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The Deeper Point of Offerings

Making offerings for the sake of Buddhism, I open my heart to my father and to humanity.

Expansive life—Allen Massiah in Bridgeport, Conn., March 2022. Photo by Jeremy Joffee.

by Allen Massiah
Bridgeport, Conn.

My father, an immigrant from Barbados, was a man of few words, but a few he had often were, “Allen, you don’t always need to bring up some deep point!” He meant that I came off in conversations as a know-it-all, more concerned with proving myself than learning something new. I felt he was grouchy and authoritarian; he felt I was small minded. Not until I began practicing Buddhism, in the last year of his life, could I open my heart to the lessons he had to offer.  

I began chanting in June 1973, at age 22, after taking a Nam-myoho-renge-kyo card that a friend had turned down. The card had the information for an upcoming discussion meeting. I went. Chanting, I felt something stronger and happier stirring within me. I didn’t know it, but by chanting I was making a profound offering to my Buddha nature. In December of that year, while a senior at college, I happily joined the SGI-USA and received the Gohonzon. 

Over the next six months, I made offerings of many kinds—of my time to support young men’s activities; of encouragement to others; of my small apartment for SGI meetings. While my offerings took different forms, they stemmed from a common intent: to elevate my life and the lives of others. As I made these causes, I felt greater confidence in myself and a new desire to open my mind to the opinions and experiences of others. 

By September, I was attending college again after a one-year hiatus and studying in a way I never had, relishing my courses—world history, especially. One day, cutting through a cemetery on my usual route to class, an obvious and extraordinary fact struck me.

So much of what I’m studying—the Spanish-American War, the world wars, the Great Depression—Dad lived through it. 

I decided to ask my dad, who was in declining health, about his life. Listening, I began to understand that he was not such a grouch after all. What he’d wanted all along was simply for me to learn from his successes and mistakes, to pass on in conversation what he had learned through hardship. 

I had the unparalleled honor, in January of 1974, to chant at his bedside as he transitioned to his next life. 

The wisdom that came from chanting had led me to deepen our relationship. This transformation was a powerful lesson for me. Namely, that when I chant to the Gohonzon, my heart changes first, then the heart of the other person and the situation as a whole. Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda has said:

No matter what situation you find yourself in, when you base yourself on deep and powerful faith, you’ll be able to overcome everything. When you yourself change, grow and take responsibility, you can win in all things. It all comes down to you. (Nov. 7, 2008, World Tribune, p. 4)

This has become a cornerstone of my conviction in faith. 

Soon after my dad’s passing, the SGI-USA held a major contribution drive for the renovation of what would be the largest center in the States—the World Culture Center. I set a challenging contribution goal, but as the campaign’s end neared, I had accomplished just a fraction of it. I mentioned my situation to a senior in faith, who warmly yet seriously requested that I keep chanting and never give up. In retrospect, I see now that this was one more opportunity to use my faith to create a victory against all odds. Encouraged, I refreshed my determination. 

Allen with his family: (top to bottom) sons, Masanobu and Ko-ichi, and wife, Molly, July 2020. Photo courtesy of Allen Massiah.

One week before the end of the campaign, I visited my mom. During our conversation, she said that she had something from my dad he had never gotten around to giving me. “Probably,” she mused, “because you were so argumentative.” She then handed me a matured U.S. savings bond. It wasn’t all that much, but it equaled my goal for the campaign. I was amazed!

The next day, I made my contribution goal, feeling a sublime, indescribable joy of nurturing and protecting the kosen-rufu movement, which had opened my life to my father. I learned that when I set expansive goals for kosen-rufu, seek encouragement while on my path and never ever give up—sincerely chanting and striving until the very last minute—I can make the impossible possible.

I have carried this lesson with me over the years, and it has proved invaluable. I have developed tremendous fortune in every dimension of my life. My career has been multifaceted and rewarding, as an actuarial analyst, organization design consultant, software alliance manager, math teacher, and now, as a grad student. Of all the roles I’ve played, however, it has been as a husband and father that have proved most rewarding by far. My wife and I have unending gratitude for the experience of raising our two sons—Ko-ichi and Masanobu, who have each developed into thoughtful, independent, creative and compassionate young people. 

Ikeda Sensei says the youth are emissaries of the future. In everything I do, I try to act in the Buddhist spirit of offerings, with the intent to nurture and protect all people, now and in the future. As in my father’s time, horrible wars persist,  and people’s hearts are troubled. Times have changed, but the underlying cause of conflict has not. Therefore, this year, for May Contribution, I’m resolving again to deepen my heart and elevate the life state of all humanity, affirming again the deeper point of offerings. 

The spirit of joyful offering elevates our state of life and produces immeasurable benefit. This, in turn, deepens our conviction in faith. It is an unchanging equation for consolidating the foundation of happiness in our lives.

Ikeda Sensei, The New Human Revolution, vol. 4, revised edition, p. 115

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