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Developing the Courage to Fight for My Dreams

Buddhism has taught me that my happiness is inseparable from the happiness of others.

Chintan Parekh with his wife, Keya, and son, Vin, in their New Jersey home, May 2021.
Chintan Parekh with his wife, Keya, and son, Vin, in their New Jersey home, May 2021. Photo by Twinkle Sarda.

by Chintan Parekh
Westfield, N.J.

Since starting my Buddhist practice, the benefits that I have received are boundless. I met my wife, Keya, whom I love immensely, and we are fortunate to have our wonderful son, Vin. I have also transformed my financial karma, which was full of obstacles. I wanted to give up so many times along the way, but Buddhism gave me the courage to continue advancing no matter what.

I came to the U.S. in 2002 to start an MBA program with a dream to work on Wall Street. I loved the competition of the finance world and was hungry to be the best. I had been introduced to the SGI in India one year earlier and started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to be accepted into an MBA program in America. Once this happened, I stopped chanting.

After earning my master’s, I struggled to get a work visa to stay in the U.S. With no other alternatives, I reached out to the SGI community in Philadelphia and began chanting serious daimoku to turn the situation around. Shortly after, I received the Gohonzon.

My practice gave me the courage to go directly after my dream. I drove my barely functioning car with two bags of clothes to New York City. I slept in my car and washed up in a fast-food restroom until I found a place for cheap rent. I shared a roach-infested one-bedroom apartment with about 10 people. The first thing I did each morning was shake off the roaches. It was a living hell, but I was looking forward to breaking into New York’s finance industry.

I had made the final round of interviews for two reputable firms, but before receiving a job offer, I needed to secure a visa. With my current one set to expire in a few months and new work visas unavailable for another year, I was unable to get an offer.

I was devastated and wanted to leave the country, but my SGI friends did not give up on me. They constantly encouraged me to chant and participate in meetings. In winter, when I had no money to buy warm clothes and taking public transportation was brutally cold, they always gave me rides to SGI activities, where I poured my heart out.

Reflecting on how I developed my faith here in the U.S. and the sacrifices my parents made to send me here, I made a vow to do kosen-rufu in America out of appreciation to Ikeda Sensei and my parents. I created a daily rhythm of chanting and encouraged other young men, studied Sensei’s writings and participated in Soka Group, a young men’s behind-the-scenes training group.

These activities filled me with hope and courage. I was so appreciative of this that in 2004, I did my first financial contribution to the SGI-USA, even though money was incredibly tight. Giving to our kosen-rufu movement gave me an immense joy that I cannot describe in words. That night, I made a vow to Sensei: Though I am poor right now, one day I will be financially strong so that I can protect the SGI-USA.

Soon after, the government decided to issue additional work visas for international students with master’s degrees, and my application was accepted. Within days, I started a new job in corporate finance with a higher salary than I could have imagined. Since then, I have been one of the top-rated performers at each of the five companies I’ve worked for.

Before practicing Buddhism, I was absorbed with just my own betterment, but now I have learned to apply Sensei’s philosophy of Buddhist humanism. In the cutthroat world of finance, I always aim to help co-workers or others whom I supervise bring out their full potential. With the right encouragement, even the weakest performer can become the best.

Twenty years ago, I simply wanted to make lots of money because that made me feel superior to others. Now I’m driven to make money to advance kosen-rufu, with a deeper understanding that my happiness and the happiness of others are inextricably linked.

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, The Sun of Youth, p. 72)

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