Transforming Our Karma and Our Community
by Grace, Dean and Sean Harding
Santa Clara, Calif.
World Tribune: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us about your efforts to share Buddhism with others as a family. Can you tell us how you started practicing Buddhism?
Grace Harding: I was born into this practice in South Korea. My mother was a single mother raising three children, and I saw how, through her efforts to share Buddhism as well as make financial contributions for the advancement of kosen-rufu, she was able to transform all of her sufferings. She never missed a single district meeting regardless of how busy she was. When I moved to Australia to study in 2005, I met Dean, and I introduced him to Buddhism.
WT: What were some challenges you overcame as a family through your Buddhist practice?
Dean Harding: When we met and decided to marry, our biggest challenge was finances. I had student loans, car loans and credit card debt. Grace was a student and had a part-time job.
Grace: We decided to make causes for kosen-rufu to transform our situation. Within one year, we were able to pay off all our debt and even buy our first place together. We had our son, Sean, in 2012. In 2017, we moved to Santa Clara, California.
Last year, Sean was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, or NF1, which causes tumors, bone deformities, learning disabilities and high blood pressure. This was heartbreaking for us because there is no known cure. After I heard the news, I sat in front of the Gohonzon and couldn’t stop crying. But we determined that this obstacle would become our mission. I decided: “Now is the time to do my human revolution and fight for kosen-rufu!”
WT: When did you start planting seeds as a family?
Grace: I started planting seeds at the beginning of 2021 toward the February women’s commemorative meeting. Whenever I would go out, I would make sure to bring my Nam-myoho-renge-kyo cards with me. Then the men’s division started their 55 campaign, where each man determined to plant 55 seeds to mark the 55th anniversary of the men’s division. So, we decided to join forces and plant seeds together as a family.
Dean: After that, from Oct. 18 to Nov. 18, we decided to plant one seed per day in 30 days. But within five days, we had already accomplished our goal. We shared Buddhism with the cashiers at the stores we went to, at the park, the restaurants where we ate. On Halloween, when Sean went trick-or-treating, he would receive a treat and in turn, we would share Buddhism with them. Sometimes, Sean would be the one to give them a Nam-myoho-renge-kyo card. In three hours, we shared Buddhism with our entire neighborhood—55 people!
WT: What is your spirit when you are planting seeds?
Grace: If we want to change our karma, we have to give others the tools to change theirs too. Through sharing Buddhism, we change other’s lives and our own. Especially with this pandemic, we can’t just focus on our own happiness. Other people’s happiness is also important.
Dean: There is a quote from The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin that states, “If the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 4).
We have been planting seeds mostly in our own community. We want to make sure that the people around us have the tools to overcome their challenges, too.
WT: Many people struggle with sharing Buddhism. Have you always been the type to readily share with others?
Dean: Grace hasn’t ever had a problem with sharing. I still struggle sharing Buddhism with people. But with the Nam-myoho-renge-kyo cards, it’s easy to start a conversation.
WT: Is it easy for you to share Buddhism, Sean?
Sean Harding: Oh, yes! But sometimes, we don’t have a whole conversation because we don’t want to hold up the entire line.
WT: Was there ever a time when someone completely rejected it?
Grace: We have many experiences of that! We get a little discouraged, but then we tell ourselves we won’t be defeated, and we will continue to share no matter what.
Dean: We also sometimes get a good reaction from people. Some people are very interested. There was one young woman we met who has a friend who practices Buddhism with the SGI. We were able to have a great conversation about Buddhism with her.
WT: What would you say to someone who has planted seeds but feels discouraged?
Sean: Never be defeated. There is always another day. Just try again.
Dean: Yes, just keep going. The next person may be someone who is interested. That’s why we call it planting seeds. Sometimes they sprout. Sometimes they don’t and sometimes they take years. You are making the cause and at the right time the seed will manifest.
Sean: Whenever we go out, I remind my mom, “Don’t forget the cards!” My mom planted seeds with people in the NF1 support group, and two of them started chanting!
Dean: Many people in the NF1 support group have children who have very severe symptoms. Fortunately, Sean has very mild symptoms. The neurologist said that Sean has a mild case without most of the complications. We have so much appreciation.
WT: Do you have any goals for this Year of Youth Youth and Dynamic Progress?
Grace: Toward the February commemorative women’s meetings, I will share Buddhism with many women and young women, and bring them to the intro-to-Buddhism meetings. We also want to support all the youth and be a great role model for Sean by doing SGI activities joyfully. Sean loves to go to his district meetings. He is often asked to read, emcee or share his experience.
Sean: I love going to my district meetings because I can learn more about Buddhism. I remember we learned about creating value a few months ago. I like being asked to do things for the meetings. My goal for next year is that I want to weaken my NF1 and get rid of it.
WT: Any parting thoughts?
Dean: It’s such a small thing to share, but you never know what people are going through. We walk by people on the street all the time, and we don’t give them a second thought. They could be really suffering. Just giving someone a little nudge toward Buddhism may result in their life transforming. You have no idea just by looking at someone. You can do something big and profound just by making a small effort like that, and I think that’s quite amazing.
Grace: I was so surprised that so many people have not yet heard about Buddhism in our county. Still there are many more people whom we can share with. In 2021, we shared Buddhism with over 280 people! But we will keep sharing with many more people this year, too!