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Living Without Regrets

Winning means living with joy throughout the process of challenging all our struggles.

Josef Gaudiesus at his new job, where he works as a chemistry teacher and varsity football coach in Dallas. Photo by Hoss McBain.

by Josef Gaudiesus

At the beginning of 2018, I shared with my mentor, SGI President Ikeda, that I would take steps to achieve my dream of becoming a teacher and athletic coach. As the newly appointed Texas-Oklahoma Zone young men’s leader, I determined to inspire other young men to realize their goals, too.

Just three years earlier, I was in a much different place. I had no sense of responsibility and worked on weekends just to buy alcohol and marijuana.

During my first month of college, I was arrested for three misdemeanors. When I was picked up by the police, the first thing that came to mind was “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”

With encouragement from my mother and grandmother, I had received the Gohonzon before leaving for college. Yet, until that point, I wasn’t chanting. When I got arrested, it was a wake-up call for me, and I decided to reevaluate my life choices. That’s when I reached out to SGI members in San Antonio and immersed myself in activities.

My personal victory was what would inspire the young men to create their own victories.

Throughout college, I took on leadership to support other young men in their Buddhist practice and even established an SGI-USA campus club at my school. I developed myself through consistently chanting and sharing Buddhism, and in May 2018, I became the first person in my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. I felt elated with my victory, like I could do anything.

I moved to Dallas last year, ready to focus on my dream. I also determined to give my all to assuring the success of the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival in Dallas.

I needed one more certification to start teaching and coaching. I wanted to be a role model for young men in the same way so many had been for me. I had grown up with sports coaches who were like father figures to me when mine was absent.

In July 2018, I took the certification exam with little to no preparation, and I failed drastically. Two months after the 50K festival, I took the exam again in November—this time with slightly more preparation. I did not pass again.

Mistakenly, I believed that if I went all out for the current SGI-USA campaign, the protective forces would help me accomplish my personal goals, even if I failed to wisely manage my time and take proper action.

Trying to make the best of the situation, I told myself it was OK. I thought, Maybe I wasn’t meant to pass the exam because it’s my destiny to pursue something else. Little by little, I started to compromise and lose hope in my ability to accomplish my dream.

As the end of 2018 was nearing, I felt I was letting many people down, including myself. I had been sharing with young men’s division members over and over again that we had to have a personal victory. I was making efforts in the organization but not in my life to accomplish my goal.

With encouragement from fellow members and President Ikeda, I returned to the Gohonzon, determined not to give up. Going into 2019, I would bring the same level of seriousness that I approached my SGI activities with to every aspect of my life, starting with the exam.

Three months into 2019, though, my determination had slipped again. A senior in faith encouraged me that, as a genuine disciple of President Ikeda, my personal victory was what would inspire the young men to create their own victories. For the first time in my life, I resolved to take action out of my desire to report a victory to my mentor.

Although the 31 days leading up to the exam were very challenging, these words from President Ikeda reminded me that I had to win. He says: “The realm of Soka does not need losers . . . Stand up with energy and joy, proudly waving your own individual banners! Advance victoriously, filled with exuberance and courage! Live each day of your youth fully, without regrets!” (June 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 19).

I chanted more than ever before. I no longer allowed activities to be the reason that I didn’t study for my exam. And despite working overtime, I still made sure to win every morning in front of the Gohonzon, every evening in the library and every weekend in SGI activities.

Since I put enormous effort into each moment, I had an indescribable feeling after taking my exam for the third time on April 17. While doing evening gongyo that night, I realized this was the supreme confidence that I could experience, while fighting fully, without regrets.

During my 31-day campaign, I experienced many breakthroughs. I passed my exam, ranked in the top 5 percent of performers at work, received a bonus and helped encourage eight people throughout the zone to receive the Gohonzon, two of whom joined my assigned district! This was the first time in nearly two years that the district had welcomed a new member. We are now a Soka Victory District!

I have just started my new job at a local public high school, teaching chemistry and coaching varsity football.

Most importantly, I have learned that while tangible victories are important, winning means living with joy throughout the process of challenging our struggles and never giving up on our dreams.

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