Experience

“There Is No Destiny That We Cannot Change”

PHOTOS BY TODD M. CALDWELL.


How living based on the oneness of mentor and disciple helped me transform my despair into hope.

by Yoko Craven
West Columbia, S.C

When I was 5 years old, my parents divorced, and my mother lost all hope. She tried to kill me, but I was able to escape. She then committed suicide right in front of my eyes. I went to live with my grandparents, but when I was 10, I found my father dead; he had also committed suicide. I often wondered why such bad things were happening to me.

After losing both parents, I decided there was nothing good in life, and I gave up all hope for the future. When I turned 17, I began working at a bar and became convinced that all people were conceited and greedy. During that time, I developed depression and attempted to kill myself several times.

Because of my mental state, I started spending money like water and amassed huge debt. I spoke to a co-worker about how I could make money quickly. Instead, she invited me to her home and confidently introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism and the SGI.

All my struggles have enabled me to become someone who can understand the suffering of others and lead them to happiness.

I was so desperate to change my situation that I walked one hour to her home every morning and evening to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and do gongyo with her. With conviction and warmth, she assured me that no matter what kind of problem I had, if I believed in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I could overcome it. And in 100 days, with prayer and action, I became debt-free. On Nov. 18, 1990, I became an SGI member and received the Gohonzon.

After my first marriage fell apart, I met my current husband, Sonny. We married and had two children, Dorrion and Sylvia, and in 1999, we moved back to Sonny’s hometown of Lexington, South Carolina.

Our marriage was verbally abusive, so we separated for three years. But at the strong request of our children, we started living together again.

Every day felt like hell. I would often ask myself, Why do I have a husband like him? My depression persisted, and I often let my frustration out on my children. One day, when my son, Dorrion, was in middle school, he threatened to leave home, saying: “This practice doesn’t work! The Gohonzon doesn’t work!” I was so shocked to hear him say that. With tears in my eyes, I sincerely apologized to him.

Yoko Craven with her family (inset, clockwise), husband, Sonny, and their children, Sylvia and Dorrion, West Columbia, S.C., July 2019. Photo by PHOTOS BY TODD M. CALDWELL.

I vowed to practice this Buddhism correctly and stop blaming everyone and everything for my unhappiness. I wanted to change, but it was difficult to transform my negativity. I still felt like the most miserable person in the world.

One day in 2008, tired of suffering, I wrote SGI President Ikeda a letter.
I shared my struggles and cried out to him for help. This was the first time that I made a vow to live based on the oneness of mentor and disciple. This meant determining to overcome my own weaknesses and fundamentally change myself.

Nichiren Daishonin states, “Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers
for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil” (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 15). I set out to transform my “one evil,” the key issue that lies at the root of all my problems.

After making this determination, I clearly saw my negative tendencies, and realized that I had no confidence in myself. I chanted abundantly to believe that “my life is Myoho-renge-kyo” (See “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” WND-1, 3). No matter how hard my situation got, I tried to deepen my understanding of the oneness of mentor and disciple by sincerely chanting and studying Sensei’s guidance.

Doing so helped me realize that I had volunteered to be born into this situation to show the power of this Buddhism. I stopped asking, Why me? Instead, I realized that my husband and children had led me back to the Gohonzon and helped me learn to practice correctly. With that, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for them.

President Ikeda writes in the Afterword to The New Human Revolution: “Karma and mission are two sides of the same coin, and our karma directly becomes our unique and noble mission. That is why, when we dedicate our lives to kosen-rufu, there is no destiny that we cannot change” (March 2019 Living Buddhism, pp. 16–17).

When my determination changed, everything changed. In 2018, my husband, who was not participating in SGI activities, attended the men’s conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center. He also encouraged two of his nephews to attend the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival last September. He travels for his work, and everywhere he goes, he shares Buddhism with people now. My relationship with my husband and children has completely changed. Recently, my son helped me pay for my trip to the FNCC!

For a long time, I hated my parents because they had made me suffer.
Now, I truly appreciate them. I feel that because they gave up their lives, it’s
my mission to live fully and show actual proof, no matter what. I understand now that all my struggles have enabled me to become someone who can understand the suffering of others and lead them to happiness.

In the depths of my life, I feel happy and hopeful now. I feel so fortunate to have been born as a human being who can work for kosen-rufu and carry out my mission to become absolutely happy as a disciple of President Ikeda. If I can change the deep negativity in my life, I know that anyone can. WT

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