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Advancing With Confidence

Basing everything on prayer, family reveals to me that my life itself is the treasure tower.

Unbeatable—Fumi McGlothen in Riverside, Calif., April 2023. Photo by Samy Pinarli.

by Fumi McGlothen
Riverside, Calif.

My mind was always racing: How should one live? Where do we go when we die? What’s the purpose of life?  I searched for answers everywhere—in religions, schools and jobs, but wherever I looked, whomever I asked, I never found an answer that stuck. 

“Very purehearted, our daughter,” my parents would say, but they looked tired when they said it. I’d try anything but give it up in a flash. Purehearted, yes, but confident? More like a total give-up! 

The year 1976 found me and my husband, an American military man, stationed in Okinawa with our firstborn son, something that worried my parents, who’d seen me give up on just about everything else. 

At my son’s school, another mother and I got to talking. She mentioned she was Buddhist and invited me to a Soka Gakkai meeting. There, I asked all my usual questions. 

“This is the religion you’re looking for,” someone told me. “You’ll never know if you don’t try.” 

“Well, true,” I said. I received the Gohonzon and began studying for an introduction-to-Buddhism exam. 

Photo by Samy Pinarli.

Studying, one question stumped me—the same question, in fact, that had stumped Abutsu-bo, a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin. 

“What is the significance of the treasure tower?” he’d asked the Daishonin, referring to the massive structure described as emerging from the earth in the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin had answered, “Abutsu-bo is … the treasure tower itself, and the treasure tower is Abutsu-bo himself” (“On the Treasure Tower,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 299).

What’s it mean?  I asked the Gohonzon. I want to know! As I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I felt a huge and sudden surge of energy, almost as though a tower were rising up from within my own chest—a positive feeling of boundless appreciation and confidence.

“What was that?” I asked a senior in faith.

She thought a moment and then lit up. “Must be life force coming up!”

“Must be, ” I said uncertainly. What I did know, though, is that I’d asked a question and for the first time gotten an answer that gripped me with excitement.

Every day after that, I woke up and chanted, asking whatever was on my mind to the Gohonzon, feeling great confidence that I’d get an answer worth having. At last, I’d found something I knew I’d stick with for good.

Over the following years, my husband received assignments to New York, South Carolina, the Philippines and finally, Southern California. Each place brought new adventures and challenges, but everywhere I went I brought with me the same daimoku, the same confidence in my life, deepening with every challenge overcome.

In the Philippines, my youngest son was caught outdoors in a flash flood. The rain nearly swept him into a storm drain, but his raincoat caught on a bit of fencing. Two servicemen happened to spot him flailing there and hauled him out. That night we chanted daimoku of appreciation, me with the conviction that the power of daimoku is boundless. It was a conviction I’d come to rely on in the years to come.

In 1987, in California now, my eldest son, at age 16, suddenly withdrew, shut his door, drew his blinds and fell into a long, deep depression. He wouldn’t talk to us or anyone.

Chanting one night, sick with worry, a realization hit me like a wave. My son is teaching me the greatness of daimoku.

Confidence emerged from my life: Everything, everything, I felt, is going to be OK. My prayer changed then. It became one of appreciation. Thank you, my son, thank you, thank you.

He still didn’t want to talk, but I think he could sense a change in me—no worry, no fear, just deep confidence and appreciation for him. In any case, my daimoku certainly reached him. Within a week, he began to eat again. From there he did a complete 180, deciding to enter the U.S. Air Force, and then to pursue a career in IT. Both my sons, I realized, had helped me reveal to myself the power of the Gohonzon and of daimoku. So, that left my husband.

I remember the day he told me he wanted to leave me. “Why?” I managed—hardly able to breathe. It wasn’t anything ugly; he simply wasn’t happy.

“Share this with the members at your next meeting, with a determination to show results,” my women’s leader told me. “Then all the Buddhist gods will follow you home.” I did that and went home to chant. My prayer was not Why me? but What is this a reflection of in my own life? 

The prospect of separation also meant I’d need to search for work, but I’d never held a real job in my life.

What quality do I have to bring to a job? I wondered. I had no idea, but, chanting, I felt the treasure tower emerging from my life—a feeling of confidence that I absolutely had something to offer. Though it was completely new to me, I attended computer school for a year and graduated. Then, I landed a job working as a salesperson at a high-end fashion company. What can I bring to this job? I asked myself and soon I discovered what it was: earnest resolve. Three years running, I was my company’s top salesperson, an accomplishment that earned me a share of company stock, dramatically transforming my financial fortune. I worked that job and loved it for 20 years.

Likewise, I began to ask myself, What quality can I bring to my marriage? My husband, I realized, was gentle and kind. I asked myself, Can I be more gentle? More kind? Reflecting earnestly, I realized the answer was yes.

Over the years, my husband and I came together, then apart; together, apart—but there was nothing ugly between us—never. Actually, we passed the years in friendship. In the meantime, I made many causes for my life. 

For 32 years, I did regular shifts at SGI-USA bookstores, made spring and fall visits to my mother in Japan and helped many people receive the Gohonzon. I don’t remember exactly how, but at some point my husband and I got back together, and have been so, happily, for many years.

In recent visits to Japan, my sister and brother, seeing how much I’ve changed—from someone who’d give up in a flash to someone who never backs down—decided to take faith themselves. “Must be something to this practice,” they said.

How should one live?  I always wondered. And now I know: with the confidence that every challenge in life is a lesson, an opportunity to deepen one’s appreciation and conviction—to reveal the boundless power of one’s prayer.

Q: What advice would you give the youth?

Fumi McGlothen: It’s important for young people to have a big dream and go for it! Maybe you think there’s no way, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Never give up! Stick with Ikeda Sensei and daimoku, and you’ll win—a hundred percent!

May 12, 2023, World Tribune, p. 5

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