Human Revolution Means Revealing My True Self
How awakening to my mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth helped me find meaning and protection in the most trying times.
by Mac Shiomi
When I was 17, I came out for the first time. After sharing with my mother, she innocently laughed thinking it was a joke. Since I knew it was taboo to be anything other than heterosexual, I continued to hide my identity to fit into the norms of Japanese society. Although I was chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo every day, it never occurred to me to use the practice to not hide myself.
When I moved from Japan to Kansas for college in 2009, I felt even more lost and doubtful, and stopped practicing.
A year later, I found myself in a desperate situation that led me to begin chanting again.
I was working 40 hours a week, barely supporting myself financially, and not keeping up in school; my GPA dropped to 1.38. Since my English wasn’t very good, I didn’t have any friends and became so depressed that I regularly thought about dying.
When I received guidance from a senior in faith, he told me that human revolution is about revealing my true self. This completely shifted my thinking and my prayer, and marked the beginning of the battle to learn how to be myself.
I dove into SGI activities, chanted every day and shared the practice with those around me. As I talked to others about Buddhism, my self-loathing slowly transformed into self-confidence. For the first time, I had hope and a burning desire to live.
I realized that, more than anything, living true to myself meant working for others’ happiness by fighting for kosen-rufu. This inner transformation led to changes in every aspect of my life.
First, I found work as a teaching assistant, which paid three times more than my previous job and required fewer hours. Because of this position, my tuition at school was fully waived. My grades steadily improved as I used my practice and SGI training to be more focused on studying effectively. I ended up gaining acceptance into a graduate program in East Asian languages and cultures.
With my true identity as a bodhisattva shining ever brighter, I was able to share the practice with even more people. Since moving to the United Sates 10 years ago, I have helped 32 friends receive the Gohonzon, including my partner, Micah. The foundation I developed through practicing for myself and others would protect me and give me strength years later, when Micah and I faced the deepest suffering of our lives.
In July 2018, two months before the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, our apartment caught on fire, taking 95 percent of our belongings. This included all the sources for my master’s thesis and six of our nine cats. No words can describe how I felt, especially watching from outside as the fire burned our apartment with our cats inside.
I chanted with the determination to win in the present moment so that I could change the meaning of the past while creating a new future.
At times, feelings of regret and depression dominated my life, and I was unable to do anything. Through seeking SGI President Ikeda’s encouragement, I was reminded that problems are the catalyst for us to reveal our Buddhahood. I engraved these words from Sensei in my heart: “If all your problems were instantly solved after just a bit of chanting, your faith would never deepen and you wouldn’t be able to really do your human revolution or change your karma . . . If you can look at your situation that way and chant with a spirit of appreciation, that will show that you are in fact progressing in your human revolution” (May 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 50).
I realized that I was still filled with suffering and regret because I was living in the past, constantly replaying that day in my mind and thinking, Why? I chanted with the determination to win in the present moment so that I could change the meaning of the past while creating a new future. I fully focused on my efforts toward 50K as a zone young men’s leader and the national taiko group leader. As I made causes for kosen-rufu and chanted with appreciation, I gained confidence that “winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 536).
The first sign of a brighter day came when I learned that I had renter’s insurance. Three years earlier, in an effort to lower my car insurance rate,
I had switched over to a plan that included renter’s insurance (I had no idea what this meant at the time). To my surprise, the insurance company covered all of our lost property.
Still suffering from the loss of our six cats, Micah and I read Sensei’s guidance to understand life and death on a more profound level. We determined to use our faith to show that even this poison could be turned into medicine. We were elated when, in January of this year, one of our surviving cats gave birth to eight kittens.
After battling depression for many years, I’ve finally found the right medication. And with a lot of hard work and perseverance over four years, I finally finished my master’s thesis and graduated from the University of Kansas this past May. Today, I work at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as a visiting instructor of Japanese, with visa sponsorship.
Even though I struggled so much, each of my obstacles has helped me expand my own potential. I can now use my struggles to help other people become happy, as well. I have discovered that living true to myself means striving to carry out my mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth. WT