Now Is the Time We Show Actual Proof as a Family
How we have transformed our financial fortune and fostered youthful successors based on our bodhisattva vow.
by Maia Guest and John Plummer
Cold Spring, N.Y.
World Tribune: Thank you, Maia and John, for sharing your family experience with us! We understand that your life significantly changed in 2011. What happened?
John Plummer (husband): In late 2011, I found myself out of work as a television writer and in serious debt. I began to doubt all the causes I was making to introduce Buddhism to others and support the members in my capacity as a district men’s leader. I was angry, frustrated and desperate, not knowing if we’d be able to afford Christmas gifts for our children.
Our son Charlie, who was 12 at the time, had been cast in his first national tour as a professional actor and was earning more than I was. I was unemployed and ashamed.
Maia Guest (wife): For three months, I cared for Charlie while he was on tour. I struggled to juggle the demands of his work and questioned my ability to support my son in the entertainment industry. In addition to our financial worries, I felt guilty for being away from our 6-year-old son, James.
John: My leader compassionately listened to all my venting and then told me to share everything with the Gohonzon; to bathe all my doubt and negativity in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I did that right away. My chanting began angrily. Then I wept as I chanted. And finally, I had a breakthrough: I realized that I had been living in fear of money and in the belief that I would never be good at earning it.
WT: How did things shift after this insight?
Maia: When John shared his realization with me, I was reminded of all the benefits we had received from our Buddhist practice until that point. I was introduced to Buddhism in 1992 while in drama school. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the negativity of the industry, and even though I desperately wanted to act, I was filled with self-doubt. Chanting helped me feel better and overcome my anxiety and depression.
Although I had acting teachers, no one inspired me the way SGI President Ikeda did. He was the first to tell me, through his writings, that I could be happy, and that my life and dreams were important. In the beginning of my practice, 20 years earlier, by following his guidance, I challenged my weaknesses and grew my acting career. Now it was time to show actual proof with my family.
I try to be the disciple who believes in other disciples, like my mentor believes in me, because then they will become people who believe in others.
John: I felt the same way. I realized that uniting with President Ikeda was not just about reading his words, sharing his wisdom with others or doing SGI activities; uniting with Sensei meant facing brutally painful obstacles and resolving not to give up. I had to win not just for myself, but so that I could be an example to others—starting with my wife and our sons. As a disciple of President Ikeda, I had to change my misfortune into fortune.
I also recognized that my practice was really a fight to be truthful with myself, and that’s why I needed a great mentor. Without that, I wasn’t aspiring to anything but my lesser self. So, I started chanting three hours a day and making causes again to support the advancement of kosen-rufu as a district men’s leader. I also shared the practice with everyone I came in contact with.
By spring 2012, I’d been able to piece together several small jobs and get us out of debt. Soon after, I was asked to write for a television series.
Maia: As I chanted to have the courage to speak up and protect Charlie in the entertainment industry, I felt myself becoming stronger. Every time my self-doubt arose, I went to the Gohonzon, determined to stand up for the sake of my child. No longer did I function from a place of fear, but from the determination that we would show the power of Buddhism wherever we were.
WT: In what other ways did actual proof manifest?
John: The television series I wrote was informed by my Buddhist practice and mentor. One character, a teacher, was hugely inspired by President Ikeda in his intelligence, compassion, love for his students and sense of mission to transform suffering into joy.
It ran for three seasons and was featured in The New York Times, on “Good Morning America” and licensed by Netflix for three years. In a stroke of incredible fortune, my son Charlie was cast in the pilot and five episodes later, my actress wife, Maia, was added to the performers list. So, for three years, we lived and worked together as a family.
WT: Wow! That’s wonderful. How did that impact your financial situation?
John: As a result of that show, our financial fortune completely changed—so much so that in honor of the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival in September 2018, Maia and I multiplied our 2017 May and Sustaining contributions by five times. The biggest victory, though, was that I had shattered my fear of money and am becoming someone who can earn, manage, save and contribute money in the most value-creative way.
Maia: Both of our sons also participated in the festival. Charlie, who is now 20 and thriving in his career, shot an SGI-USA promotional video for 50K and served as a chaperone. His brother, James, age 14, invited his entire class and 15 of them attended, including his best friend, Erris. She had been going to future division activities for months, and her chanting helped her overcome the bullying she experienced at school. Erris received the Gohonzon after 50K and continued to show so much actual proof that her mother joined the SGI in February 2019. John helped Erris’ sister, Saorsie, receive the Gohonzon in August 2019 and a few weeks later, Saorsie sponsored her friend to receive, too.
WT: Congratulations! We understand that as a family you’ve helped 33 people join the SGI-USA. What is the significance of sharing Buddhism with others?
John: I spent the first years of my practice afraid to talk about Buddhism with others. It was only when I lost my 36-year-old brother from a mixed-drug reaction in 2004 that I woke up to my mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and a disciple of Sensei. I forged my resolve to sponsor at least one person to receive the Gohonzon each year with the conviction that doing so would create tremendous benefits not only for me and my family, but also for the people I share Buddhism with.
Maia: When I introduce others to the practice, it’s with appreciation for President Ikeda and the people who helped me begin my practice. I chant to find people who are seeking Buddhism. Then, people open up about their struggles! I listen and encourage them to try chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It’s about giving them a tool that will set them free from disbeliefs about their own lives, and help them realize just how incredible they are.
WT: Wow! Out of the 33 people you’ve helped join, we understand 22 are youth. What is the key to raising successors?
Maia: John and I have done our best to follow Sensei’s guidance in raising our sons. Charlie really began using his own practice when he wanted to become an actor. He’s fought hard and had many challenges along the way, but is really winning in his field, often sharing about how he uses his practice in his work. James, too, has connected so many people to Buddhism. He’s known as the peacemaker in class and recently got an “awesome attitude” award at school.
I’ve learned that the key to raising successors is to respect, encourage and listen to youth in the way Sensei would—interacting with them as Buddhas. Many kids have to deal with so much negativity, comparisons, fear and anxiety. It’s important to let them know that the world needs them, that they are protected, safe and heard, and that they inspire us.
John: President Ikeda writes: “Even if you think you’re hopeless and incapable, I know you’re not. I have not the slightest doubt that each of you has a mission. Though others may disparage you, please know that I respect you, I believe in you. No matter what circumstances you now face, I have absolute confidence that a wonderful future awaits you” (Discussions on Youth, p. 27).
It’s so powerful to have someone who believes in you. I try to be the parent who believes in their kid, because then they will become that parent who believes in their kid. And I try to be the disciple who believes in other disciples, like my mentor believes in me, because then they will become people who believe in others.
Maia: In this Year of Advancement and Capable People, our family is determined to unite even more as disciples of President Ikeda and use our talents to commemorate 60 years of kosen-rufu in America and the 90th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai! WT