The Surest Path Forward

How I learned that no matter how slim the window is to create value, I should always take it.

Confident: Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo moments after he and his best friend were stabbed by three men, Gage Brown recognized the opportunity to change his karma of attracting violence to his life. Through this experience, Gage has deepened his conviction that doing right, based on his vow, advances kosen-rufu. Photo: Debra Williams

by Gage Brown
Los Angeles

As a teenager, I had been invited to 42 funerals, 24 of them in one year. I even had a friend blown away right in front of me for a careless mistake.

At 17, thanks to my mother’s encouragement, I began to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and attend SGI activities on my own, which helped me realize my self-worth and power to do good. I got into the music and film business with my closest friends. In fact, more than 10 years later, we’re still pushing forward, working with notable artists and producers.

For a while, because of my personal and professional development, I thought I had closed this violent chapter in my life. But I still had some learning to do when it came to winning over myself.

On Feb. 16, I went to a private event in Hollywood with my friends and business associates. After a great night out, a group of us were walking to our car when we were almost hit by a truck. I let the driver know to watch out; otherwise we would’ve been hit. He responded, “What?!” and I repeated myself.

Before I knew it, three men hopped out of the vehicle and stabbed my best friend
and me. I wasn’t even aware I had been stabbed in my back rib until the paramedics arrived. I was too focused on making sure my best friend was OK after he was stabbed four times. For a moment, I felt intense anger. That’s when a couple of cars full of my friends pulled up and asked me what I wanted to do.

There are many situations in society that make me angry—racism and violence among them. But because of SGI President Ikeda’s guidance and example, and the outstanding humanism of the SGI, I’ve learned that how I use this emotion dictates whether I build or destroy value in my life.

In A Youthful Diary, a book that made me realize how much I have in common with Sensei, he writes: “We must strive with the courage to confront and break through society’s corruption and guile. Then our path will surely open a step further, and our minds will be purified of regrets” (p. 58).

In that crucial moment, I knew I could either retaliate or take a brave new step. I started chanting under my breath and felt my life condition skyrocket. I cracked a smile and said to my friends, “Meet me at the hospital.” From there I felt nothing but gratitude, because the incident taught me a lesson that I never could have learned on my own.

In the ambulance, I chanted to change my karma of attracting this poisonous pattern of violence to my life. In doing so, I shifted the negative impulse in my heart to seek retaliation, the type of retaliation that cripples our communities daily and fuels the escalation of violence.

I also chanted for those lost young men to have a shift in their own hearts; I wished for them to meet my mentor in life and practice this Buddhism so that they could see the value and dignity of their own lives. They, too, deserve to create for themselves the heart of a lion—a Lion of Justice—and become a force for good.

I also realized that even though I responded to the men in the truck in a manner that was nonthreatening, the smallest amount of ego was still present in my life and turned the situation violent. I didn’t have to repeat myself when prompted. There was nothing to prove in that moment. No matter how slim the window is to create value, I should always take it.

While in the emergency room, I learned that the stab wound was 1 centimeter away from my lungs. Somehow, my friend and I were fully protected by the people in our environment, and we are both on the road to a full recovery.

The love I received from my family, friends and SGI members brought so much appreciation to my heart. It made certain problems look so small after I realized my profound mission to help others.

Toward our 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, it’s my vow to be an example for youth everywhere to always strive to be the best that they can be. I want the youth of America to know that the SGI is not too good to be true—that our movement can break the cycle that “hurt people hurt people.” There is a place where you can rebuild trust for others and a way to win over your own weaknesses by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and teaching others to do the same. That’s why I’m determined to bring 10 friends to the Lions of Justice Festival!

A few weeks after the incident, my story ran on the local NBC Los Angeles news affiliate. I used the opportunity to convey my message of love and personal responsibility, inspired by my chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That video has reached more than 5.1 million viewers around the world.

Through it all, I’ve deepened my conviction that I must always be the solution—and not the problem or victim—to society’s ills. This practice has taught me that being right never brings about peace. But doing right, based on my vow, advances kosen-rufu—and that is the surest path forward.