Experience

Never Give Up on Our Prayers or Dreams

Ramya Chandrasekaran and her husband, Sudarshan Srinivasan, with their daughter, Mythri. Photo by RICK NOTEL.


Never Give Up on Our Prayers or Dreams

by Ramya Chandrasekaran and Sudarshan Srinivasan
Fargo, N.D.

World Tribune: We understand that you recently overcame a big challenge as a married couple. Can you tell us about it?

Ramya Chandrasekaran (wife): Sudarshan and I married in 2006. We had many dreams, one of which was to eventually start our own family. In 2012, we began focusing on this goal but had no idea we would face so many disappointments along the way.

WT: What challenges did you face?

Ramya: We assumed we’d conceive right away, so we felt extremely discouraged as two years passed with no results. Due to cultural expectations, we also faced pressure from our families and friends, and I started thinking that there was something wrong with me as a woman—that if I couldn’t get pregnant, I wouldn’t be a complete person.

Sudarshan Srinivasan (husband): We redetermined after seeking guidance from a senior in faith to keep making causes for kosen-rufu, to keep chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and to keep taking the necessary actions we needed to take to become parents.

WT: What did you do differently after making a fresh determination?

Ramya: We met with doctors and followed through on their suggestions, but on a more fundamental level, I changed the way I perceived myself. I did so by chanting abundantly and seriously, getting guidance from my leaders, supporting SGI activities as a vice district women’s leader and writing to SGI President Ikeda. I shared with him all of our struggles with honesty. In the process, I realized that my identity is not limited to being a woman or a mother; my true identity is that of a Bodhisattva of the Earth. I willingly chose to demonstrate the power of Buddhism through winning over obstacles and showing actual proof. My breakthrough came from chanting and taking action based on this perspective.

Sudarshan: I also made many causes during this time. Between 2017 and 2019, I read 22 volumes of The New Human Revolution. I was constantly reading President Ikeda’s guidance and feeling as if my mentor were right next to me. One episode that inspired me was in volume one, when Sensei fell ill during his first trip to the United States. Although he was disappointed that he couldn’t attend a discussion meeting because of his condition, he prayed determinedly to defeat the devil of illness. Each time I felt I couldn’t continue, scenes like this one helped shift my perspective.

WT: What happened next?

Sudarshan: We threw ourselves into SGI activities based on the conviction that “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).

As a chapter men’s leader, I did my best to support the youth toward the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival (held in September 2018). Ramya and I invited many people and even traveled nine hours one way for rehearsals. We were so proud when North Dakota Chapter confirmed nine youth to attend the festival. In and around this time, Ramya and I also helped 16 people receive the Gohonzon!

WT: How amazing! What changed after you made efforts to support others?

Ramya: In February 2018, we found out I was pregnant! And that October, our baby girl, Mythri, was born. She had some health difficulties early on, but because we had learned the power of our prayers for kosen-rufu, we went back to the Gohonzon and made every cause we could. Mythri just celebrated her first birthday. Today, she is healthy and loves attending SGI meetings with us!

Sudarshan: Through exerting myself based on my Buddhist practice, I also won in other aspects of my life, particularly at work. As a university professor and researcher in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the hardest part of my job is getting research grants funded. For several years, I had been writing six to seven grant proposals annually, and all of them were rejected. Each proposal is 30–50 pages and requires painstaking effort.

In 2016, the university went into a budget crisis cycle and indicated that low-performing faculty could be terminated. I felt defeated and didn’t have the energy or motivation to write one more proposal. As I prepared myself for the inevitable, I studied President Ikeda’s guidance to a Brazilian farmer whose crops kept failing:

Buddhism is a teaching of unsurpassed reason. Therefore, the strength of your faith must manifest itself in the form of studying, exercising your ingenuity and making twice as much effort as anyone else. Earnest daimoku [chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] is the wellspring for the energy to challenge these things.

NHR-1, 268

I pulled forth the energy to revise my previous proposals and resubmit them.

The Daishonin says, “You must persevere through this trial and see for yourselves the blessings of the Lotus Sutra” (“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 498). I continued to persevere, doing my best to encourage members on home visits and share Buddhism with others.

In April 2017, I got notification that my proposals to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation were funded for a combined $820,000—nearly 30 times the amount I had been chanting for! That year, based on student feedback, I was also nominated for the College of Engineering Teacher of the Year Award.

WT: Congratulations to both of you! What did you ultimately take away from your experiences?

Sudarshan: I learned the importance of continuing to make efforts and redetermining each time. If you persevere, you can truly see benefit. I wanted to give up so many times, but I was able to sustain my determination with the support and encouragement of my fellow members. I am eternally grateful to the Gohonzon, Sensei and the SGI community.

Ramya: This quote from Nichiren’s writings always stayed with me during my struggle: “Though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun rise in the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered” (“On Prayer,” WND-1, 345).

I discovered the power of my prayer. The key, though, was chanting with the realization that I am a Bodhisattva of the Earth, and that this obstacle was my opportunity to transform my karma and advance kosen-rufu. With this awareness, I learned the essential spirit to never give up on our prayers, to never give up on our dreams. WT