Experience

Living My Life to the Fullest

How Tee Ponsukcharoen learned that true happiness is in the pursuit of encouraging others.

Tee Ponsukcharoen, of Palo Alto, Calif., gains a fresh perspective on his life through his Buddhist practice. He states, “Buddhism has given me life itself, allowing me to change the destiny of my family.” Photo by NORIKO KAKUSHO.


by Tee Ponsukcharoen
Palo Alto, Calif.

In 2016, my high school friend Siraput visited me, and we shared our views on life. I explained that life was simply a chemical process governed by physical laws—there was nothing special about love, friendship and happiness.

On the contrary, Siraput shared a cheerful philosophy: Life is full of hope and victories. Seeing the happiness through his eyes and smile, I decided to explore the philosophy of the SGI, which he spoke so highly of.

Science doesn’t provide a meaning to life, and as a scientist, I was a skeptic but was willing to give Nichiren Buddhism a try. On Feb. 11, 2017, I received the Gohonzon.

Two weeks into my Buddhist practice, I started chanting Nam-myoho-rengekyo to fulfill my mission in America. Through that prayer, I was hired as a data scientist at a well-known startup company. The job fulfilled all three kinds of value: “beauty, benefit and good,” set forth by founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (see Discussions on Youth, p. 76). Twenty people from this company would later attend the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival!

As I continued to deepen my faith and understanding of Buddhism, I shared the practice with others as often as I could. I realized that the purpose of Buddhism was not to attain enlightenment just for myself, but to help others become happy, too.

The members of South Palo Alto District inspired me with their various faith experiences and made me feel that I could always be myself.

In February 2018, I was appointed the Silicon Valley Region young men’s leader, and the following month, I had the great fortune to attend the SGI World Youth General Meeting in Japan on March 11, 2018, which brought together 750,000 youth from around the world.

The night before leaving for Japan, I had a dream of my deceased father. In 2007, three months before I moved to the U.S. from Thailand, my father had taken his own life. Since that time I always held a sense of guilt in my heart wondering how I could let it happen.

In the dream, my mom, my father and I were at an SGI meeting. My father told me that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo brought power and hope into his life, and that he wanted to practice Buddhism, too. He started to cry and my mom came, hugged him and also cried together with him.

When I woke up, I went straight to the Gohonzon and cried. The pain that I had felt for so long finally began to heal. I felt so appreciative to everyone who fought for kosen-rufu and made it possible for me to practice. I determined to propagate this Buddhism so that my father could practice in his next lifetime. I departed for Japan with a renewed determination.

During my trip, I received an altar card with my father’s name on it with the message that Sensei had chanted for him. I felt that my parents had been able to meet my mentor. Then we received a departure message from President Ikeda in which he shared that despite geographical distances between us, and although we weren’t able to meet in person, our hearts were one. I truly felt my mentor’s warmth and compassion.

When I returned home, the SGI-USA was fully engaged in the movement toward the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival. Despite minimal music skills, I was appointed an Ikeda Youth Ensemble leader for the San Jose festival site. Lacking confidence in my abilities and comparing myself with others, I no longer felt I was necessary for the movement.

My perspective completely shifted, however, when a senior in faith told me to deeply realize that I was and have always been Sensei’s disciple. I chanted fervently with that thought in mind, vowing that I would fulfill my promise as a disciple to encourage my fellow members, no matter what.

The prime point of my 50K experience was at rehearsal the weekend before the festival. I felt such an indescribable joy seeing the youth in each group grow so much since the time we had first met. Despite the long day, the youth smiled brightly, and everywhere I turned, I saw happy faces of Sensei’s disciples. For two years, we had fought all out and engaged in our human revolution so that we could encourage more than 5,000 youth in San Jose on behalf of our mentor! As I sang together with everyone, I couldn’t help but cry, realizing the meaning of Sensei’s words “You and I are always connected in spirit.”

Buddhism has given me life itself, allowing me to change the destiny of my family. My mother chants although not yet a member, and in the past two years, I’ve helped five friends receive the Gohonzon. Without the teaching of cherishing others, I would be like a walking corpse.

Sensei has shown me how to live life to the fullest, and see the inherent good even in the worst situation. I have found again and again the feeling of being alive: to enjoy the shared struggle with everyone.

In this Year of Soka Victory, I am determined to raise many capable young men through personal encouragement, home visits and the Young Men’s Division Academy. I want to understand more deeply the life of each young man in my region, so that I can connect them to Sensei and their Soka family in the district!

Today, I share the same view as my friend—that life is full of hope and victories, and I can confidently say, thanks to President Ikeda and SGI members, there is truly something special about love, friendship and happiness! WT