Learning How to Truly Live
How my Buddhist practice led to building a life I could have never imagined.
by Patrick Hall
“Just as flowers open up and bear fruit, just as the moon appears and invariably grows full, just as a lamp becomes brighter when oil is added, and just as plants and trees flourish with rain, so will human beings never fail to prosper when they make good causes.” (“The Third Day of the New Year,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1013)
For nearly two decades, I managed a $30 million global travel budget for a high-tech firm in Palo Alto, California. We were early adopters to online travel, and I rubbed elbows with industry giants. I even got invited to ride in the supersonic Concorde and experience flight at twice the speed of sound. I was literally flying high.
I jumped companies for a new opportunity with a significant pay increase, but within two months, the firm was bought out, and my entire department was shuttered. I had to scrounge for any odd job and do whatever it took to survive.
During this time, my beautiful wife, Debbie, was diagnosed with cancer. The prospect of losing her sent a chill down my spine. I only entertained that fear for a short time and quickly determined that my children would absolutely continue to have a mother in their lives.
As we chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo seriously and abundantly for a breakthrough, our bank balance dwindled to nothing. Around this time, the May Commemorative Contribution activity approached.
As longtime members, we participated in May Contribution with the conviction that this was the best possible cause we could make for our lives. And as someone taking on SGI leadership, I wasn’t going to ask members to contribute if I wasn’t doing it myself.
Basing everything on prayer, Debbie’s cancer went into remission, where it has remained for 20 years! And despite having high-interest credit card debt, we never missed a mortgage payment during that time, while sending our children to private schools.
Amid all our struggles, we refinanced our house to buy our first elderly care home and realized our dream of taking care of the elderly. We wanted to positively contribute to the betterment of society. Within a year, we paid off all of our credit card debt and our mortgage.
Even if I can’t grasp how it’s going to play out, I know deep in my heart that I’m going to have a victory beyond my imagination.
Today, we own three elderly care homes a short driving distance from our home. Such is the fortune we have accumulated from steady participation in financial contribution, which enables us to further advance kosen-rufu.
As COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S., our elderly care homes were at high risk, and our top priority was to ensure the health and safety of our residents and their families. As we discussed the difficult decision of potentially suspending visitors, SGI-USA released a statement suspending activities until further notice. This gave us the confidence to do what we knew was right, and we’ve since initiated video visits in an effort to protect the residents. Based on our prayer and swift action for the protection of our residents, not a single one has experienced symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19. After 47 years of Buddhist practice, we know that even in situations that seem hopeless, we are always protected.
Debbie and I set a May Contribution goal this year, which we’re sticking to, no matter what. It is because of the Gohonzon and Ikeda Sensei’s guidance that I was able to go to college as a high school dropout, graduate with no debt, buy a home, get married to a beautiful wife, raise two terrific sons who both practice Buddhism and achieve our dream of running an elderly care business.
Last year, I was diagnosed with MDS, a disorder in which my bone marrow doesn’t produce enough healthy blood cells. My oncologist showed me a medical calculator that predicted a life expectancy of five years. For a moment all I could think was, Wow, OK, well, we all have to die sometime. By later in the day, I realized I had been handed an opportunity to show actual proof one more time. Even if I can’t grasp how it’s going to play out, I know deep in my heart that I’m going to have a victory beyond my imagination. The medical calculator may predict life expectancy, but it lacks a crucial data input field—the Gohonzon.
As Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 412).
I am determined that based on prayer, some lonely cancer researcher in a forgotten lab will find a breakthrough cure to help not only me, but also thousands of others.
When I was first introduced to Buddhism at 21, I remember thinking that I want to practice a religion that teaches me not how to prepare to die, but how to truly live. This is a fantastic chance for me to deepen my faith and expiate my negative karma in this lifetime, down to the bone.