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For the Both of Us

Ingraining Sensei’s “Clear Mirror” guidance, I see in my husband’s illness an opportunity for reflection.

Happiness—Eileen Reinholz and her husband, Don, in Honolulu, November 2023. Photo by Alexandra Ochsner.

by Eileen Reinholz

Don got lucky. I’d gotten all prettied up in the mirror, all dressed to go out when, last minute, my friend called to cancel. So I was bummed out sitting at home by the telephone, when it rang again. I picked it up thinking my friend had changed her mind. Instead it was Don, who I knew from SGI activities. 

We went dancing and I found him to be a beautiful, funny person. We married within the year, and anyone would tell you ours was a happy, easygoing marriage.

We worked hard, though—me for a bank, Don for the Navy as a nuclear submariner, a truly difficult job. While doing so, he got his college degree, something I insisted on. Everyone in my family had one and it was unthinkable that my husband would not. 

In 1993, Don left the Navy after over a decade of service. The transition to civilian life proved a challenge and finding a job the biggest challenge of all. Our son was 4 at the time. My bank job was great, but it wouldn’t keep us afloat forever. I began to hound Don, whose stress mounted. One night that summer, he snapped.  

I woke alone in bed, confused. I could hear Don’s voice in the living room. The bed stand clock read 3 a.m. I got up and shuffled out to find him speaking excitedly into the phone.

“Don, who are you talking to?” 

But he was in his own world and didn’t answer. In my half-sleep, I made my way back to bed, thinking, Odd. I didn’t know it then, but this was the second sleepless night he’d spent on the phone dialing anyone who’d answer. Over the next five nights, his calls grew more frantic. On the morning of the fifth, I found him squinting in the bathroom mirror, beet red, railing against the government. 

This cannot be real, I remember thinking. This cannot be my husband. 

With some help, I got him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with manic depression. I went straight to the SGI-USA Hawaii Culture Center seeking guidance. There, I told a senior in faith that my husband had lost his mind. She then explained the situation from the Buddhist perspective, reading from Ikeda Sensei’s “Clear Mirror” guidance, which he presented to the SGI-USA women on Feb. 27, 1990: 

The Gohonzon is the clearest of all mirrors that reflects the entire universe exactly as it is. When you chant to the Gohonzon, you can perceive the true aspect of your life and tap the inexhaustible life force of Buddhahood. … 

In short, the environment that you find yourself in … is the product of your own life. Most people, however, fail to understand this and tend to blame others for their troubles. (My Dear Friends in America, fourth edition, pp. 101–04)

“All of this,” she said, “is your own reflection. Your husband is reflecting parts of you that you cannot see. For example, if you want to see the back of your head, you need another mirror. Your husband is that other mirror, showing you the aspects of yourself that you cannot see.” 

“No,” I protested. “He’s the one who’s sick. He’s the one who needs to change.”

“Someone who’s mentally ill doesn’t know that they’re sick,” she said. “However, you can chant for him to get better.” 

Don was in the hospital another two weeks, during which I chanted lots of daimoku, but in total denial. How could this be a reflection of my life? 

When he did come home, he was numb, on a cocktail of 20 pills. He’d try to join me for gongyo but couldn’t sit still. Every morning the same thing, and I was feeling defeated.

Two weeks passed, then three, then four. Two months passed, and he’d shown no signs of improvement. It was around this time that it dawned on me that I had to chant with conviction in the guidance I’d been given. I went back to it, resolved to ingrain every word in the depths of my life. From there, I began chanting with the prayer to take full responsibility for the happiness of my family. As I did so, I began to reflect on parts of myself that I rarely looked at, that few people, in fact, ever saw. While easygoing in public, I realized I could be very demanding at home, insisting on things for appearances’ sake. That my husband get a degree, for instance, or a government job. My frustrated prayer became a determined one: Don will become even more beautiful than ever; again, we will be best friends.

When I saw him in the mornings, I didn’t throw up my hands. I told him brightly: “Don’t worry about gongyo today. Don’t worry about a thing! I’ll chant for the two of us.”

Right after this change of heart, Don began to improve and reduce his medication. Within the year, his doctor cleared him to work part-time at a junk car lot, a job I would have once thought embarrassing. But all I felt was happiness and pride in him for challenging himself. By that summer, he’d landed a full-time job, followed soon after by a good government job, where he’s been ever since.

The tendency to stake my happiness on superficial things like a college degree or a high-paying job didn’t leave me after Don’s recovery. It has resurfaced many times and in as many ways as you can imagine—in motherhood, in my career, in my personal life. But every time, I’ve asked myself the question with which Sensei begins his “Clear Mirror” guidance: “What is the purpose of life?” and remind myself of his answer: Absolute happiness.

What is a college degree or a high-paying job? A nomination or a prize? Superficial joys vanish in the wind, but human revolution is eternal. Don and I have it all now: a wonderful house, comfortable retirement, a son in the U.S. Coast Guard. But I feel these have come—like metal to a magnet—by focusing my prayer on inner transformation. I’ll never forget the day I handed Don our experience I’d written up for a discussion meeting. He read through it, set it down and said, “Eileen, you’ve really changed. You saved my life.”

We’re best friends now. He’s even more beautiful than when we first met, something he says can be said for the both of us. 

Q: What advice would you give the youth?

Eileen Reinholz: Basing yourself on Ikeda Sensei’s guidance is the sure path to victory. What I want most now is to share this truth with you young people, future leaders of society.

January 12, 2024, World Tribune, p. 5

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