Becoming the Happiest Woman

Teruko Dent creates a happy family through her Buddhist practice despite facing tremendous challenges.

Teruko Dent (center) creates a happy family through her Buddhist practice despite facing tremendous challenges. “I decided to fight for our family and transform the situation,” she said. Mrs. Dent pictured with her husband, Von, children and their families.

As part of the new Many Treasures Group monthly series, the World Tribune will feature experiences of our pioneers of American kosen-rufu and how they came to find the great power of faith as they challenged their personal problems while helping others become happy. Together with their mentor, Ikeda Sensei, they created a history of changing lives filled with obstacles into lives filled with lasting benefits for themselves and countless others. Please enjoy these stories, which will appear on this page each month in the World Tribune’s second weekly issue.

by Teruko Dent
Ewa Beach, Hawaii

I joined the Soka Gakkai in Japan on Oct. 5, 1960, three days after Ikeda Sensei had come to America for the first time. I moved to Hawaii in 1965 and married an American man I had corresponded with for the previous three years.

The beginning of our marriage was very challenging. My husband, Von, changed jobs 13 times in the first year. Instead of enjoying our honeymoon period, we faced serious financial struggles and suffered two miscarriages. But I determined to transform my karma and accumulate fortune through my Buddhist practice.

I became a group leader in Honolulu but didn’t have confidence because of my poor English, so I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon on how to become close to the members. I realized that one thing I could do was teach the members how to do a strong gongyo.

At our first gathering, only one other member attended. I was discouraged at first, but from the following week, we teamed up to visit the members in our group. Within six months, we had 15 members attending meetings!

In conducting activities, one big issue was that no one had a car. One day, a
member called me saying she had received a big benefit: Her cousin had given her a car for activities. She had insisted on picking me up for a meeting and when I got in, she asked me to cover my mouth with a handkerchief. The car had no front windshield, and smoke came in from the sides. When we reached the SGI center, my face was covered in dust!

Each activity for kosen-rufu was a great adventure! Every time a member in our group faced problems, we chanted together for a breakthrough. All these obstacles transformed into great joy. We cried together, laughed together and enjoyed our activities together.

I experienced a personal breakthrough as well when I learned that I was pregnant again. This time, I delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl in October 1969.

I continued supporting activities, and in 1975, we held the Blue Hawaii Convention. Sensei encouraged all the members working behind the scenes. He thanked me and said, “Please become the happiest woman, and don’t forget to smile.” From that day, I determined to develop a life condition in which I could always smile, regardless of my struggles.

Sensei’s guidance became my lifeline several months later when I came home one day to find a note from my husband saying he was leaving us. I was confused because I thought he had been happy in the marriage.

That night, I sat in front of the Gohonzon and chanted until the next morning. I decided to fight for our family and transform the situation.

I began making lunch for him and bringing it to his workplace. Never once did I ask him where he was living or to please come home. When I saw how skinny he had become, I felt pain in my heart. He told me that he was seeing a psychiatrist because he couldn’t take the pressure at work. For the first time, I genuinely chanted for my husband’s health and happiness.

I kept chanting and doing SGI activities every day. Three months later, my husband invited my daughter and me to his small studio apartment. That evening, he treated us to dinner and asked us to stay over at his place. Early the next morning, I woke up to my husband packing his suitcase. He looked at me and said, “Let’s go home.”

Forty-five years later, we are still happily married. He has supported my Buddhist practice all these years.

My experience has taught me that happiness is not about material things. It is about expanding my inner capacity through developing compassion and warm human bonds. It is about strengthening my life to overcome hardships and experience true joy.

Sensei always taught me that happiness means to never be defeated by my problems. I deeply appreciate Sensei and the SGI organization for teaching me this most valuable and important way of life.

Teruko DentQ: What advice would you give to newer practitioners?

Answer: I encourage everyone to make good friends in the SGI. I have made friends with people from all walks of life and have learned so much about the world from my SGI friends.