Experience

With the Roar of a Lion

How our family’s battle against COVID-19 changed my practice and my life.

Carol Laciste with her husband, Patrick, and their dogs, Loki (left) and Koa. Photo by Maureen Cervelli.


by Carol Laciste
San Jose, Calif.

But your faith alone will determine all these things. 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,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 412)

On March 3, my husband, Patrick, woke up with a 103-degree fever, dry cough, chills and body aches. A few days later, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to the hospital. Patrick had difficulty breathing, and his kidneys and liver started to shut down. He was transferred to the intensive care unit, where he tested positive for COVID-19, which was extremely dangerous given his preexisting conditions.

When the doctor told me that my husband had a 50-50 chance of survival, I started crying. I reached out to my district women’s leader, who told me: “Tears are sometimes needed, but this is not the time for tears! You need to sit down and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. Now is the time to have courage and fight!”

Though I had been practicing Nichiren Buddhism as an SGI member for decades, I struggled to chant by myself at home. I knew that my district leader was right, so I pulled myself together and went straight to the Gohonzon to chant seriously for my husband’s survival.

Several days after he was admitted, I felt really weak and nauseous and called 911. I was taken to the hospital, and after some tests, I was sent home to recover. I waited a week for my coronavirus results and found out that I, too, was positive.

We have two dogs, who are like our children, and while the both of us were in the hospital, I desperately tried to find a sitter, but everyone was scared of getting sick. I chanted for someone to take good care of them and just in time, we found a dog sitter!

I did gongyo and chanted every day, no matter how sick I felt, at times lying down because I couldn’t sit upright, or whispering the words to get them out.

I also studied Ikeda Sensei’s guidance more than ever and refused to give up. By the 10th day, Patrick’s kidneys and liver were better, and he no longer had difficulty breathing so he was able to come home. Though he was expected to take at least six months to recover, two months in, Patrick’s doctor was surprised by an X-ray that showed his lungs were completely healed.

We have now both recovered from COVID-19, and Patrick now donates his plasma to help other patients. The hospital said it contains “super antibodies,” which are found in fewer than 5% of recovering patients and can neutralize the virus. Each donation he makes helps at least four seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

This experience completely changed my practice. I now look forward to chanting in front of the Gohonzon every day and studying the SGI-USA publications, which used to collect dust in the corner. Although my husband is not an SGI member, he fully supports my practice and is appreciative of the members chanting for our full recovery.

In the past, I never knew what to tell others about Buddhism, because my personal practice was shaky. But after seeing the power of my prayer, I feel so empowered to share my story with others.

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).

These days, I share Buddhism with everyone I can—from my neighbors when I’m out walking my dog to my friends on Facebook. So many people are having a hard time, and I am determined to encourage them all, based on my great appreciation for my husband’s life and the renewal of my own.