“I’m So Excited About Life”
How I embraced Nichiren Buddhism at 65 and transformed all aspects of my life.
by Tom Jones
Ewa Beach, Hawaii
I was a teenager when my mother began practicing Nichiren Buddhism with the SGI in 1968 in Hawaii. My parents had divorced when I was around 7, and I moved to Arkansas with my father. I would see my mother occasionally, and when I did, I would argue with her about religion.
During those spirited discussions, my mother never once got angry with me; I believe she channeled all her frustrations and concerns into chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.
I returned home to Hawaii after a 25-year career in the U.S. Army. In 2016, my wife’s niece, Kim, and her son, Great, moved from Texas to Hawaii to live with us. Great had won a scholarship to study at Hawaii Pacific University. Although I knew they were Buddhists, I didn’t know they were SGI members until they arrived.
My life was in crisis at the time. I was 64 years old, overweight and suffering from severe diabetes, plus back and knee ailments. All in all, I was taking 18 meds a day.
I was also struggling financially. I had tried and failed to buy a house, and felt overworked at my office. I thought I’d had enough of this world, and even prayed to die.
Kim challenged me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and attend SGI activities with her. At the same time, my mother, who had retired to Florida in 1985, began sending me SGI study materials and publications. She would tell me how she had always chanted for me and that I had nothing to lose.
I attended several meetings with Kim in Pearl City Chapter. I enjoyed how happy all the SGI members were, and chanting felt right to me. On July 2, 2017, I received the Gohonzon. When I told my mother, who’s now 92, she was ecstatic. She had thought that she would die with no family members practicing Buddhism with the SGI.
Since receiving the Gohonzon and diving into my Buddhist practice, I’ve had amazing physical, financial and spiritual benefits based on my pledge for kosen-rufu.
A month after receiving the Gohonzon, the Department of Veterans Affairs adjudicated my case (a 10-plus-year battle) over my disability compensation. The decision significantly changed my disability entitlements compensation with increased medical care.
Within four months of starting my practice, I lost 60 pounds through chanting and exercise, and I am in very good health today. The VA doctors have been amazed that I no longer have to take any medication.
In 2016, I lost out on a great bid for a house. Buying a home was among the goals I wanted to challenge after beginning my Buddhist practice, so I decided to chant for a place that I could utilize for kosen-rufu activities. What I got in August 2017 was a brand new house, which was appraised at a significantly higher amount than the purchase price.
After attending an SGI-USA men’s conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center in June, where I deepened my appreciation for my mother,
I was able to visit her in Florida. I took responsibility for not always being a good son and sincerely thanked her for never giving up on me. Then, we did gongyo together for the first time.
To repay my debt of gratitude to my mother, Kim and those who supported the start of my practice, I’ve shared Buddhism with about 40 people since I became a member.
In April, while on my way to a store, I met a young lady named Kristie. That morning, I had chanted to introduce someone who really needed to have this practice to be happy. To my surprise, she later told me that the day we had met, she was ready to give up but would tell the first person she saw that day, “Hello, how are you” in hopes that something good would happen.
When I saw her, I said, “It’s a most fantastic day to be alive, especially at my age!” When she asked why that was, I encouraged her to go to an SGI meeting at the Hawaii Culture Center, and later that week, she went. Kristie and her boyfriend, Brenden, received the Gohonzon soon after, and they are both registered for the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival.
I truly believe that our 50K movement is everything we need in the Latter Day of the Law. How amazing that 50,000 future leaders will stand up for hope and respect in America, transcending all differences. How can the world not become a better place?
My life is far from perfect, with new financial and family challenges to overcome. However, I know with the power of the Gohonzon and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I will be victorious and change all poison into medicine, based on Nichiren Daishonin’s promise that “winter always turns to spring” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 536). This quote is constantly on my mind and gives me strength.
I once had no hope for my life, but today through awakening to my greater self and supporting the happiness of others, I’m so excited about life.