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To Change Your Karma, Go Straight for the Punch

Undefeated—Robert E. Lee in Hanover, Pa., August 2022. Photo by Bobbie H. Lee.

by Robert E. Lee
Hanover, Penn.

Back in ’82, I was told that propagating Buddhism is the quickest way to change your karma. I’ve found that to be absolutely true. 

Before Buddhism, I depended on drugs to feel good. But chanting and sharing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo got those monsters off my back. I’ve since been as clean as a whistle. That was all the proof I needed to join those glowing Soka Gakkai members and invite others to chant, too.

When my sister faced a health challenge, I told her, “You gotta chant!” She did and completely overcame it. Then another relative, a Baptist preacher, had some marital problems. I’m no marriage counselor, so all I could offer was what I knew: that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo works. He tried chanting for himself, and it worked for him too. He became an SGI-USA member and practiced Buddhism for the rest of his life. 

Since then, I’ve never missed a day of gongyo and daimoku. I learned in ’85 that, even if you have to whisper, chanting will always produce benefit. That was when 50 of us, crammed into a hotel room in Hawaii, chanted quietly so as to not bother the other guests. We whispered, but I still felt the joy. So when I chanted while being treated for esophageal cancer last year, whispering, I was never discouraged—not one bit. 

With cancer, I devoted myself to sharing Buddhism even more. I told everyone at the hospital about Buddhist philosophy—the nurses, technicians, doctors. I even handed the hospital chaplain a card and had him read “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” aloud. Now when I walk into a room for treatment, I’m welcomed by a “Hi, Mr. Lee!” They all already know.

During one test, a search for an elusive tumor, five technicians poked at me. At the suggestion of one of them, we all chanted together to find the tumor and get out of there. The six of us chanted as they worked, and they found it. I felt so good afterward, I went out for karaoke. 

The cancer was successfully removed in October 2021. Now facing another health challenge, a new tumor, I have no doubt that, through the strategy of the Lotus Sutra and rigorous seed-planting, victory is near.

I’ve found that there isn’t only one approach to sharing Buddhism with people. You do whatever the situation calls for. If a department store staff helps me grab a trinket off the shelf, I thank them by asking “Can I share my philosophy on life with you?” as I hand them a card. Recently in the supermarket, I saw a lady nodding off at the checkout station. I shared Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with her, saying it might help her stay awake on the job. Regardless of the approach, I don’t hesitate. Just like a heavyweight champion at the start of a fight, I go straight for the punch: “Have you heard of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?”

Ikeda Sensei teaches us to nurture the seeds we plant, so I chant for each person. I have a book full of names of those I introduce. I’m praying to raise people, young people, for kosen-rufu. One young man started chanting through his mom, who I introduced at the cancer clinic. He recently moved away, but I chant for and stay in touch with him. 

Through propagation, I continue to transform my karma. I’ve overcome addiction and diabetes, and I’ve given this tumor its eviction notice, too. Though I’ve already beat my seed-planting record this year, I’m not going to stop. 

I’m doing all I can to achieve my goals, so why am I facing so many setbacks?

Our Efforts Awaken Other Buddhas