Experience

My Life Has Purpose Now

"Life is a battle, but it no longer scares me. I am a Bodhisattva of the Earth."

Optimistic— “Because I have forged inner confidence and respect for myself, my environment now mirrors this change,” says Hanie Farah. As the newly appointed young women’s leader for Greater Northwest Minneapolis Chapter, Ms. Farah vows to spread more hope in the world and help many other young women do the same. Photo: Val Bourassa.


by Hanie Farah
MINNEAPOLIS

When I was 3 years old, my mother and I left Malawi in southeast Africa to search for better opportunities in the U.S. A year later, my beloved grandfather passed away back home, and my life took a drastic turn.

For one thing, my mother, reeling from her father’s death, became emotionally and physically abusive. In what was once a happy home, I became neglected and left vulnerable to the attacks of others, including sexual assault. I was also constantly bullied and beaten up at school. The world felt confusing to me; I didn’t understand why people were so unkind.

My only escape was reading books and watching TV shows about heroes saving the world. They never gave up and persevered against all odds. It gave me hope for my own future.

I just knew there had to be more to life than endless suffering, so I dabbled in various religious practices but nothing stuck. In July 2016, during my second year of college, a roommate introduced me to her Buddhist practice with such a sparkle in her eyes that I agreed to attend an intro-to-Buddhism meeting. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on and off and studied Buddhism a little, but I didn’t take the practice seriously.

Everything came to a head in December 2016, when I began having suicidal thoughts. I was trying so hard but was not seeing any forward momentum.

I was tired of living. I decided I had nothing to lose and started chanting more consistently and attending every SGI activity that I could. Each time I did, I noticed that I became a happier Hanie, so when I was asked whether I was interested in becoming an SGI member, I immediately responded, “Yes!”

I received the Gohonzon on Feb. 25, 2017. After two months of chanting, studying and participating in SGI meetings, I started to respect myself more. One morning, as I was riding the city bus, I had a thought: My life has such purpose now.

I was, however, hesitant to tell my mother about my Buddhist practice, particularly because she practices another faith. Every day, I would chant to have the courage to share with her about Nichiren Buddhism, and that she would accept it in a peaceful and harmonious way.

As my life began to grow and expand, my mother was taking notice. After I participated in a young women’s meeting last July, my mother said that she was proud of me. She then asked for my forgiveness for the past. It was a beautiful moment between mother and daughter.

Seizing the moment, I told her that the root of my transformation was Buddhism. I showed her a picture of SGI President Ikeda, and explained who he was and how his encouragement had deeply inspired me. When she expressed that she would love me no matter what, my fears were instantly washed away. My mother even came to an intro meeting with me two days later, where she praised everyone’s positivity.

The sufferings I endured
enabled me to transform
myself and give
back to others.

My relationship with my mother has since blossomed. Because I have forged inner confidence and respect for myself, my environment now mirrors this change. My mother no longer abuses me or my younger siblings. It makes me very happy to know that my 7-year-old sister will have a happier childhood than I had. The other day she told me, “I’m so glad to have you as my older sister,” as she gazed up at me with her beautiful big brown eyes. I know that I am changing the destiny of my family for the better.

I have only been a member for less than a year, yet I feel like such a different person. There have been many times when I wanted to give up, but I now have an incredible tool at my disposal to transform the poison in my life into medicine. Life is a battle, but it no longer scares me. I am a Bodhisattva of the Earth. I’ve awakened to the fact that because I went through so many struggles, I’m more empathetic and can understand people from myriad ways. The sufferings I endured enabled me to transform myself and give back to others.

And I was able to do just that when my dear friend Jasper, who has faced similar struggles, decided to receive the Gohonzon and join the SGI on Sept. 3, 2017! Today, my friend is enjoying life more than ever.

Every morning, I deeply contemplate my life in front of the Gohonzon. I’m not just a pebble tossed around by the waves of life anymore. Thinking seriously about my future, I’ve decided to become an English teacher so that I can use my own experiences to help young students and also share my passion for reading and writing.

As a newly appointed young women’s chapter leader for Greater Northwest Minneapolis Chapter, I vow that toward our 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival on Sept. 23, I will share Buddhism with others like never before, starting with the person in front of me. I will spread more hope in this world and help many young women emerge in the chapter. I feel the state of the world is in the hands of the youth!

 

(p. 5)