Learning to Treasure My Own Life
How I developed true self-worth based on the oneness of mentor and disciple.
by Eeshita Kaushik
“Your practice of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of the sufferings of birth and death in the least unless you perceive the true nature of your life.” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 3)
A dream I always held but never had the courage or clarity to pursue was to leave India to study agricultural policy. A senior in faith encouraged me to deepen my relationship with my mentor, Ikeda Sensei, and gain clarity through studying his annual peace proposals to the United Nations. I had been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for five years by this time, and though I read and felt encouraged by his guidance, I struggled to understand how to connect it to my career.
As I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to connect to his vision of kosen-rufu and began reading the peace proposals, I discovered my passion for global agriculture and forest policy reform.
In fall 2017, based on steady efforts in chanting and sharing Buddhism with others, I secured funding to pursue my masters at the University of California, Berkeley. However, a few months into my first semester, my insecurities surfaced. I felt lonely and missed my SGI community back in India, but instead of connecting with the local members, I became trapped by arrogance. In my mind, nobody was equal; people were either better than me or I was better than them. This view made me suffer in every aspect of my life.
Around the same time, a chronic, incurable illness I had long suffered from resurfaced with a vengeance. I developed a painful skin ailment that made it difficult to carry out daily activities, and I felt embarrassed to see people.
Then I came across this guidance from second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda: “It’s completely brazen to think that you can cure an illness that even doctors at the best hospitals cannot cure without giving yourself completely to the Gohonzon. The Buddha is not obligated to provide a cure! How many hundreds of people have you introduced to Buddhism? How much have you helped your chapter flourish? You should reflect on this. If you turn over a new leaf and can truly dedicate yourself to kosen-rufu, staking your very life on it, then I can say with confidence that you will be cured without fail” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 6, p. 23).
For the first time, I started to see how my own arrogance caused me to suffer. I determined to connect with my local organization and fight for kosen-rufu in America with my whole heart. At the time, the SGI-USA was preparing for the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, and I started sharing Buddhism with everyone I could. I even introduced Sensei’s books to my professors and reached out to student groups on campus.
Connecting with others for the sake of kosen-rufu enabled me to transform my tendency to judge people based on their professional background, or avoid seeking from my seniors in faith if I didn’t value their intellect over mine.
Chanting also helped me realize that my illness was not unrelated to my own inner anguish and self-doubt. No matter what I achieved, I felt I would never be good enough.
Acknowledging this unleashed tremendous anger from my heart, but I turned to the Gohonzon and chanted abundantly to see my true worth. I realized that my arrogance toward others was actually a denial of my own Buddhahood; because I didn’t feel good enough, I saw my credentials as a measure of my worth. But as I continued to pray to cherish my life, gradually, my anger melted away.
Within the next 45 days, I had a breakthrough. A new medication made the chronic illness that had plagued me for 13 years completely vanish from my body. By the end of that summer, I had held 500 dialogues with people about Buddhism, including 13 professors at school.
Out of deep appreciation for my mentor and the SGI-USA, I did my best to support the SGI campus club until I graduated with a master’s in May 2019, and during the months I spent looking for a job, I helped seven youth receive the Gohonzon.
This January, I was hired by a leading international development organization to create a framework that developing countries can use to draft policies for managing land and forests in an integrated manner, and that contributes to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Since starting there, I have continued to speak to many people about Buddhism and have helped five youth begin chanting consistently. Recently, I had another victory: my employer agreed to sponsor my diplomatic visa!
This experience has given me deep confidence that the oneness of mentor and disciple is the key to unlocking my potential. Now, as a member of the women’s division, I will spare no effort in supporting my district and holding dialogues with one youth after another about the great power they possess to create hope in America.