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I Am the Key to My Happiness

Transformation—Bhavini Gupta in Duvall, Wash., November 2023. Photo by Mahdi Yari.

by Bhavini Gupta
Duvall, Wash.

Born and raised in a large family in Delhi, I’d not taken so much as a meal alone until I moved to America, where suddenly, most all my meals were had alone.

I spoke to my husband for the first time in April 2019 over the phone, and that winter, we married. An arranged marriage, we knew very little of each other and did not know how to be together. Nonetheless, by year’s end, there we were, married and living together in Chicago where my husband worked. 

He worked long days, from early morning until late afternoon, something I’d known before we married but had somehow not really understood. That I’d be alone most of the day, most every day, had never occurred to me. The hours he worked, I slept, deep into the day, and then walked, losing myself on the gorgeous streets of downtown Chicago, alone and totally miserable. 

For the first time since childhood, when my parents had joined the SGI, I wasn’t chanting. Or at least, very little, and not studying at all. Somehow, I could hardly bring myself to the Gohonzon. Nor did I reach out to get connected to local SGI activities. My mental health was poor and in such a state, I blamed the closest person—my husband—
for my unhappiness. He himself was battling intense anxiety, afflicting him since boyhood and dialed to ten by our marriage, but appeared in my mind only as unfeeling, inattentive to my needs. It never occurred to me to take some action of my own to improve things.

It took me months before I decided to use one of my city walks to visit the one building I hadn’t yet seen—the Chicago Culture Center. There, I got connected at last. A young women’s leader reached out to me and we began to talk, chant and study together. I’d tell her all the ways my husband was failing to meet my needs, all the ways he needed to change. She shared the following from Ikeda Sensei on what Buddhism terms “fundamental ignorance.”

This devilish nature or negativity gives rise to the desire to control others or even take others’ lives and causes destruction and war. To conquer [it], we need to bring forth our inherent Dharma nature, or fundamental nature of enlightenment, which exists along with our fundamental darkness. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 71)

It made me reflect: Was I trying to control my husband, making demands he couldn’t fulfill? 

In February 2020, we moved to Washington State for my husband’s work. One month later, the pandemic hit.  

SGI activities—held over Zoom—were crucial to me at this time. In August, during one call, we studied a passage from The New Human Revolution, in which a woman seeks guidance from Sensei about her struggling marriage. He tells her:

Whether you leave your husband and go back to Japan is something that you must decide for yourself. However, as you already know, happiness will not necessarily be waiting for you there. Unless you change your karma, your problems will follow you wherever you go. (NHR-1, revised edition, 43) 

I thought to myself, If I leave without making a real effort in faith, I’ll only suffer from this karma again. I want to transform this karma now with my husband and then make my decision. 

In the months that followed, difficulties arose. The depression and anxiety I’d been struggling with since arriving to the U.S. became acute and gave rise to  what the doctors termed “psychosomatic pains”—pains induced by severe mental stress that landed me in the hospital numerous times. That winter, COVID’s Delta variant spread like wildfire through India, taking the lives of thousands, my uncle among them. 

At this point, my husband and I were living as housemates. I didn’t want to see him, could hardly stand to be around him. I wanted to go home, to my family, to India.

In December, I booked a flight for Delhi. My husband asked me if I’d be coming back.

“I don’t think so,” I told him.

“Wherever you go, I want you to be happy,” he said. 

Those words, which he’d repeat at the airport, infuriated me. They were proof he was not the callous, unfeeling person I’d constructed in my mind—the rightful object of all my frustration. I didn’t want to see him as something other than a reason to leave, go home, run from my karma. Of course, I didn’t recognize this as I stormed toward the terminal. 

Years earlier, I’d made a list of qualities I wanted to find in a partner. Topping it was kindness. Upon arriving home in India, I thought about that list and my husband. I turned over in my mind our Washington apartment, the site of so much misery. I saw myself in the living room, sleeping or crying on the couch. And I saw him shut up in the bedroom, coming out only to make food for the two of us and wash the dishes, making himself scarce as possible, before returning to his room and quietly shutting the door.

Was this really so callous? Actually, hadn’t I asked him to leave me alone? Hadn’t I told him I didn’t want to see him? How could I be bewildered, then, after shutting him out of my life, when he had trouble tracking my changing moods? Chanting with family in Delhi, I saw that it really was, and always had been, up to me to see my husband for the person he was—a kind person. It really was up to me to change.

Bhavini and her husband, Rohit, in Port Angeles, Wash., September 2022. Photo Courtesy of Bhavini Gupta.

I returned to the States in May, resolved for the first time in years that my human revolution was the key to my happy marriage. Upon returning home, I continued to chant with this resolve. We’d still have our differences and arguments, but these no longer stirred me up. What was essential to me was already there. All the rest was just noise. Curiously, as I accepted my husband just as he was, he began to change. The anxiety that had troubled him since boyhood began to visibly subside. We began taking long walks and drives together, having long talks in which the walls between us came tumbling down.

Ahead of a trip we took to India last November, during which we received news his company was conducting mass layoffs, he was able to handle this high-stress situation with great composure, with almost no apparent anxiety. The two of us were firmly grounded, unshaken.

Two years ago, I was ready to leave my husband. Today, we’ve bought a home together—a testament to the human revolution we’ve done and to our commitment to doing much, much more, together.

December 1, 2023, World Tribune, p. 5

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