Transforming Difficulties into Hope and Good Fortune
By Idania Carcamo
Fredericton, New Brunswick
I was eight years old when I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time in Nicaragua. However, it wasn’t until I came to New Brunswick with my parents and younger sister in August 2007 that I started to practise seriously.
I had always wanted to go to university in Canada. When I arrived in New Brunswick at 20 years old, I couldn’t speak or write in English. It was very hard for me to communicate. I could only find underpaid jobs. I worked as a production line worker in a bakery and suffered because of discrimination, isolation and the inability to express myself. For two years I felt depressed, lonely and worried about my future.
Chanting gave me strength and motivation. As I started chanting, I felt a change within myself. I felt more centred, grounded and reconnected with my inner wisdom, or Buddha nature. After many months of chanting every day, I realized that in order to change my circumstances for the better, I needed to change from the inside. I needed to improve myself, change my way of thinking and develop courage and wisdom.
I was encouraged by the following words of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda:
Even in times of hardship, the important thing is for each of us is to determine that we are the star, the protagonist and hero of our life and to keep moving forward. Putting ourselves down and shrinking back from obstacles looming before us spells certain defeat. Through making ourselves strong and developing our state of life, we can definitely find a way. As long as we uphold the Mystic Law throughout our lives, we can break through any impasse and surmount any obstacle. We will also be able to lead all those who are suffering to happiness. (Faith into Action, p. 206)
In 2009, thanks to the courage I had gained from my Buddhist practice, I decided to go to college to study civil engineering technology. I had many doubts about my ability to finish school, but I continued to chant and study hard. In 2011, I graduated with very good grades and received a job offer one week before graduation!
I felt very happy and excited about my accomplishments. Two years later, however, my job started to feel repetitive and boring. I was not getting any sense of satisfaction or fulfillment. I became lazy with my Buddhist practice, stopped going to SGI meetings and stopped chanting. Once again I began to feel lonely, depressed and empty.
Eventually, feeling like I was at a dead end, I started chanting again. I was so happy to be welcomed back by other SGI members with open arms. Again I chanted for wisdom. This time I wanted to know if the problems I was facing were a result of my life condition or the job itself. I chanted with deep determination to find the real root of my unhappiness. SGI President Ikeda encourages us to chant sincerely to understand our circumstances and gain the wisdom to take the best possible action. Nichiren writes, “When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs” (WND-1, 376).
In 2013, one year after returning to my Buddhist practice, I decided to go to university to get my Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. During the first semester, I got poor grades and became very discouraged. I seriously considered giving up on my dream of attending university and returning to work as a civil engineering technologist.
Once again, I felt that I was not good enough for post-secondary education. This time, however, I chanted with a lot of conviction and determination, studied New Century magazine and sought guidance from senior SGI members in order to summon up the courage to stay in university and do my best. I made it through my first year at university, though nagging self-doubts remained, along with the feeling that I wasn’t reaching my full potential.
One day, one of the senior SGI practitioners in New Brunswick motivated me and another SGI member studying at the university to give a presentation introducing Nichiren Buddhism to members of the Unitarian Centre in Fredericton. It was a great success, which helped build my self-esteem and confidence. I got so motivated that the other university student and I began hosting SGI study meetings at my home once a month. I stopped focusing on my weaknesses and put my energy into preparing the study materials for the meetings. I gave up worrying about my accent and my poor circumstances and started to apply my energy to Buddhist activities, always praying to introduce other young people to this practice.
Suddenly, I found myself doing well in university and my grades steadily improved. My confidence and my personality seemed to attract others, and I stopped feeling lonely and depressed. In addition, my relationship with my family and friends got increasingly better. I’m not going to deny that once in a while, I still have a few setbacks. I still make mistakes and still have a short temper, which I’m working on. But I don’t let that affect my life condition anymore. As soon as I feel that I’m having a bad day, I sit in front of the Gohonzon and chant until all my worry and sadness goes away.
It’s been one and a half years since my friend and I started holding study meetings at my home. I have so much appreciation for the benefits I have received this year. One young woman whom I introduced this Buddhist practice to a year ago, received her Gohonzon in August 2016. In December 2016, I’ll be graduating as a civil engineer. Also, this past August, four months before my graduation, I received a job offer from a prestigious construction company.
Now I can say with confidence to anyone who is as stuck in difficulties as I had been, “No matter how hard it gets, just keep moving forward and chant daimoku; the rest will fall into place. Cry if you have to, but don’t ever give up on your dreams. Despite the obstacles, don’t underestimate yourself.”
I can say that now I am immeasurably happier, wiser and more grateful compared to the insecure and depressed young woman who came to Canada eight years ago. Looking back, I can see that then, my personality was quite toxic as a result of low self-esteem. Today, with a stronger sense of purpose, I understand that life is precious. I feel more proactive and optimistic. I’m able to face the challenges that come my way with courage, knowing that through sharing SGI Nichiren Buddhism with others I can help them to do the same.
My heart is full of appreciation for my family who have always given me warm encouragement and advice; for having received the Gohonzon; for my district members and their constant support; and most deeply, I appreciate my mentor Daisaku Ikeda, whose words resonate in my heart:
By devoting ourselves earnestly to SGI activities, we gain the ability to turn difficulties and obstacles into benefit, recognizing that earthly desires and delusions are enlightenment and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. No matter how unpleasant the circumstances we find ourselves in, we can transform them into hope and good fortune—into eternal happiness. How incredible this is! (Faith into Action, p. 214)
I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism in the SGI 20 years ago by a family member, and I am very glad he did so. This philosophy has had more impact on me than any other religion, self-help book or motivational speaker. My Buddhist practice is providing me with powerful and practical tools to live a meaningful life.
As I look forward to the next stage of my journey, I am determined to share this life transforming philosophy with more and more people so that they can also enjoy enduring happiness in their lives, no matter what obstacles they face. I am determined to study and read more of Daisaku Ikeda's writings so that I can explain to others in simple terms the real essence of Nichiren Buddhism.
Published in November 2016 New Century magazine