Teaching My Grandchildren About Faith
The World Tribune spoke with Bernice Griffin, of Lakewood, Washington, about her nearly four decades of Buddhist practice and how she is passing on faith to the next generation.
World Tribune: Thank you, Bernice, for speaking with us. We heard that you have a passion for sharing Nichiren Buddhism with young people and that all of your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren chant. What motivates you?
Bernice Griffin: I have been practicing Buddhism for 38 years, and my greatest motivation is that I want all young people to have a happy life like I’ve been able to have. I want them to make a connection with Ikeda Sensei so that no matter what, even if I’m gone, they can absolutely transform whatever suffering they are going through, have a joy for life and give back to others. I’m teaching them how to live a regret-free life.
When I married my husband, he had three children from a previous marriage, and I had four of my own. Between the two of us, we now have 32 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. The youngest was born just one month ago, and the oldest grandchild is now 25.
Not all of them practice like me, but they all know the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and attend SGI meetings whenever they can. That is my legacy.
WT: How have you approached communicating your faith to them?
Griffin: Every family has their own family dynamics. I have openly engaged my family in my practice. I know they are watching me; they are seeing how I challenge different things in my life with faith. After I attend an SGI meeting, I share what happened during that meeting. At one point in time, I had 11 people living in my house. When we would sit down to do gongyo together, that was the most beautiful sound you could have ever heard.
I have many conversations with my grandchildren about why it is important to have a mentor to become happy and ask them how we can bring about peace in the land. It is important to have these kinds of conversations with the youth and listen to them. Sometimes, I simply ask: “How are you? How are things going?” and they open up to me about their struggles.
Especially now, during the pandemic, many young people feel isolated and depressed. They feel like their lives don’t matter. I try to touch the life of every person in my environment. There are two young boys in my neighborhood with whom I always engage in conversation. They can’t wait to see me drive around the corner so that they can say hello, and they know I chant. All of my grandchildren’s friends also come over to grandma’s house and leave knowing about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
WT: Do you have any tips for those who are struggling to teach faith to their children or grandchildren?
Griffin: Have a determination to do it, no matter what, and never give up on that determination.
Open up your heart so that you can chant to the Gohonzon to manifest the wisdom to touch each person’s life. And continually chant daimoku until you see a result. Engage them in conversation. When they are struggling, share how you have overcome something through faith. Invite them to the district meetings and youth activities. This practice has been in their lives since they were born. They are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Having that determination to connect with them is key so that they can fulfill their vow.
Q: How can we communicate our faith to our children?
A: One of the most essential ingredients in raising children to become ﬁne adults is that parents get ﬁrmly in tune with their children and grow together with them, marching forward as one.
We SGI members devote ourselves to serving the Law, serving humanity. Ours is not an egocentric life. That is why we are busier than others and perhaps do not have as much opportunity for relaxation with our families. Nevertheless, we continue to devote ourselves to others.
Ours is the most noble way of life. We must make sure our children can understand and respect our beliefs, our way of life and our dedication. It is a mistake to assume that they will somehow come to know we love them or to understand our commitment to kosen-rufu on their own, without us having to say anything. We must make conscious efforts to verbalize and communicate our thoughts and feelings to them— and to do so wisely, in a relaxed and open manner, without undue haste. Finding the wisdom for this task is an expression of our faith. (Ikeda Sensei, My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 249)