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My Human Revolution Is “First and Foremost”

Maya Gunaseharan with her husband, Ryan Potoff, Aliso Viejo, Calif. Photo by DAN GRAHAM.

by Maya Gunaseharan
Laguna Hills, Calif.

When my sister confronted me six years ago about how I wasn’t facing the turmoil that existed at home, I promised her that I would fight for the happiness of our family. In my heart, though, I didn’t know how it could be done.

Our family environment was negative and full of silence. Growing up, we didn’t have dinners together, my parents rarely talked, and I have vivid memories of my dad leaving the house angry.

My mom, raised in a deeply religious household, started practicing Buddhism in 1983 and introduced my father, originally from India, the following year. Despite my maternal grandmother’s opposition to the practice, it was through the dedication of my parents that my sister and I learned about faith and SGI President Ikeda. But our happiness as a nuclear family hadn’t yet transformed.

On top of that, I was in a long-distance relationship with my partner who struggled with depression. Some-times I didn’t hear from Ryan for days despite my constant phone calls. I was always swayed; when he was up, I was up, and when he was down, I was down. After receiving guidance about this, I determined to take full responsibility for our happiness.

In 2013, I moved back home to Hudson Valley, New York, from Chicago to work as the director of student activities at the college prep school I had attended. I returned to the school to repay my debt of gratitude and transform the institution into one that could support the needs of all students—particularly students of color who had long felt isolated.

Growing up, I experienced the challenges of interracial marriage and relationships, which caused rifts among family members. But because of the unity among diversity that I experienced so often in the SGI, I felt that it was possible to create harmony among people of different backgrounds and cultures.

I realized that it was my profound mission to transform my karma and that fighting for kosen-rufu was the direct means for me to accomplish this.

But soon, the realities of the school set in, and I felt powerless as the youngest, least seasoned administrator, and a woman of color. I constantly judged the work of others and felt my work was having no effect.

At home things worsened, and I was stuck in the cycle of blame.

It was around this time that I read Sensei’s guidance, which taught me that every situation I found myself in would be transformed through my human revolution. He writes:

Once we understand that everything that happens to us enables us to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, all of our problems will be resolved.

On the other hand, the more we tend to complain and put the blame on others, the longer we delay the transformation of our karma.

If we pray to the Gohonzon through all our sufferings and sorrows and firmly resolve that: “This is my destiny. This is my life. I will do my human revolution first and foremost,” then a path forward will open without fail. (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 6, p. 185)

Although I had on some level accepted things as “just the way they are,” I realized that it was my profound mission to transform my karma and that fighting for kosen-rufu was the direct means for me to accomplish this. I shared Buddhism and supported many people to receive the Gohonzon. Taking on leadership in the organization and advancing kosen-rufu based on the oneness of mentor and disciple helped me learn to care for others even while experiencing my own suffering. In turn, I was learning how to take full responsibility for my life and happiness.

Taking responsibility to transform my family’s disharmony meant not judging my parents’ behavior. Judgment trapped me in a place of inaction, it caused me to suffer. I deeply chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to break through that tendency. As a result, I felt empowered and began having courageous dialogues with my parents.

Naturally over time, our family began communicating regularly, both in person and via a family text message group. Today, our family dinners are the functions I look forward to the most, as we are able to be ourselves and joyfully spend time together. My parents’ relationship is also stronger than it has ever been. In 2017, they “remarried” in a traditional Indian ceremony that happens when the man turns 60!

At work, doing my human revolution first and foremost started with my prayer every day to respond to Sensei and treasure each person at my school.

When I had a dialogue based on my renewed spirit to take responsibility, the leadership of the school was very open to my ideas! Through my work, I empowered students to take the lead, giving them spaces to voice how they felt we could make the school better.

One of my culminating projects was a student-led assembly program in which students shared their race-related struggles. It opened many doors and was an incredible moment. When I left to go to graduate school, my boss offered me a new job with a significant salary increase. And the students petitioned for me to stay, too. I learned what it meant to have a total victory at work on Sensei’s behalf.

On July 30, 2016, Ryan and I had the most incredible wedding for kosen-rufu, as we determined to embrace everything about each other and take responsibility for our shared victories. In the months following our wedding, based on our unity and prayer, seven of our friends received the Gohonzon!

In August 2017, I moved to California to begin my studies at Soka University of America’s graduate program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change. Now in my final semester, I’m determined to fulfill my dream of becoming an educational leader in society who can lead schools to creating unity across differences, based on Sensei’s vision of America as “the brilliant glory of human harmony” (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 215).

With my deepest appreciation to serve as the new SGI-USA young women’s leader, I vow to continue doing my human revolution first and foremost, and become someone who can protect the SGI in order to repay my debt of gratitude.

Centering on our revolutionary SGI discussion meetings and engraving The New Human Revolution in our hearts, I’m determined that the young women of the SGI-USA will achieve their Soka victory, sacrificing nothing, based on living out their vow with their mentor! WT

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