In the Driver’s Seat of My Life

Mao Izumi Ross with her husband, Nile. Photo by KINGMOND YOUNG.

How transforming my karma into mission helped me make meaning of my struggles.

by Mao Izumi Ross
Daly City, calif.

Growing up in Okinawa, Japan, I had a turbulent relationship with my father, who was abusive both physically and emotionally.

Despite our difficulties, I learned the Buddhist concept of the “oneness of life and its environment” through my mother’s actions. She never said anything negative about my dad to my brother or me. Rather, she focused on transforming the destiny of our family through her unwavering faith.

My life was shaken at the age of 15, when I was sexually assaulted. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be my last time.

I moved to San Francisco for college in 2012 at the age of 19. Things went well at first, but eventually, I hit an all-time low. I was tired of encountering people who didn’t value me and kept thinking, Why me?

In the summer of 2016, I attended a conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo deeply before receiving guidance from a senior in faith. For the first time in a decade, I opened my heart and shared about all the assaults I had experienced over the years.

This senior in faith warmly listened to me and told me that I had a unique mission that only I could fulfill and that, through this practice, I could transform even the most negative karma into mission.

SGI President Ikeda explains:

When we lessen our karmic retribution, it doesn’t mean merely zeroing out a minus balance but rather that we effect a momentous change in the direction of our very lives, shifting from a downward descent toward an infinite upward ascent, from a negative path to a positive one of genuine good. This is the power of the Mystic Law, which has the ability to transform the negative into the beneficial—to turn poison into medicine.

The doctrine of lessening one’s karmic retribution in Nichiren Buddhism is nothing other than the principle for redirecting our lives toward happiness right at this very moment—here, now, just as we are.

(The Hope-Filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 155)

As I chanted to understand my unique mission, my perspective began to shift. The deep anger and blame I had for my parents turned into an appreciation for being alive. I realized that if I could use my life to encourage others, “the sufferings of hell would vanish instantly” (see “Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 199).

I also began to study SGI President Ikeda’s guidance with the determination to put the Gohonzon at the center of my life. As I lived based on a bodhisattva vow to use my life to encourage others, confidence emerged from within. I felt so free.

I truly feel I took on all of my sufferings so I could encourage young women with similar experiences and help them become happy.

And as I helped other young women strengthen their faith in my capacity as a young women’s leader, I felt my own life expand. Taking leadership enabled me to become a caring person no longer consumed by my own struggles.

In 2017, I confidently graduated from college with an accounting degree, and I am currently preparing for the certified public accountant licensure exam.

I also met and married a wonderful man, Nile, in October 2019. I never thought I could have such a beautiful relationship with someone who respects me for who I am.

Just as my mother assured me when I was young, we did transform our family’s destiny. My father and I have an amazing relationship now. I share everything with him, and we communicate at least once a week, even though we’re far apart.

I truly feel I took on all of my sufferings so I could encourage young women with similar experiences and help them become happy.

I recently met an individual who had a difficult upbringing with her mother. After we had a powerful heart-to-heart dialogue, she decided to receive the Gohonzon and begin her Buddhist practice. I would go through all of my challenges again to help her and others become happy.

Nothing can describe the joy I’ve experienced through helping others begin their Buddhist practice. As the newly appointed West Territory vice young women’s leader, I am determined that every young woman will have a solid prime point with their mentor and be in the driver’s seat of their own lives!