Experience

Summoning Forth My Great Potential

How Jesus Jimenez learned the meaning of true strength from his SGI brothers.

Photo: Bob Nardi.


by Jesus Jimenez
MIDLOTHIAN, ILL.

The day my sister Lindsey was introduced to SGI Nichiren Buddhism, she called me to apologize for the way she had treated me growing up. I was 16 at the time and hadn’t seen or spoken to her in years.

She sounded so different that I didn’t recognize who she was. “If you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” Lindsey told me, “you can make the impossible happen.” Stunned but intrigued, I began
chanting that day and felt something powerful begin to shift inside.

More than anything, I chanted for family unity. My parents worked long hours when we were kids, and it became Lindsey’s responsibility to watch over the younger siblings. Out of 10 children, she was the sixth, and I was the youngest. She was tough on us, but so was our environment.

We grew up in a trailer park south of Chicago, where fights and gunfire were part of life. We even faced threats of kidnapping from organ traffickers. Because of my environment, I learned to be tough, and my biggest fear was to show my feelings and appear weak.

In 2009, a few days after turning 18, I received the Gohonzon, with the dream of fueling my family’s transformation. As I learned about the humanistic principles of Buddhism, I began to reflect on my relationship with my sister Jennifer, who is closest in age to me. I saw how rocky our connection had become.

I felt incredible appreciation to be part
of an organization in which young men
could genuinely care for one another
and build true friendships.

For months I chanted for her to change, not seeing that our unity would start with my determination. Then, one night, I woke up in tears, realizing my role in our distant relationship. Right then and there, at 3 a.m., I mustered the courage to call her and sincerely apologize for how I had treated her. It did not come easily to me, but I meant it from the bottom of my heart.

Jennifer told me that she had noticed a big change in me since I started my Buddhist practice, and two months later, she received the Gohonzon. I will never forget what she told me at the time, “Since this practice did wonders for you, I know it’s going to work for me.”

I am so appreciative of my young men’s leaders who were determined that I would experience the benefits of this Buddhism. With their care and support, I learned the spirit to care for others and took on responsibility as a young men’s leader. I began visiting other young men, which has taught me how to pull compassion from my own life and reach others who are suffering.

This extended to my own family. Earlier this year, I introduced my niece Nancy to Buddhism, and before I knew it Nancy, Jennifer and I were chanting together. Not long after, Nancy received the Gohonzon! She is 23 years old, and I’m so proud that she will be among the 50,000 Lions of Justice who will gather next year to stand up for the dignity of life.

One of my biggest benefits has been learning to open my heart to others. After the Gohonzon conferral ceremony for my niece, I was with my young men’s leaders when something unexpected happened: I fainted and hit my head. When I came to my senses, I was embarrassed, feeling that I looked weak in front of my fellow SGI brothers. Their response, however, solidified my trust in the SGI.

They immediately brought me to the hospital, where another young man from the SGI joined us. I felt incredible appreciation to be part of an organization in which young men could genuinely care for one another and build true friendships.

After being released from the hospital, more unexpected health challenges came my way. I began suffering from anxiety and night sweats. In June, I attended the young men’s conference at the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center and determined to break through in front of the Gohonzon.

I challenged myself in various ways during the conference. Although terrified, I supported the person leading gongyo by chanting on the microphone. My heart raced and tears filled my eyes, but with each struggle, I felt that I was developing the strength to overcome my fears.

During a whiffle ball game, I felt an attack coming on when I was at bat. But then something suddenly snapped inside me, and I started laughing. The laughter came from knowing that I had the power to conquer all the fear that was in my life, and that any fear would be replaced with courage that was 10 times as strong. At that moment, I won over myself.

SGI President Ikeda writes: “Of crucial importance . . . are the words ‘summon up.’ Each person inherently possesses the heart of a lion king. Summoning it forth is the direct path to
happiness. When he [Nichiren Daishonin] says, ‘Nichiren’s followers are like roaring lions,’ he is indicating that the roar of the lion enables us to bring forth the heart of a lion king in our own lives. This is the path whereby the disciple becomes one with the mentor, and the lion’s cub becomes a lion king” (May– June 2011 Living Buddhism, p. 90).

For so long, I had pushed others away and lived in fear of not appearing “strong,” but Sensei has taught me that true strength lies in opening up my life, reaching out to others and living with the courage to transform myself first.

Because I’m challenging my human revolution, my family is changing too. A family that was once kept in line by force is now full of love and support.

I was recently appointed the Illiana Region young men’s leader, and toward our 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival in 2018, I know my mission is to introduce many more young people to this great practice and to President Ikeda. Then together with all of them, we will summon forth the heart of a lion king in our own lives.

 

(p. 5)