My Springtime of Victory

How I transformed my poverty into a life of fortune through my dedicated efforts for kosen-rufu.


by Sue Ubolmataruksa

I moved to the U.S. in 1979 from Thailand with only $300 in my pocket. I made ends meet by washing dishes for 10 hours a day. I couldn’t understand why my life was so difficult. Each day I cried tears of hopelessness.

In my off-time, I studied for the nurse licensure exam to become a registered nurse. Because of my limited English, I spent hours looking up each word in the dictionary.

In 1982, I passed the nursing board exam on my first attempt, a feat that I thought impossible. After becoming a registered nurse, I immediately applied for my children to join me in the U.S.

Raising three kids alone while working 16 hours a day as a nurse wasn’t any easier. During this time, my mother, who had just been introduced to Nichiren Buddhism in Thailand, told me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to overcome my struggles. Although I was not introduced to the SGI until later, I started chanting on my own.

At the time, we lived in a dangerous part of Queens, New York. We were robbed at knifepoint, and my son had his lunch money stolen every day. My relatives would criticize us, saying that my children would grow up to be delinquents because I was always working.

I slowly saved up enough money, however, and we moved to the suburbs in Westchester. I had been chanting for a few years on my own by then, when, one day, my youngest daughter, Siri, came home from school and told me that her friend’s parents were Buddhist and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

I was so happy when I connected with the SGI, which taught me the importance of fighting for the happiness of others and building fortune through the causes I made for kosen-rufu. I was encouraged to become the protagonist of my own life and the sun that would illuminate my whole family.

We were still poor, but I took control of our situation and determined to transform our destiny. Even though we had a limited budget, I would always contribute financially to the SGI and make a special effort during the May Commemorative Contribution activity. My children didn’t always understand my actions since we had little disposable income, but they could see the change in me. I was becoming happier and more hopeful, and held deep appreciation for the constant encouragement of SGI President Ikeda and fellow members. I chanted with determination for my children’s happiness and future success. They all studied hard amid our difficult circumstances.

At work, I began applying what I learned at SGI activities—acting with utmost compassion toward my patients, which led me to win several awards for exceptional care. For 15 of my 25 years as a nurse, I worked 16-hour days, but I never failed to do gongyo twice a day. My goal was to retire early by age 60. With this determination, I reflected on my efforts for kosen-rufu and how much I had gained through this practice. I decided to increase the amount I was financially contributing each year.

I could see the fortune from my Buddhist practice in the lives of my children who went on to build wonderful lives that were the complete opposite of what my relatives had predicted. My son graduated from an Ivy League university and now works as an international executive for a major corporation. More than that, he is a wonderful father and husband, a true mark of the transformation of our family.

My oldest daughter also graduated from an Ivy League university and has a beautiful family. For many years, she allowed me to host SGI activities at her home. Her husband, although not a practicing member of the SGI, would sincerely support and do things like bake muffins for the members.

My youngest daughter, Siri, is a women’s district leader and is also a loving, working mother. She began practicing Buddhism in college and has since developed a career path filled with absolute victory. Each year her income has increased. Even after her franchise closed, she received a large severance and was offered multiple jobs with even higher salaries. She also sees her fortune from financially contributing to the SGI and has shared that she increases the amount each year based on her appreciation for the SGI.

In fact, all my children contribute to the SGI. For birthdays and holidays, I ask them to make a financial contribution to the SGI instead of giving me gifts, which they all happily do. It’s my way of ensuring that they create a foundation of fortune in their lives.

Just as I had set out to do, I retired at 60 and have been enjoying retirement for the past 13 years. As a member care advisor for Scarsdale District, I’m always on the move, encouraging and chanting with our youth. I have placed on my altar the names of all the youth in our district. Each day, I chant that they will become Lions of Justice, receive tremendous benefit and become golden pillars for the expansion of kosen-rufu.

I no longer cry tears of hopelessness, only tears of joy. I truly understand the meaning of Nichiren Daishonin’s words “Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 536) and, “Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other” (WND-1, 1001).

I will continue advancing kosen-rufu for the rest of my life as a proud SGI member and ceaselessly build a family that overflows with fortune.