Developing Conviction in My Potential
by Byeong Hwa Yun
Faith is—to fear nothing, to stand unswayed, the power to surmount any obstacle. Faith is the source from which all solutions flow. Faith is the engine that propels us in the thrilling voyage of life, a life victorious and transcendent. (Ikeda Sensei, Nov. 6, World Tribune insert, p. C)
In early 2008, as I was nearing graduation from a Ph.D. program in bioanalytic chemistry, I secured a job at a multinational cosmetics company, but due to the financial crisis, the company withdrew all recruitment plans. Many other companies were laying off scientists, and virtually no one was hiring.
In the 2 1/2 years that followed, I applied to over 250 jobs without success. As a result, my family suffered extreme financial hardships. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo seriously and took on leadership in the SGI-USA to transform this situation. Through these causes, I developed the wisdom to postpone my graduation, which would allow me to continue to receive a stipend from research funding and support my wife and son.
I knew I couldn’t put off my graduation much longer, and I began to lose conviction in my faith and potential. I encouraged other SGI members to fight for their dreams, but inside I was feeling guilty as I could not prove what I was telling them.
I went to a senior in faith for encouragement. The first thing he did was sit down and chant with me for 30 minutes. This leader’s serious prayer for my victory and happiness deeply touched me. While chanting, I felt as if Ikeda Sensei were telling me: “Don’t worry. You’ll be OK.” Deep confidence welled up from within.
Soon after, I secured a position as a scientist and faculty member at the University of Minnesota, where I enjoyed great success. This included discovering a groundbreaking method to detect human DNA damage induced by carcinogens in food and other environmental sources, which today is used by health organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization.
Even after this experience, however, I continued to struggle to have absolute conviction in the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. As a scientist, I tend to analyze situations many times before chanting to the Gohonzon about the best way to resolve them. I decided that I must become a man of conviction who fully believes in himself and the efficacy of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
In 2019, I decided to confront my doubts by setting a new career goal and have an experience in which I could declare with confidence: I won because of the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!
That summer, I found an opening at a federal agency for a job that matched my professional background. I applied and, in December, I had a phone interview and gave a seminar to the staff of the entire division. After just a few weeks, in January 2020, I was offered a position as a senior scientist!
Looking back, as a child in Korea, I had set a goal to be the greatest scientist of the 21st century. This goal came from attending future division meetings where we studied Sensei’s writings about making big dreams and becoming leaders of the 21st century. The connection I made with my mentor as an elementary school student decided my course in life.
I now have deep appreciation for my career challenges since 2008 because the core of my faith is stronger than ever. While I know human revolution is an unending process, I feel as if that painful scar of self-doubt I developed 12 years ago has been erased.
This most recent experience also enabled me to connect more deeply with my son, Elliot. I’m determined to support him in becoming the happiest young man and someone who brings happiness to many others.
Toward 2030, I’m also determined to do my part in ensuring that Sensei’s Buddhist humanism can influence American society, making our nation more just and compassionate for all people. I really want each person I encounter to become genuinely happy. I now even introduce myself, saying, “My name is BH Yun, and the BH stands for Be Happy.” I will keep challenging myself to advance American kosen-rufu, alongside Sensei, as a scientist who protects and supports ordinary people.