Deciding to Win
By Jeff Deeprose
Regional Men’s Leader
I am a high school teacher, and I have taught for 28 years. I have also been the head of the English department at my school for the past 15 years. But when I was young, I never wanted to be a teacher. My mom was a teacher and didn’t seem to like it that much, and so it was definitely not a career that called out to me. In fact, no career was calling out to me. While I had a university degree in English literature, I spent much of my twenties doing odd jobs and playing in bands. This seemed, at the time, like a perfect way to live.
During the same period, when I was 21, I was introduced to Buddhism, and soon I became very involved in SGI activities. I volunteered at the centre, participated actively in district meetings and youth activities, started to contribute financially to SGI Canada, and read as much as I could about Buddhism. Looking back, I can see that my Buddhist practice was working away at my karma beneath the surface, but on the surface nothing had changed. My career path was non-existent.
When I became a father at 27, I had to get serious, so I got a “grown-up job” working for a furniture importer. The job was not particularly fulfilling, but it paid the bills. However, that job dried up after two years, and I had to make a choice. I was 29 years old, with one child and another on the way, and my ability to support the family was in question to say the least. I could have set out to get another similar job in the furniture business, but that world did not fit me well. And forget about a career in music…I was nowhere near a place creatively where I could make a living there. Another option was to go into teaching. But that would mean returning to university, causing serious financial difficulty for the family. It would also mean challenging my negative outlook on that profession.
I decided to use my Buddhist practice to overcome the bad attitude and indecision that had always plagued my life.
But, what to do? How was I to make a decision? I agonized about it. I realize now, in hindsight, that I just wasn’t very good at making decisions. I had a tendency to let things happen, and then react. A laissez-faire attitude. However, as a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism, I realized that the time had come when I absolutely needed to challenge this aspect of my karma. I decided to make a strong determination to win. As Nichiren says,
“Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat” (WND-1, 835; “The Hero of the World”).
I asked a senior leader in Montreal for advice. He said: “Carefully and logically examine the pros and cons, but there is no way to know for certain what is the ‘best’ choice. Just decide, and then chant like crazy so that the choice you have made becomes the best choice.”
After putting this advice to work, and chanting up a storm, I put aside my apprehension and went back to university to become a teacher. It was a real challenge: helping to care for our two very young children, supporting my wife who was working, and worrying about our lack of stability as deep debts piled up, all while writing academic papers at 2:00 a.m. Suddenly, I was in a daily fight with my own negativity and karma. But I knew that I had to put into practice the guidance I had received—to use my Buddhist practice to ensure that my decision ended up being the best choice.
I threw myself into SGI activities to support others, and into chanting and studying every day. I based my life on SGI President Ikeda’s guidance:
It was not easy. But I made it through the program and was ready for the next challenge—finding a job at a time when teaching jobs were scarce.
In my first five years, I taught in five different schools, always on replacement or substitute contracts. When teenagers know you are not permanent, they can be tempted to take advantage of the situation. Administrative support was not particularly strong either. I had to rely on myself, but I often felt like I had no idea what I was doing.
I remember one particular student who seemed to have it in for me. She was an expert at pushing my buttons. I lived with the constant dread of seeing her class come up on my daily schedule. I was always very anxious about losing control of the classroom, not to mention the stress of being unable to teach anything. I chanted so hard each day and night, wracking my brains to come up with lesson plans, and to find new strategies.
Fortunately, I had the profound and boundless support of many SGI friends.
Above all, the encouragement of President Ikeda always gave me a positive outlook and the courage to continue. I never thought of giving up, which I might have otherwise. Over 50 per cent of new teachers quit in the first five years of teaching.
As the result of persevering through those years of anxiety and effort, you might say that I had won. I had transformed my attitude about my career. I had also transformed my indecisiveness by learning how to make my choice the “best” choice. But most importantly, I realized that I could make a real difference as a teacher.
As a result, I landed a great job in an excellent school with a progressive culture, and I remain there to this day. And I can say that I actually love my job, plus…I have been able to support my family and eventually, we dug ourselves out of debt.
Along the way, I’ve been able to help train Inuit teachers in northern Quebec, and I’ve taken students to India to support a home for destitute girls. On top of all this, I have many opportunities to do music at school.
In 2018, Jeff took students on a trip to India to support a home for destitute girls.
Now, as a department head, I am able to help and support other teachers to find, I hope, a similar shift in attitude, and a place to create value, especially in these pandemic times.
I know that all my present good fortune is the direct effect of the causes that I have made through my efforts to practise this Buddhism while supporting others to the best of my ability. And I will continue to do so.
In 2015, Jeff had the opportunity to help train teachers in Kuujjuarapik, Nunavik, on the coast of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec. Above: Jeff with two Indigenous teachers.
President Ikeda recently said:
The coming decade is an extremely important time, when we must work to resolve the challenges facing our planet, and to build a new culture for humankind—a new human civilization, based on respect for the dignity of life and human revolution.
With this in mind, my sights are on 2030, and my determination is to spread this Buddhism as widely as possible.
Published in August 2022 New Century
 Karma: The accumulation of causes and effects, lying deep within our lives, which exerts an often unseen influence over our future.
 Kosen-rufu: Literally, it means “to widely declare and spread [the Lotus Sutra]”; to secure lasting peace and happiness for all humankind through the propagation of Nichiren Buddhism. More broadly, kosen-rufu refers to the process of establishing the humanistic ideals of Nichiren Buddhism in society.
 NEW CENTURY, March 2021, inside front cover, (The New Human Revolution, Vol. 18, “Dynamic Strides,” p. 290.)
 Ibid., p. 3.