By next year, I am personally determined to help 10 students begin practicing SGI Nichiren Buddhism.
Looking back, if I hadn’t been rejected from those universities after high school, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to create the relationship I now have with my father or awaken to my mission to fight for kosen-rufu. I don’t think I would have understood the power of my life or the Gohonzon. The circumstances I had once resented turned out to be the exact conditions necessary for my life to blossom.