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Embracing Life to the Fullest

South Central Zone Young Men’s Leader William Moody. Photo by AMY LOMBARDO / TRÈS BIEN PHOTOGRAPHY.

How taking action for the happiness of others enabled me to face
my life and heal.

by William Moody
New Orleans

I was a teenager when my parents began the painfully long process of getting divorced. Our house was like a war zone filled with physical and verbal altercations. Many nights I would stay awake, fearful of what they would do to each other. I felt helpless, sad and troubled by the uncertainty of my future.

Although I was offered full scholarships to colleges in my home state of Louisiana, I wanted nothing more than to escape my circumstances, so I decided to attend New York University, even though it was beyond my financial means.

I believed that moving 1,200 miles away from home would help me escape my problems, but that was not what happened. My parents continued to war with each other as they navigated the daily challenges of our post-divorce family. My twin brother, John, faced many traumatic events of his own, which included overdosing several times.

William Moody with his twin brother, John, whom he introduced to the practice.Photo by BILL MOODY.

Consumed by my family’s problems, I began having severe panic attacks and attempted to cope with alcohol and drugs. In my junior year of college, I was studying abroad when I was robbed at knifepoint after consuming too many substances. I was in a foreign country with nothing on me, alone and completely lost. My life had reached a new low.

Although I felt guilty for being far away from home, I was convinced that my brother and parents were to blame for my unhappiness. My anxiety was so debilitating that I had to seek professional help.

Even with therapy and medication, my problems didn’t go away. I became severely depressed and began to truly hate my life. It was as if life were happening to me. No matter what I did, I felt that things were outside of my control.

During this time, a friend introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism and the SGI community, which teaches the dignity and preciousness of each person’s life. I don’t know if I believed that my life was precious, but I was suffering so much that I decided to give the practice a try.

When I studied SGI President Ikeda’s guidance, I was profoundly moved to learn that if I wanted to change my environment, I needed to first change the fundamental tendencies in my life that were causing me to suffer. This was a completely revolutionary idea to me.

As I began to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I realized that checking out of life was an attempt to shield myself from feeling pain, and that the world
I was trying to escape to was an illusion. What I really wanted was to overcome my suffering and to embrace life to its fullest.

A couple years after graduating from college, I moved home to Louisiana, where I received the Gohonzon in August 2013. I began to feel something I hadn’t experienced in a long time: hope. One of the first goals I accomplished with my Buddhist practice was to quit smoking, drinking and using drugs. I was learning to pull forth the inner strength and wisdom to persevere over my struggles.

Embracing this Buddhism has not only enabled me to heal my own life but also develop a vision for the future.

Before my Buddhist practice, I would push away my brother because I felt that his life choices were causing so many problems, and I didn’t have the time or energy to deal with them. Now, for the first time, I felt like I had the means to help John transform his struggles, and I began to share Buddhism with him.

In January 2015, he received the Gohonzon. John is now healthy and has a stable job and great dreams. We are closer than ever and, together, we’re committed to creating the happiest family in the world.

President Ikeda says: “By helping other people become happy, we too become happy . . . How can those suffering in the depths of hell, who have lost the will to live, get back on their feet? Merely thinking about one’s own problems more often than not causes one to fall even deeper into despair. However, by going to someone who is also suffering and offering them a hand, the person is able to regain their will to live. Taking action out of concern for others enables us to heal our own life” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 5, p. 259).

Embracing this Buddhism has not only enabled me to heal my own life but also develop a vision for the future. I’m currently working as an assistant teacher at a kindergarten, where I’m able to positively affect the lives of young people. My dream is to become an educator who can embody the principles of Soka education and President Ikeda’s philosophy of Buddhist humanism in order to create a shift in our education system and country.

When Sensei came to New Orleans in 1974, he encouraged the members to transform their suffering into happiness. As the South Central Zone young men’s leader, I am determined to unite with all the members to do just that and realize kosen-rufu in the South. WT

Shining as a Victor

Just Keep Chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo