My Life Itself Is a Treasure Tower

How I’m using the 50K campaign to uproot the fundamental cause of all my sufferings.

Photo by YVONNE NG.

by Julianna Schley
Brooklyn, New York

I started this year feeling scared, like there was a giant “50K” pendulum swinging menacingly above me. At first, I attributed this anxiety to the sheer number of people we had determined to gather for the youth festival on Sept. 23, but after chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo about it, I realized that it was much more than that.

Deep down, I knew that the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival would force me to face my lifelong fear: that I don’t truly have the courage to live up to my potential and fight wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu. Instead of facing this head-on, I felt more comfortable blaming others for my problems.

Consequently, I started having issues with my closest friends. When I spent time with them, I felt unwelcomed and humiliated, having to explain to them, “Yes, Buddhism works, but yes, I’m still at the same low-paying job.”

I became paranoid, convinced that the only people who loved me were my mom and my husband, but even things with them were strained. My mother would bluntly express her disappointment in me and quickly get off the phone if I mentioned my Buddhist practice, and I felt a lot of anger and resentment toward my husband for our financial struggles, believing that I was contributing more to our household than he was. My work schedule also prevented me from attending many SGI activities.

In May, I still hadn’t confirmed a single friend to register for the 50K Festival. After hearing experiences from other youth who were able to help 40–50 of their friends register, I felt even more inadequate.

Soon after, SGI Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa visited New York and encouraged us to invite everyone we knew, without hesitation (see June 15 World Tribune, pp. 6–8). I felt terrified. How could I open up my life that much when I had no trust in my friends or myself? I’m not charismatic enough, and I’m too awkward to encourage my friends, I told myself. This was the same excuse I used to justify why I didn’t have a career in film.

I now see that all the activities I do in the SGI—from inviting friends to the 50K Festival and introducing them to Buddhism to making financial contributions—
are implanting benefits in my life.

I went back to my favorite guidance from SGI President Ikeda. He says: “There is a difference between ‘being who you are’ and ‘staying as you are.’ If you content yourself with staying as you are, you’ll never grow or develop. By deeply pondering the questions of who you really are and what your purpose in life is, and by making effort after effort and tirelessly challenging yourself, you will bring to blossom the flower of your mission in life. That’s what happens when you put into practice the principle of ‘cherry, plum, peach and damson’ ” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, pp. 125–26). I knew that I could keep my life the same and not create waves, but I wanted so deeply to be happy.

I determined to respond to my mentor’s encouragement and challenged myself to do many home visits as a chapter young women’s leader. I also made a challenging financial offering during the May Commemorative Contribution activity, in addition to my monthly Sustaining Contributions, in order to change my financial karma.

To implement Mr. Tanigawa’s guidance, I decided to start my own personal campaign with the goal of inspiring other members who were struggling to invite their friends to the festival. I wanted everyone to know that even if it’s difficult for us, we can win, exactly as we are with the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I upped my chanting in the mornings to have the courage to tell others about 50K, and I united with my local SGI-USA organization by constantly reporting about my efforts.

Although I still hadn’t helped anyone register, I was growing as a person and my life began to change drastically. For one thing, I realized that my anger and resentment toward my husband caused me greater suffering than our financial difficulty itself. After I began chanting to have deep appreciation for him, our relationship improved. Mystically, he was able to find steady work soon thereafter and double his income.

Because I was always thinking about how to encourage others, my relationships with my friends began to change, as well. One of the simplest victories
I had was to sincerely greet a co-worker I’d held a grudge against for years. Then, a friend, who I thought didn’t like me anymore, hired me for his film production company. I’m now doing dynamic and challenging work in my own field, and I’m getting paid three times more than at my previous job. Best of all, my hours enable me to attend every SGI activity I could ever dream of.

Finally, in June, I helped a co-worker register for 50K! Since then, I’ve registered 14 friends in total. I’d been chanting for these friends and inviting them to meetings for years without any sign of victory on the horizon.

As scary as it seemed, I also called my mom to tell her that I was inviting all my cousins to the festival, and instead of her saying that I was being pushy with my religion, she was very happy. She even texted me later that day, encouraging me to invite my sister, too—which I had already done.

Most of all, even though my days are more packed than ever, every moment I feel joy. Nichiren Daishonin writes: “You may think you offered gifts to the treasure tower of the Thus Come One Many Treasures, but that is not so. You offered them to yourself” (“On the Treasure Tower,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 299).

I now see that all the activities I do in the SGI—from inviting friends to the 50K Festival and introducing them to Buddhism to making financial contributions—are implanting benefits in my life.

Fully dedicating myself to this 50K campaign has been an expedient means for me to break through my fundamental evil of begrudging my life. It has given me the opportunity to polish my life and transform my karma. I’ve learned that any amount of suffering can be transformed into my greatest joy, as long as I keep chanting and challenging myself, just as I am.

(p. 5)

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