I Am Now Writing My Own History
By Leandro De Sousa
I first encountered Nichiren Buddhism 13 years ago in Rio de Janeiro when I was 17 years old. I lived on the same street as the local Soka Gakkai International (SGI) centre, an organization I had never heard of. One day I left school early and, instead of taking the bus, I decided to walk home. Across the street from the SGI Brazil centre a handicapped man was asking for help. No one stopped, so I did. He said his body was half-paralyzed, and he needed help to cross the street.
He said he was going to the SGI centre to chant daimoku. Of course I didn’t know that, but after I helped him cross the street, he asked me to help him into the centre, so I accepted.
While we walked, he told me about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He told me that he had a motorcycle accident and after being in a coma he was very glad to wake up. At that time, he chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo three times in gratitude.
I was impressed by his cheerful disposition, despite his physical problems. I asked myself why was it so hard for me to have that kind of happiness, considering the favourable conditions I and others enjoy.
When I entered the centre and heard chanting, I was taken aback by the sound, and I thought, “What the heck are these people doing?" But when I left the room, I felt very good and decided to ask the receptionist how to find out more about the chanting.
Before I met this Buddhism, it seemed my life story was already being decided, and I had no choice but follow it. I had been a hardworking student since I was 13; believing education was the only path I could see to build a better life. Although I studied long and hard and excelled at daily exercises and exams, I would become stressed out before major exams and inevitably fail them. I began to lose confidence that I could attend university and began thinking that I should get a job like many of my friends opted to do. Another problem was that my family couldn’t afford to send me to university.
Since I encountered Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, everything has changed. I have started to write my own history and build my own life. Right after I started practising, I wrote a university entrance exam and was then offered a scholarship. Also, I landed an internship that allowed me to pay for my living expenses and save some money to expand my studies. I would become the first person in my family to gain a university degree, an unimaginable accomplishment.
I began to see very clearly how deep the practice was changing my life and how I was able to control my mind instead of letting fear and uncertainty control it. I remember distinctly my leaders at the time saying to me: "If you never challenge the impossible, you will never know the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.".
At the same time as I was developing my skills as a software engineer, I was getting more and more involved with SGI Brazil. For each hard-won victory in an SGI activity, I saw a corresponding victory in my life. In 2005, my local SGI organization experienced the fastest growth of any community in all of Brazil. Around that time, in less than three years, my responsibilities at work grew similarly, and my salary increased to five times what it was previously.
Little things like the self-discipline I developed from chanting daily, the experience of helping behind the scenes at large events, led to larger things, like the importance of planning ahead and truly caring about each person. All these things helped me in every sector of my life, making me more aware, more proactive and more empathetic.
A cherished dream of mine was to move to Montreal. After many struggles, I received a job offer in Halifax. It is very rare to get a Canadian job offer while still in Brazil. In addition, I was offered a good bonus to move to Halifax. I decided to set aside the dream of Montreal for the moment and appreciate my good fortune. In 2015, my wife Amanda and I moved from Brazil to Canada.
I was very excited by the opportunity and focused on doing my very best. I started the job with the attitude that I was going to learn more and more. I imagined that this would be the best attitude, but to my surprise it wasn’t. People were uncomfortable explaining things in detail, and sometimes they even hid information from me. Then I received feedback that the company wasn’t happy with my work and I was very disappointed.
That’s when I decided to challenge myself to chant for three hours every day. After a couple of weeks, the person that criticized me was promoted. Then one month later, I received positive feedback for my work. During this process I was contacted by many companies, especially in Montreal. I went through some difficult screening processes, and even after I was approved, I wasn’t offered any position. But by this time, I was absolutely determined to move to a good company where I could grow and be happy.
Finally I was approved and got an offer from a company in Montreal, where I now work. It was a real victory, but not without its problems. Starting work here was turbulent. The system had many issues and the team members were isolated and reactive due to the situation. I've been working hard on the technical side, but also trying to reach people’s hearts and show them a positive attitude so that we can focus on the solutions instead of on the problems or on making excuses. This is pretty much what we learn as Buddhists.
After one year I got a very positive evaluation and a good raise. In my review the director said he was proud to have me on the team and, according to him, the team wouldn’t be the same without me. He also said that I have had a very positive impact on the life of every team member.
As SGI President Daisaku Ikeda writes:
"The more you suffer, the more sadness you experience, and the more daimoku you chant, the more profound a life you will lead. All will serve to nourish your growth into leaders of the 21st century." (New Century, July 2016, p. 22)
I feel very proud to be an SGI member and a disciple of Daisaku Ikeda. Each step I take toward world peace—chanting, helping my friends learn about Buddhism, offering my home for activities, participating in Buddhist meetings— makes me stronger and helps me become a better person.
President Ikeda encouraged members in Brazil at a meeting in 2000 where he said that while we are alive, never say that something is impossible. The loser of today will be the victor of tomorrow. The impossible of yesterday, may be possible today.
(Published in October 2017 New Century)