My Life Is the Foremost Treasure of All!

How Dion Kohl turned his abuse and abandonment into a source for valuing his own life.

Dion Kohl, at the LaBrea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Debra Williams

by Dion Kohl

One morning in 2014, my partner left for work and drained our bank accounts, charged lavish items under my name and left me in heavy debt. I never saw or heard from him again.

Unemployed at the time, it wasn’t long before I was evicted from my home. I would cry myself to sleep, reliving the abuse and abandonment I experienced as a child—going in and out of countless foster homes.

I had climbed my way out of poverty and built a life of my own, so why was I here again? Hopeless and despondent, I was ready to give up on life when a courageous bodhisattva approached me. She confidently told me that I could transform my life through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Over the next several months, I developed a friendship with this woman and participated in many SGI-USA meetings with her. I discovered the writings of SGI President Ikeda and gained hope through his encouragement, including this passage:

The poet Percy Shelley wrote, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” No matter how the cold, bleak days of winter may continue, winter always turns to spring. This is the Law of the universe and the Law
of life. Similarly, even in the most painful winters of adversity in our own lives, we must never abandon hope. As long as we hold on to hope, spring is sure to come. (May 27, 2011, World Tribune, Special Insert, p. F)

With newfound determination, I chanted to find affordable housing and reconnect with the biological family that I was taken away from when I was 3.

Through Facebook, I found a relative whom I hadn’t seen in 14 years. I told her that I was living
in a six-bedroom house with 30 people, which for me was a benefit at the time. She didn’t see the benefit and invited me to live with her and her family in the South. I took the opportunity to bring closure to some unresolved family issues.

When I recognized that my environment was turning toxic again, I did something that I was never able to
do before encountering Buddhism: I walked away peacefully. Through chanting, I could see already that the direction of my life was shifting on a fundamental level.

Once I returned to Los Angeles and found housing, I immediately got reconnected with the SGI and received the Gohonzon on July 11, 2017!

I also had the honor of being appointed a unit leader two weeks later. Together with my young men’s leaders, I studied Buddhism and went on home visits. I shared my life experiences when I could and listened to the struggles of my peers. Doing these activities brought me genuine joy that I hadn’t experienced before. I was learning not only to practice Buddhism for myself, but also to help others. Fellow SGI members became the supportive family that I had always looked for. We fostered bonds based on our shared commitment to see one another break through challenges and win! This was in total contrast to the nature of my relationships in the past.

Until I joined the SGI, I hadn’t received treatment for a lifelong neurological disorder. Shortly after becoming a unit leader, I received a phone call from my doctor, who told me that I had been approved to see a neurologist and would be receiving medication that I had sought out eight years before. Today, I’m finally receiving the treatment I feel that I deserve. In fact, the more I learn to respect my own life, the more my environment responds in like manner.

Last September, I was still seeking employment to no avail. I received guidance from a senior in faith who insisted that if I truly wanted to break through the barriers that were preventing me from achieving my employment goals, I needed to believe in the absolute power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and fight for my dreams. He challenged me to take my goal to the Gohonzon and chant about it. In that moment, I tucked my hands into my pockets and felt the crinkled presence of my life savings—a $20 bill. I made the determination to make the impossible possible and start my own business. In a huge turn of events, the following week I reconnected with an old friend who granted me financial support to start my online business. And that’s exactly what I did in December.

Although it’s an ongoing challenge, my online clothing business is running. For the first time in my life, I’m in a safe, healthy living environment, and I have real hope that my health will only get better.

To add to my excitement, I was recently given the opportunity to become a district young men’s leader! I am determined to raise 12 new members by the summer and bring 15 young men to the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival on Sept. 23.

To me, our gathering of 50,000 Lions of Justice is 50,000 opportunities to transform society and make an impact on the future of our country. That’s 50,000 brothers and sisters who are committed to achieving kosen-rufu!

Through aligning my personal life with the advancement of kosen-rufu, I will continue to share the practice of Nichiren Buddhism and the courageous spirit of the SGI and Sensei, which have allowed me to see that my life is the foremost treasure of all!

(p. 5)