Undeniable Good Fortune

How contributing to kosen-rufu, the betterment of the world, brightened my family’s path.

Catalina Perez with her youngest daughter, Amelia Gonzalez, New York, September. Photo by YVONNE NG.

by Catalina Perez
New York

When I encountered the SGI, I was a struggling single parent and sad at the direction that society had taken. It was 1982, and the peace and environmental movements I had been involved in were not progressing as I had hoped. I lived in a dangerous neighborhood in San Francisco with my young daughter, Paloma, and was on welfare. It was in such times that an SGI-USA pioneer told me, “If you practice Nichiren Buddhism, your child will be protected.” This had been my biggest concern, and it moved me to begin practicing.

In those days, it was hard to find childcare for nontraditional work hours. My first benefit was that Paloma was accepted into a wonderful preschool for free, and they agreed to care for her from early in the morning before anyone else arrived. This enabled me to go to school to study nursing while working to support my family.

I had never been able to do anything consistently before, but from the time I began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I never missed gongyo. The rhythm of my daily Buddhist practice permeated my life, and I became more determined and hopeful over time.

One of the biggest things I wanted to change was living paycheck to paycheck. A senior in faith encouraged me to cement my financial future by contributing monetarily to further kosen-rufu. Money was precious, since I didn’t have it in abundance, but I understood the cause I was making to support the underlying movement of human revolution to transform our world, and I had developed deep appreciation based on the shifts I was seeing in my own life.

Through a lot of chanting, I started making monthly contributions and came to take great pride in this. I realized that my local SGI-USA Buddhist center was like my home; I couldn’t just use it and leave. I wanted to sustain it and help it flourish.

Despite my financial limitations and flighty nature, I completed my degree in licensed practical nursing in 1983. This was my first significant career accomplishment, and it opened the door to more job opportunities. Three years later, my second daughter, Caridad, was born!

Determined to do my best for my daughters, I chanted to further my education so that I could become a registered nurse.

Contributing to kosen-rufu had helped me reflect on my tendency to be vague and impractical. I chanted and challenged myself to keep increasing my financial contributions.

As a result of these causes, I gathered the money to purchase a humble three-bedroom home in San Francisco in 1990. It was modestly priced and located across the street from the day care Caridad attended. In my heart, I felt that my causes to support kosen-rufu in San Francisco had enabled me to achieve my dream of buying my own home, which represented a more secure life for my daughters and me. And I hosted many local SGI meetings there. Although I never forced my daughters to practice Buddhism, I believe such experiences built their respect for the SGI and the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.

In 1992, I saw my human revolution coming to fruition in my career. After 10 years, changing schools three times, many stops and starts, and faith encouragement—all the while working and caring for my daughters—I became a registered nurse. Just months prior to the licensure exam, I had my third daughter, Nikki, and in 1994, Amelia, my fourth daughter, came into this world.

As my girls grew up, we faced many challenges as a family, and I wasn’t always the perfect mother. But I prayed to support my daughters’ dreams and for solutions to the various problems they faced. I chanted through their illnesses, when they stayed out all night and got into trouble at school. When Amelia was accepted into a performing arts high school in New York, I decided to make the move and find a job there.

When I didn’t know what was best for us, I just chanted that we would have a happy, secure and harmonious family.

I could see undeniable fortune building. My two older daughters attended top private schools on scholarships, and Nikki’s and Amelia’s father paid for a wonderful education for the two of them.

Although I’m not wealthy, through various opportune circumstances, I’ve turned around my hardships to help three of my daughters purchase homes. And I own my own apartments in both New York City and San Francisco—cities with some of the most expensive real estate markets in the U.S.!

Today, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I have a wonderful family with four terrific daughters, a kind and compassionate son-in-law and soon-to-be son-in-law, and two fabulous grandchildren. My daughters and I are close and enjoy one another’s company. Our harmonious family is the greatest benefit by far.

Although very different, each of my daughters is creative and socially conscious. They are all practicing Buddhism and pursuing their dreams.

In addition, in 2015, at 60, an age when most are nearing retirement, I continued to challenge myself and earned a bachelor of science in nursing degree. Today I work as a lactation consultant. I’m beyond convinced of Nichiren Daishonin’s words “If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way” (“On the Three Virtues of Food,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 1060).

All of my efforts and contributions for kosen-rufu, for a more just and peaceful world, have manifested as great fortune for my family. This is why I continue to make Sustaining Contributions to the SGI-USA.

I will stay on this path, never ceasing to brighten the way!

(p. 5)

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