Glimpsing the “Moon Over the Capital”

Amir Terrazas shares how he proved to himself that he could do whatever he put my mind to.

Amir Terrazas, age 14 (second from left), with (l–r) his brother, Ayende, and friends Satchel and Cole at the SGI-USA San Fernando Buddhist Center, North Hollywood, Calif., September 2018. Photo by ANGELINA SAENZ.

by Amir Terrazas
Age 14
Los Angeles

During middle school, I was not challenged academically and was super bored in classes. I started getting into fights with the staff and stopped caring about school. I eventually applied for the Early Entrance Program at California State University, Los Angeles, which allows people as young as 11 years old to enter college. I had to complete an intensive, six-week summer program first, where just 25 of the 50 participants would be accepted.

A week into the program, I dropped out due to pressure and stress. I decided to take community college classes for about a year, but it was challenging to make personal connections with other students nearly twice my age. I decided to reapply for the Early Entrance Program and was accepted a second time.

Two weeks into the program, however, I learned that, despite studying hard, I got a 68 on my biology midterm, a grade that jeopardized my place in the program. Right after that, I got a 72 on my communications midterm. I had a panic attack and thought about quitting again.

I didn’t know what to do, so I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for about 30 minutes and called my mom. She suggested I ask the professors what I could do to improve my grades. I was hesitant, at first, but decided to talk to my communications professor. He looked over my test, and it turns out that he had misgraded it. My score went from 72 to 89. Right after that, I turned in a biology paper that earned the highest score in class.

With renewed confidence, I tackled school and got an A on my communications paper, plus a perfect score on my final project for both classes.

I know there are many mountains to scale. However, I understand now, that I have to fight to the end to see the “moon over the capital”.

I was still struggling in math, though, with barely a passing grade of 71. I needed to finish the class with at least an 80 to get accepted into the Early Entrance Program.

Amid this challenge, an SGI-USA young men’s leader visited me before my math final. He gave me lots of encouragement, including the importance of chanting Nam-myoho-rengekyo to mentally and spiritually prepare for the exam. With my mom’s help, I chanted regularly and invited many friends to the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, held in September. I am proud to say that I brought three friends to the festival!

After making these causes in my Buddhist practice, my math professor announced that he would give an A to anyone who scored 90 or above on the final.

I studied diligently. On the day of the final, I did my very best. That night, I went bowling with my friends in the program. I was super emotional not knowing what would happen after six intensive weeks. The four-day wait for results felt really long.

I got admitted into California State University, Los Angeles! After persevering over weeks of challenges, I proved to myself that I could do whatever I put my mind to. I later learned that I got straight As in all my classes, and almost all my friends got accepted too. I felt happy and relieved that they were going to get the same chances as me.

This solidified my belief in my Buddhist practice and my respect for the idea of cause and effect. I thought about my experience a lot, and it occurred to me that so many things had happened for me to get to this point. My mom was introduced to the SGI accidentally, when she walked in on my grandma chanting with a neighbor. It’s crazy to think how different our lives would be if she hadn’t encountered the practice, considering the great impact it’s made on our lives.

My mom shared this quote with me from Nichiren Daishonin: “Be diligent in developing your faith until the last moment of your life. Otherwise you will have regrets. For example, the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, howcan you admire the moon over the capital?” (“Letter to Niike,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1027). I feel this quote represents my educational journey.

I vow one day to be the youngest person to receive an Academy Award for best director. I know there are many mountains to scale. However, I understand now that I have to fight to the end to see the “moon over the capital,” and that with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I will reach my destination. WT