Building a Life of Infinite Benefit

How Siraput Jongaramrungruang is transforming the destiny of his family through shakubuku and registration toward 50K!

Siraput Jongaramrungruang (center), joined by his mother, Duangporn Samritpakdee, and father, Nat Jongaramrungruang, celebrating the completion of his master’s degree at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., June 15. Photo by Debra Williams.

by Siraput Jongaramrungruang

Growing up poor in Bangkok, Thailand, I determined to get my family out of poverty and make my mom the happiest woman in the world. She would apologize that I didn’t have my own room to study in or that we didn’t have air conditioning to stay cool in the sweltering Thai summers. When my school was far away, she would walk two miles with me every day to catch the bus. Based on her practice of Nichiren Buddhism with the SGI, she always expressed her infinite hope for my future.

I studied assiduously, and in 2011, I won a scholarship to attend the University of Cambridge in the U.K. The more I struggled there, the more seriously I threw myself into chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and participating in SGI activities. Five years later, I was accepted to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental science at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, one of the world’s premier universities.

When I arrived in the U.S., I learned that SGI President Ikeda had written encouragement to members around the world, saying, “Please promise with me to work hard over the next two years with our fellow members around the world to expand our network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and forge ahead with energy, wisdom and good cheer to make the triumph of mentor and disciple resound into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law” (Oct. 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 3). I immediately felt that my mission in America was much bigger than just my studies. I wanted to grow and learn how to fight as a disciple of President Ikeda in the U.S., especially toward the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival.

Until that point, I had never helped a friend begin their own Buddhist practice, but I trusted Sensei’s words when he said: “The act of telling someone about the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is supremely noble; it creates the necessary condition for that person to attain enlightenment. Therefore, the benefit of doing shakubuku is infinite” (The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 3, p. 139). I was determined to build immeasurable benefit for my family and me.

At school, I typically ate lunch alone, but with a renewed determination, I decided to talk to someone each day. My favorite line to my peers was, “What do you like to do on the weekends?” because they would inevitably ask me the same question, giving me the opportunity to proudly talk about the SGI!

My efforts in shakubuku and registration are helping me rid the fear and cowardice in my heart.

At the end of that year, I attended an academic conference in San Francisco, where I reunited with a friend from high school named Tee. He is a very disciplined, accomplished and happy person, but as we spoke, I strongly felt that he was searching for the deeper meaning of life. I waged an inner battle in that moment—whether I would be silent or speak about my belief in Buddhism—and my courage won! Through our talk, I felt that I was opening up the hidden treasure in his heart. I kept chanting for Tee every day, envisioning that he would one day receive the Gohonzon and become a great disciple of Sensei, who would exceed my own capability and play a key role for kosen-rufu.

I was completely blown away when, two months later, Tee received the Gohonzon! Since then, he secured a great job in the heart of Silicon Valley, reconnected with his parents on a deeper level and helped five friends receive the Gohonzon. Today, he is the Silicon Valley Region young men’s leader.

Since 2016, I’ve helped four friends receive the Gohonzon. They are all registered for 50K and standing up for kosen-rufu; one is a region leader, another is a district leader, and two others are unit leaders.

Recently I was encouraged by SGI Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa’s guidance on how to win toward 50K (see June 15, 2018, World Tribune, pp. 6–8). Based on his encouragement to make a list of all of the youth we have personal connections with and to reach out to them without hesitation, I thought about the friends that I have made since my first day in graduate school. My list now includes 50 youth, with more than 20 of them having already registered.

Despite a packed schedule each day and the challenges of my ongoing Ph.D. work, I speak to my friends who’ve joined the SGI at least once a week to help them deepen their understanding of the practice.

My efforts in shakubuku and registration are helping me rid the fear and cowardice in my heart, and become more genuine and courageous in caring for others and in enabling everyone to encounter this philosophy of human revolution.

This past semester, amid an intense battle to win in every aspect of my life, I was awarded the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship to fund my doctoral research. This prestigious fellowship funds projects that advance “knowledge of Earth as a system to meet the challenges of environmental change and to improve life on our planet.” I have no doubt that I’ve received this as a benefit accrued through my all-out efforts toward 50K.

Through my work as a scientist, I want to promote societal values that respect and treasure life.

Today, I tell my mother not to apologize for what she couldn’t provide for me as a child because, in fact, she gave me the greatest treasures in the universe—the Gohonzon, my mentor and my friends in faith.

(p. 5)