Starting My Practice During COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, SGI-USA members have been courageously sharing their Buddhist practice. And while in-person meetings have not occurred since early March, many friends of members have been joining our virtual gatherings, subscribing to SGI-USA publications and beginning to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo consistently. The following are interviews with individuals who have recently started their journey of Buddhist practice with the SGI.
Building Absolute Happiness
by Brittney McFarlene
Long Island, N.Y.
Several months ago, I reconnected with a friend who practices Nichiren Buddhism with the SGI, and it came at the perfect time. I was constantly battling self-critical thoughts. When my friend explained Buddhism to me, I was inspired by the concept of absolute happiness versus relative happiness. I began reading Ikeda Sensei’s books and subscribed to the SGI-USA publications to learn more.
In The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, I read about the six conditions of happiness (see pp. 13–18). This really struck me. I learned that absolute happiness is not predicated on external factors but an indestructible confidence that we build within ourselves.
In addition to studying, I started attending SGI meetings over Zoom and heard other people speak about the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to navigate through life’s uncertainties. Through chanting, I’ve felt so much more confidence. I also feel like I’m able to value myself in ways that I never have before.
I have also surprised myself by telling people about chanting. Anytime that I talk with others about our hardships, I just mention how chanting has helped me work through things on my own.
Despite all the challenges of 2020, in May, I graduated with my master’s degree in integrated digital media. Through my newfound Buddhist practice, I look forward to using my skills to help develop a society of harmony and equality.
An Inner Fire to Take Action
by Lenin Cruz
I have been interested in Buddhist philosophy for a long time but, until recently, had never met a community of practitioners. I learned about the SGI from a member shortly before the restaurant where I work went into lockdown. A few months after our initial conversation, this member reached out to me asking how I was and if I was still interested in Buddhism. I let her know that I was and asked if SGI had meetings over Zoom. I have been attending meetings since.
One thing that really struck me from reading the SGI-USA publications and listening to the experiences of members is the idea of courage. This is something I have struggled with my whole life, holding me back in relationships, my career and other ways.
Just a few weeks after chanting for more courage and to be a better person, I had a profound experience. Someone from my past confronted me about how my actions had hurt them more than a decade earlier. Not only had it affected them, but other friends as well. Due to my practice, I turned this into an opportunity to courageously reflect on myself and sincerely apologize, and I feel that I have grown as a person through this experience.
Finally, as a visual artist and musician, I’ve had trouble being proactive about pursuing my art. Through my practice, however, I’ve developed more of an inner fire to take action for my dreams. I’m now enrolled in classes and make sure to practice my music every day. I look forward to continuing to develop my inner potential through this practice!
Direct Access to My Heart
by Mansi Mehta
Santa Clara, Calif.
I moved to the U.S. in 2017, leaving a well-paid job in India to start a new life with my husband. This was exciting at first, but after some time, loneliness and depression snuck into my life. In 2019, a friend invited me to an SGI meeting, but I was too preoccupied with other things in life, so I didn’t attend.
In February 2020, I watched an interview with one of my favorite Indian actors who discussed how Nichiren Buddhism helped him remain positive during difficult times. I was deeply moved. I reached out to my SGI friend and, in March, I attended my first discussion meeting over Zoom. I began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the determination to overcome my sadness.
The most prominent thing I’ve noticed since starting my practice is that I now have direct access to my heart. I had always struggled to hear myself and understand myself, but this practice has empowered me with the tools to tap into my true self. I have also introduced my mother to the practice, and she is chanting every day!
Recently, I was asked to contribute an article to a lifestyle magazine in India about the topic of “hope,” which has now been published. Through this article, I wanted to introduce many people to Nichiren Buddhism and proudly wrote how chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has enabled me to “believe that I can fulfill my mission and be truly happy.” I look forward to continuing my practice and receiving the Gohonzon!
A Chain Reaction of Peace
by Karl Welch
Union City, Calif.
The seed of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was first planted in my life 35 years ago when I was a concert promoter at the University of California, Berkeley. The Buddhist philosophy always resonated with me, and that powerful seed recently sprouted when an old friend invited me to an SGI meeting. I started attending virtual meetings in March and also subscribed to the World Tribune and Living Buddhism.
In my Buddhist study, two concepts that have resonated with me are “human revolution” and “many in body, one in mind.” I feel that the heart of human revolution is the courage to help those who are suffering under challenging circumstances and empower them to transform their situation. This chain reaction of empowerment is how we can create a fundamental shift toward peace and harmony in our fractured society.
Many in body, one in mind expresses the reality that we live in a diverse world and that each individual has a crucial role. The only way we will achieve anything great is if we act in unison, using our different abilities and experiences toward developing world peace.
I am so happy to have met likeminded individuals who have made me feel like family. Now, I want to teach this to one person after another and continue this powerful chain reaction of peace.