My Journey to Unconditional Happiness
How basing my life on the Mystic Law helped me to forge an unshakable life condition amid severe health challenges.
by Tammi Asay
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my health. At 4 years old, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Some days, I felt well enough to go to recess with my classmates, but if I played too hard, I would get sick.
In addition to my health challenges, my family had difficulties sparked by the separation of my parents when I was 8. Every aspect of my life seemed to be affected negatively, and I remember feeling conflicted, thinking that I must have done something wrong.
My arthritis was in full force in my 20s. One morning on my bus ride to work, a woman told me about chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. From that night, I did my best to chant every morning and evening, and soon noticed that I was getting less emotional and angry in response to my health, relationship and family circumstances.
Six months later, on Jan. 23, 2011, I received the Gohonzon. The following year, on my 29th birthday, my dad emailed me, saying he didn’t want to have contact with me or my aunts until he worked out his marital issues (my dad’s second marriage had suddenly fallen apart after two decades).
I was heartbroken and angry, but as I chanted for my father’s absolute happiness, I realized I needed the same for my life—happiness that was not dependent on anyone or anything.
My dad was desperate to make his marriage work, because he felt he was too old to find another relationship. I battled sadness seeing him so unhappy, but continued chanting and exerting myself as a young women’s leader in the SGI-USA.
My Buddhist practice has taught me that there will always be obstacles, but we get to decide how to face them. When I focused on sharing SGI President Ikeda’s encouragement with the members—even if I was feeling pain, emotionally or physically— I had the strength to continue and even feel joy.
I was full of appreciation for the opportunities to challenge myself within the SGI organization.
Early in my practice, I had an episode of shingles, which forced me to go off medication for my rheumatoid arthritis. At first, I thought, Great, I’m going to get sicker. But after a month, I didn’t need the medication anymore. From this example and many others, I learned that, no matter what my struggles, everything will become a benefit in the end.
In March 2018, I had a painful flare-up in my eye, which caused me to have trouble seeing. At first, I thought I was just being clumsy when I ran into things, but my doctor confirmed that I had borderline symptoms of glaucoma and had permanent vision loss caused by inflammation from my rheumatoid arthritis.
I was shaken by this news, unable to imagine my life being blind. But I quickly realized it as my opportunity to change our family’s destiny; my grandmother and father became blind from glaucoma. For me, changing karma means that even with this condition, I will not be defeated by it or allow it to define who I am.
Every day I chanted to engrave the Gohonzon in my heart so that if I lost my vision completely, I could still see it in the depths of my life. I determined not to waste this precious time. Studying President Ikeda’s guidance became a lantern that shone through the darkness in my life. He says: “When we base our lives on the Mystic Law, the life states that drag us toward suffering and unhappiness move in the opposite, positive direction. It is as if sufferings become the ‘firewood’ that fuels the flames of joy, wisdom and compassion” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Part 1, p. 33). Engraving this in my heart and chanting to the Gohonzon, my fear transformed into confidence that I would definitely overcome my karma.
This shift in my heart led to everything changing. My dad happily remarried in May 2018, and my family is closer than ever. I have a wonderful partner who supports me, regardless of my health challenges. I recently asked him if he felt me losing my eyesight would affect our relationship. He confidently responded, “I know that you can handle anything.”
My doctor confirmed that I have glaucoma, and I am in the process of getting it treated.
My health, relationship and family obstacles all exist for me to learn how to develop unconditional happiness. While my health is still transforming, my true battle is about developing the life condition to not be swayed by anything.
I will carry this spirit forward into my district, where I was appointed this year as the women’s leader. My prayer is for our district to expand like never before, brimming with bodhisattvas who are winning over their challenges and becoming absolutely happy, just as I am learning to do. WT
SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance
“Blindness Does Not Equal Unhappiness”
In The New Human Revolution, SGI President Ikeda encourages a young woman who is blind. President Ikeda appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.
The gathering moved to the beach, where an impromptu discussion meeting ensued centered around Shin’ichi Yamamoto. One of the local leaders introduced a young women’s division member, of small stature, who had lost her sight as a child and was completely blind. Her beloved mother had also died the year before.
Hearing her story, Shin’ichi said: “I’m so sorry. It must have been very difficult for you. But I assure you, if you persevere with faith you will definitely become happy.
“Some people, when they experience a series of sad events, conclude that they are unfortunate and weak, and extinguish the light of hope with their own hands. But such an attitude itself is what makes one unhappy.
Blindness does not equal unhappiness. The important thing is to open the eye of your heart, to see things from the perspective of Buddhism and boldly live out your life. If you do that, you will give hope and courage to those around you. I would like you to become a bright beacon for many others, guiding them through life.” (vol. 13, p. 341)