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I’m the Protagonist of My Life!

Anthony Stone at his job at a brewery company in Tampa. Photo by SEAN DAVIS.

How courageous action in faith created momentum and power.

by Anthony Stone

Growing up in a family that practiced Nichiren Buddhism, I enjoyed SGI activities for many years. After graduating into the men’s division in 2013,
I began working graveyard shifts, and my practice suffered. I thought being
a “good” husband and father meant spending all my free time at home with family and being less involved in SGI activities.

Things seemed OK on the surface, but I now see that I had gradually let my negative tendencies control more and more of my life, and I stopped challenging myself. My marriage began to fall apart, and my daily gongyo and chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo were becoming more of a chore than a dedicated practice.

When our family moved to Florida from Oregon in February 2018, there was no more hiding out. A friend I had practiced with previously in the young men’s division immediately helped me reconnect to the SGI community. Soon I was asked to become a district men’s leader, and although I hesitated, I knew my life needed it.

Becoming a men’s leader revitalized my practice, because when you’re taking action to support the happiness of others, you realize that your own life has value, too.

I was very happy and fortunate to have reconnected with the SGI, especially in light of what was to come. Last September, things took a drastic turn in my relationship. Although I did my best to remain positive and upbeat, inside I was deeply suffering. I tried to save my marriage, including initiating counseling with my wife, but that didn’t work. Instead, we began preparing for a divorce.

He enjoys a football game with his sons, Sawyer (l) and Forrest. Photo by LINDA STONE.

I had never experienced anything as painful as losing the love of my life under the circumstances in which it all unraveled. We couldn’t afford to move out of our place until our lease ended, resulting in several agonizing months of living together.

I had trouble eating and sleeping, and lost weight from the stress. At this time, when I felt the most alone, my SGI leaders became my true friends and rallied to support me. I recognized that without my practice, I would have sunk into deep depression and made foolish decisions driven by anger and rage.

I started chanting like I never had before in my life, which raised my life condition and gave me the courage to bear up for the sake of my two young children, whom I love deeply. Our kids never saw me and their mother fight or yell at each other.

When my ex-wife and I moved into separate households, I ended up with most of the marital debt. I wasn’t breaking even and was advised to declare bankruptcy. This was followed by a series of challenges with my car and health.

Then I was asked to take on the large responsibility as the Tampa Bay Region men’s leader on May 5 this year. With so many hardships that just kept coming, it almost didn’t surprise me when I was fired from my job for the first time in my life five days later.

At first, I felt like a victim, but then realized that even though I had practiced Buddhism for many years, there had always been a little seed of doubt, a little cloud of self-limitation. I understood that this experience happened so that I could really discover my potential for the sake of kosen-rufu.

Countless times, I read this quote from SGI President Ikeda to motivate me:

We limit ourselves through our cowardice and weakness, which give rise to a defeatist attitude and make us think that we will never succeed . . . It is therefore critical to overcome such negative tendencies and shatter our delusions. Doing so requires tremen-dous determination. We need to be firmly resolved to achieve our goals and chant to the Gohonzon with a strong pledge to realize kosen-rufu. Furthermore, we need to take courageous action. Taking action creates momentum and power.

(The New Human Revolution, vol. 17, p. 73)

I immediately set down some big goals for my career and finances, and for May Contribution. I also resolved to establish myself as a new region leader and fight for the happiness of my children and myself.

Despite my difficult financial situation, I surpassed my contribution goal. In fact, the amount was more than what I had contributed in the last three years combined!

I started doing a lot of home visits, sometimes driving hours to do my best to encourage the men. Many of them were unemployed or underemployed, too, so we fought together to accomplish our goals.

Some of us challenged united chanting sessions from our own homes in the mornings from 5:30. This kept me in the rhythm of winning in the morning. Meanwhile, I continued applying to jobs and being a single dad half time.

I was 15 years into my job as a craft brewer, and there were few opportunities in my field. Many times, my career goals seemed unrealistic, and I was tempted to settle. But through deepening my conviction in the power of the Gohonzon, my Buddha nature and the greatness of my mentor, I courageously persevered and never gave in to defeat. The joy and appreciation I felt during this time even surprised me!

At the end of June, I was offered a job that met every goal! I received a promotion, a 30-percent raise and better benefits at a great brewery company. It is only 10 minutes from home and five minutes from my kids’ school.

My ex-wife and I are getting along well and wholeheartedly supporting our two amazing boys, Forrest and Sawyer, who are now 6 and 7. Most importantly, I am fully empowered knowing that I decide how to create a victory out of any situation. I’m the protagonist of my life! WT

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