We Are Deserving of Absolute Happiness
How we transformed our family conflict by practicing for self and others.
by Deepak and Parul Sharma
Palo Alto, Calif.
World Tribune: Hello, Deepak and Parul! Thank you very much for discussing your experience with us. We hear that you have had a profound experience as a family over the past few years.
Deepak Sharma: Thank you for this opportunity! Yes, in 2016, I realized that I was in a war with myself, and it had taken a toll on me and my family. On the surface, everything was going well. I had just made partner at my consulting firm, bought a beautiful home, and I had a very supportive wife, Parul, and two wonderful children, Adi and Oona. But I was deeply unhappy. I felt like an imposter, as if my success wasn’t deserved. I was gripped with the fear that everything would crumble like a castle built on sand.
WT: When did you begin feeling this way?
Deepak: I felt this way most of my life, but in 2016, I realized I needed to become truly happy. Working for a management consulting firm meant a lot of pressure to perform. In addition, I’d always been insecure about my appearance, especially my hair, which I began coloring by age 20 after it turned gray in my teens.
To cope with my constant stress, I turned to alcohol and became careless about the safety of myself and my family. One night in 2011, I was pulled over by police for driving 80 mph on the highway with Parul and our then 4-year-old son, Adi. I was charged with a DUI.
Parul Sharma: This was a very difficult time for us. We began arguing constantly, blaming each other for our suffering. The DUI signaled that something was off and had to change.
WT: When was your turning point?
Parul: My perspective completely changed while home visiting a Many Treasures Group member. I went to encourage her because she had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, but she was the one who inspired me! During the visit, I broke down crying because Deepak and I had just gotten into one of our worst fights. The member advised me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon as though having a conversation with my husband and, from there, develop the wisdom to have better communication. I chanted desperately to transform our relationship, starting with myself. Rather than impulsively responding when upset, I took everything to the Gohonzon first.
WT: How did your relationship transform?
Deepak: It was a gradual process. Things started to change for me in 2015 when I was asked to become a men’s group leader and support one member who had not been attending SGI activities. This helped me become consistent in my Buddhist practice for the first time as I felt it was easier to chant for someone else rather than for myself.
By chanting consistently and taking on responsibility for kosen-rufu, I realized that I had to change. One example: I began to see a therapist for my alcohol abuse and depression. Parul had encouraged me to do this before, but my pride wouldn’t allow it.
Parul: We learned to communicate and listen to each other, and our home life became increasingly joyful. Last summer, we attended a conference at the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center and made a vow to become a harmonious family for the sake of kosen-rufu.
WT: What has been the greatest benefit of your Buddhist practice?
Parul: I’m in awe of the transformation I’ve gone through. When I was introduced to the SGI, I was working in advertising, which was very stressful. I always wanted to be in a creative career but was afraid of disappointing my family if I changed course. I felt like my life was decided by others, and I didn’t know how to break free. After moving to the U.S. with Deepak in 2005, I wholeheartedly participated in SGI activities. Eventually, I attended art school, and today I have a job I love as a graphic designer for one of the world’s leading social media companies. My Buddhist practice has taught me that I am in the driver’s seat of my life, transforming challenges into causes for growth.
Deepak: I no longer feel like an imposter undeserving of success and happiness. I’ve also been able to face my deepest insecurities. After my dad’s passing in 2018, as part of the last rites in my culture, I shaved my head. Everyone who knew me was shocked and some even gasped! But I also felt free like never before. As the shock wore off, I found acceptance for being just the way I am, no hair dye needed.
I’ve recently had many other victories. For one, our SGI-USA district, Central Palo Alto, was named a “Soka Victory District,” which I believe is a reflection of the members’ faith, determination and efforts to work for kosen-rufu throughout this challenging year.
I’ve also become one of the top revenue producers at my firm and was elected to our company’s leadership team. Most importantly, my bond with our kids is stronger and my marriage happier than ever.
WT: Congratulations on your victories! What are some of your future goals?
Parul: We want our children to become the happiest young people and successors for kosen-rufu. I want to encourage as many youth as possible and let them know that they are important, they matter, and they have a great mission.