Skip to main content


The Heart That Grows

Opening my heart to appreciation, I become a person who can uplift her family.

Castle of happiness—Jasmine Pogue in Dedham, Mass., May 2022.

by Jasmine Pogue
Bellingham, Mass.

We’d moved from Louisiana to escape the heat, but the winter that met us in Massachusetts was deeper than anticipated. For one, we were all cooped up in a little Airbnb—my husband, our two kids and the dogs—and were over our heads with debt from the move. My husband would return late from work, often frustrated by his three-hour commute, and go straight to the kitchen to make dinner.

Back in Louisiana, my sister was going through a major depressive episode. Since I received the Gohonzon in 2007, she and I have gone from having a relationship filled with chaos to one filled with appreciation for one another. 

I found myself sinking into seasonal depression, and there were nights I could hardly bring myself to chant. One night, lamenting my situation at my district study meeting, one of my women’s leaders asked, “Jasmine, don’t you have the Gohonzon?” A simple question that hit me in the face like a splash of cold water. Later that month, doing my hair, I was still complaining, this time to a friend in faith. She heard me out, then read to me this poem by Ikeda Sensei: “In the midst of winter’s desolation / appear the buds of spring— / the simultaneity of cause and effect” (Oct. 8, 2021, World Tribune, p. 3). Now, I realized, is the time to take action and win!

I’ve not always taken kindly to guidance. One leader, back in 2010, three years into my practice, highlighted my power to transform family karma. 

“Jasmine, right now, you are the only one in your family practicing this Buddhism. Your prayer will set in motion your family’s transformation!”

“They’re not my responsibility!” I yelled. 

Back then, my sister and I were caught up in a vicious cycle of debt. It always had something to do with a car. I’d lend her mine, or we’d buy one together, and then, somehow or another, she’d crash it. Of course, this always led to arguments.

In March 2012, my car was repossessed. I had just gotten a new job in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Usually, I’d get mad at my sister, but this time I realized that I was looking for someone else to blame for my unhappiness. That night, I broke down in front of the Gohonzon and chanted to break through whatever was blocking me from being happy. I realized something then: I didn’t appreciate my life or anyone in it.

For five years, I’d been practicing this Buddhism, and for five years I’d been tirelessly supported by the same SGI leaders. Not only did I not have one lick of appreciation for them, but I had none for my own sister. Here I was, as ever, trying to wash my hands of her.

The May Commemorative Contribution activity was just around the corner, and I decided for the first time to contribute with a spirit of appreciation—I wanted to challenge myself to transform something real in my life. I chanted to summon deep appreciation for my family and deep faith for family harmony.

Getting off the phone with my women’s leader in Massachusetts, I mulled over what she’d said. She was right, I had the Gohonzon. What was I complaining about? That day, from our cramped Airbnb, I found a listing posted just 30 minutes earlier for a rental home in Dedham. We visited, and the place was beautiful, full of big windows and sunshine. Standing in the kitchen, my daughter, Kennedy, basked in sunlight. “I love it here!” she said. We moved in in March. Spring, I felt, had come.

Jasmine with her family: (l-r) son, Joshua, daughter, Kennedy, and husband, Josh, in Bellingham, Mass., March 2023.

I was still trying to support my sister and nephew in Louisiana. Getting her on the phone was hard because she was still battling depression, and my nephew was struggling with school. I was no longer so arrogant as to believe I had all the answers for her or my nephew and no longer spoke as though I knew what was best. Instead, I listened and asked myself: What does she need right now? How can I encourage her? While chanting to find a great home, not just to rent but to buy in Massachusetts, I was also chanting for her and my nephew to win, too. With abundant daimoku, I aimed toward my May Contribution goal with a spirit of deep appreciation and the determination to further expand my life to support my entire family.

“What big dreams do you have, and what kind of efforts are you making toward them?” This is what they asked the kids last September at the first in-person Soka Family Day held at the New England Buddhist Center since the start of the pandemic. Kennedy was quiet on the ride home. Winding down for the night, she suddenly piped up. “I’m chanting for a house big enough for the whole family by Christmas!”

I decided for the first time to contribute with a spirit of appreciation—
I wanted to challenge myself to transform something real in my life. 

We made a list of specifics—everything she wanted in her dream house and, together with her little brother, Joshua, chanted about them.

“By Christmas,” I told her.

“By Christmas?” our realtor balked.

“Not gonna happen,” our mortgage broker said. 

I appreciate your input, I thought, and took it all to the Gohonzon. At the same time, I refreshed my resolve to support my sister and nephew from over a thousand miles away. Chanting in this way, all this wisdom came forth from my life. I started having some ideas, and I started pitching them. 

“OK, guys, could we try this?” “Or what about this?” 

The realtor: “I don’t think the seller will go for it.”

The mortgage broker: “I don’t think your program allows for it.”

And yet, they humored me; they tried my ideas and—what do you know—they worked! I’m no expert, but apparently the Gohonzon is.

“I can’t believe you pulled this off,” said the realtor in mid-December, handing me the keys to our new home. 

Recently, my nephew updated me on how well he’s doing in school. Actually, he’d gotten into his college of choice! Speaking with my sister, she shared her determination to become happy.

There was once a time when even car troubles felt big enough to crush me. Year after year, my prayers have grown and my heart with them, to the point where, now, my personal problems feel like opportunities to show the power of my Buddhist practice. 

I feel absolutely certain that my daimoku can embrace everyone in my family and that, fueled by gratitude, we will all make our way together on the road to happiness.

April 7, 2023, World Tribune, Insert, p. C

How Are My Contributions Making a Difference?

Our Gratitude Puts Us on the Path to Genuine Humanity