Skip to main content


On Banishing Doubt

How my son’s cancer enabled me to become a fearless mother and shed all limitations.

Fearless—Linda Jackson in front of her new home with her dog, Yoshi, in Sandston, Va., August 2021. Photo by Lawrence Barclay.

by Linda Jackson
Sandston, VA.

I’d been practicing Buddhism for over 40 years when I got the news, in February 2019, that my eldest son, Freddy, had stage 2, possibly stage 3, colon cancer. Certain things you come to think are behind you, done with. When I began my Buddhist practice in 1979, the 15 medications I was taking were barely keeping me functional; I was stuck in an unhappy marriage without an exit in view, feeling powerless to determine the course of my life. But that was 40 years ago, and I had won over all of that. Right?

When Freddy called me, the old negativity, the old fears and doubts, all came crashing back at once. When I did get myself in front of the Gohonzon, the only thing I could think was: What if he dies? What if he dies? What if, what if, what if…

Oh, I was chanting this desperate chant.

In particular I was worried and frustrated that Freddy, even now, wasn’t much interested in the practice. After listening and listening to my worries, a leader said, “Linda, now is the time to chant doubt-free daimoku.”

“But why won’t he chant—?”

“Back off. Be a warm mother. All the change comes from you.”

It was not by any means the first time I’d heard this. I brought two boys into the world and have worried about them since. Even in the best of times, when both enjoyed good health and steady jobs, I found reasons to worry. And when I worry, they say, I tend to nag. Over the years, it got to the point where neither of them wanted to hear it from me.

“We’re praying to Jesus.” But they weren’t even going to church!

But this time was scary. Freddy’s diagnosis and scheduled surgery coincided with the pandemic shutdown. Moreover, he had just begun a new job so had little sick time or disability benefits. On top of this, I couldn’t visit—the two of us were high risk. We decided against my taking a plane from California.

What if he doesn’t find a good doctor, the right wisdom, enough money; what if, what if, what if…

But you see, that’s doubt. In front of the Gohonzon, on a rollercoaster of emotion, I had a lightbulb moment: All this doubt and fear is a devilish function. It was trying to stop me from changing serious karma when I was right on the verge of changing it. As I chanted do-or-die daimoku, this mother’s roar from the gut, I felt a confidence and calm come over me: I was on the right path. Everything was going to be all right.

The next time I talked to Freddy, I shared exactly this: Everything was going to be OK.

As I chanted do-or-die daimoku, this mother’s roar from the gut, I felt a confidence and calm come over me: I was on the right path. Everything was going to be all right.

He was not hearing this from me for the first time, but under the circumstances, it landed differently. I knew what I was saying was true.

Long story short, Freddy got the money and the care that he needed. During his recovery, he took to reading the SGI-USA publications I sent him. So he got the wisdom, too. In August 2020, when he learned he was cancer-free, he began chanting and attending meetings.

Around the same time, my younger son, John, also took up the practice and had a major breakthrough with his career.

You don’t have those kinds of breakthroughs without shaking everything up: Back in California my landlord gave me notice, and soon after, my dog, Yoshi, fell so sick I didn’t know if he would survive. This was my home of 11 years, and Yoshi is my kosen-rufu dog (he is so handsome; people ask me about him, and I ask them if they’ve heard of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo).

The prospective loss of my home and Yoshi should have had me worried, but it didn’t.

While Freddy battled his cancer, I battled all out for kosen-rufu in my district and had reached a point of no limitations. I was chanting for and encouraging the members, making our district meetings the best ever and uplifting the youth who made our district hopping.

By overcoming my deepest worries, the ones closest to home, I opened my life to the people around me on a whole new level.

Freddy suggested I come to Virginia to see if I could find a place to live within my budget. It had been a longtime dream of mine to own my own home, but I had always found a reason—my social security income, my age—for why it wasn’t a good idea.

Well, I’m here now, with Yoshi (he’s fat and happy as a lark), in a beautiful home, practicing in the same district as Freddy and his girlfriend. At her suggestion, I even applied for tax relief, so now the county pays all the taxes on my new home.

When you win over the big things, the little things follow suit.

Q: What advice would you give to newer practitioners?

Linda Jackson: I would tell them upfront it’s not easy. This practice is not for wimps. It’s for winners. And everyone can be a winner. Try this practice. Make a list of things you want to change. You’re going to see your life start to move in a positive direction. If I can do it, you can do it.

Digging to the Bedrock

Reviving the Spirit to Live