Experience

Victory Is Guaranteed

Rodney Mitchell and his wife, Elise, celebrate the conclusion of a nearly 11-year quest to welcome Rodney’s new role as a superior court commissioner. Rodney says, “I had to do my human revolution to make it happen.” Photo by GEORGE NAKAMURA.


My human revolution opened the path for me to accomplish a decadeslong dream.

by Rodney Mitchell
Phoenix

The benefits I’ve received through my 32 years of Buddhist practice have been nothing short of amazing. One of the most enduring experiences has been my career as a lawyer. Inspired by SGI President Ikeda’s humanistic behavior when meeting with world leaders or SGI members, I’ve always striven to capture my mentor’s spirit as I work with clients, judges and prosecutors.

For almost 11 years, I had set my sights on what I felt was the next rung on my professional ladder. I wanted to take full responsibility for the courtroom as a superior court commissioner. My wife, Elise, and I dreamt of the moment we’d share this victory and symbolized our joint determination by each holding on to one rhinestone earring shaped like a judge’s gavel.

I began my quest in 2009 but immediately faced major obstacles. In the beginning of that year, a devastating accident had caused our house to catch on fire. Elise and I fiercely chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and after living in temporary housing for a few months, we moved back into a beautiful, renovated home. During this time, my resolve to show actual proof as a commissioner became even stronger.

This renewed determination pulled forth more challenges, including family illnesses and my own brushes with cancer. I also did not have the full support of key people in accomplishing my professional goal. Yet, I soon realized that my own fundamental darkness—feelings of doubt and fear—was stronger than any external obstacle.

At the end of the day, I knew that it would be my stand-alone spirit, my faith and my inner resolve that would determine the outcome.

I kept striving to become a commissioner but harbored fierce anxiety about being the final decision-maker in the courtroom. There was a part of me that started to think, I’m not sure if I’m worthy of this position.

The real problem was that, years into my pursuit of this goal, my Buddhist practice had stagnated. Although I was chanting and Elise and I were opening our home for district gatherings, I was not digging into practicing seriously for myself or others. I hadn’t visited the men in my capacity as a district men’s leader and wasn’t chanting with a fighting spirit.

I had to confront this problem before I could move forward.

Nichiren Daishonin states:

Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other.

(“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1001)

Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. (“The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 832)

A sword is useless in the hands of a coward. The mighty sword of the Lotus Sutra must be wielded by one courageous in faith.

(“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412)

At the end of the day, I knew that it would be my stand-alone spirit, my faith and my inner resolve that would determine the outcome.

Elise and I shifted gears in our practice and in the beginning of 2019, we introduced a new sense of urgency to everything we wanted to accomplish.

Armed with Sensei’s guidance deep in my heart, I increased my chanting and, for the first time, volunteered to do reception at the front desk for the SGI-USA Phoenix Buddhist Center. I also did my best to encourage the men’s division members in the district, and I proudly helped a youth begin her Buddhist practice.

Not long after, I was contacted by a prominent judge, who encouraged me to apply, which had never happened in this 10-year process of me applying every 6–8 months. The applications I had filled out previously all had age limits affixed to them, which would have made me ineligible this year. However, this restriction was lifted.

As I chanted, my visions of being a judge were no longer filled with fear of being revealed as less than capable. Rather, they were filled with victory after victory for all those who populated my courtroom. I knew with every fiber of my being that it was no longer a question of “if” but “when.”

On Oct. 25, 2019, I received a call from the new presiding judge, and in a voice that sounded more excited than anyone else in that role, he offered me the position of superior court commissioner! I started my training the next day, and I’ve since completed six months of work in my dream position.

My anxiety has melted away, and I’m striving as Sensei’s disciple to make
the best decisions for each person whose life is involved in the high-level cases I’m responsible for. I’ve learned that while my victory was always guaranteed, I had to do my human revolution to make it happen.

President Ikeda has often said that life begins at 60,[1]See The Third Stage of Life, pp. 25–26. so the “not-so-young” yet vibrant and youthful members like myself are determined to run right alongside the youth—the ones who will carry our organization and our movement for the happiness and peace of society into the future!

Notes   [ + ]

1. See The Third Stage of Life, pp. 25–26.