Mastering My Mind
By Angela Wong, Vancouver
The seed of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was planted in my life when I was just a little girl in Calgary. I remember joining chanting sessions at my Aunt Sandy and Uncle Henry’s home, and colouring with the other children. Even though my aunt and uncle brought me to SGI meetings, it wasn’t until years later that my mom was introduced to the practice by a friend. I started to embrace the practice when I was in junior high, in 2000.
The turning point in faith for our family came in 2002, when we faced a lawsuit involving a car accident. The case dragged on for six years, and it seemed like a never-ending battle. I was scheduled to go to Australia in 2009 for my final year of university, but I didn't want my family to continue to go through the agony of the lawsuit. It was then that my mother and I determined to chant that the legal battle would end by December 2008. We found a better lawyer and finally the opposition agreed to a settlement. The case was closed and we paid an incredibly small penalty, compared to the expected amount. This was our family’s foremost experience of actual proof of the benefit of having faith in the Mystic Law. As a result, I was able to go to Australia worry-free.
After finishing my studies in Australia, I applied to Soka University in Japan in 2010 for the Bekka Program, which is an intensive Japanese language program. I completed the one-year program there and returned to Calgary in 2011 with a renewed determination to work for kosen-rufu in Canada. In 2012, I met Paul and we married in 2013 and started a restaurant business together.
In August 2017, my in-laws were getting burnt out, suffering health issues due to their restaurant business in Vancouver. Paul, and I decided to move from Calgary to Vancouver to support them. However, we had our own restaurant business in Calgary. We had to sell it before we could make the move. Our business was on the market for almost a year, but it wasn’t getting sold. The biggest challenge was not that the business wasn’t selling right away, but rather it was my inner doubt and fundamental darkness. I decided to employ the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra” to pull myself out of the vortex of doubt, worry and fear. I chanted abundantly to keep my life condition high, and I studied the Gosho with my whole heart. This passage was my constant companion:
What is called faith is nothing unusual. Faith means putting one’s trust in the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, and the heavenly gods and benevolent deities, and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a woman cherishes her husband, as a man lays down his life for his wife, as parents refuse to abandon their children, or as a child refuses to leave its mother. (WND-1, 1036)
When we first listed our restaurant, we got numerous viewing requests. However, every time I met with an interested party, I was secretly wishing that they wouldn’t buy the business. I didn’t want to sell to just anyone. So, I started chanting that our precious business would create value in the life of the lucky buyer. In December 2017, I had a dream that my brother bought the business. I remember feeling a great sense of relief, as the restaurant would be going into the right hands. But in waking reality, I believed that it would be impossible for my brother to buy the business, given his situation at the time.
In June 2018, my brother Chris attended the Caledon Young Men’s Conference at the SGI Canada Caledon Centre, and my mother registered for the Caledon Chinese Conference. It was also my wish to attend one of the Caledon conferences, but since I was expecting a baby, the time wasn’t right. Then I saw that there was an Educators’ conference that I could attend in August. Since there was no requirement to be an official educator to participate, I asked my husband if I could attend. He didn’t say no, but he was hesitant. I assured him that we would be able to sell the restaurant by then, and if we didn’t, we could easily close and take a break for four days. He agreed and I was able to attend the conference. I was 34 weeks pregnant with my second daughter Willow, who was fortunate to attend it together with me, in my womb.
A week before going to Caledon, a few serious parties showed interest in purchasing the business… including my brother and his partner! On the second day of the Caledon conference, they signed the purchase agreement. On the surface I was happy, but deep down, my fundamental darkness manifested at full throttle. There were still two weeks before the deal would be official, and my mind was running amuck. There were nights when I would lie awake thinking, worrying, and strategizing about what could go wrong with this deal. I thought it would be easier to sell the business to a stranger, because then I wouldn’t be able to mind their business. But because it was my brother, I wanted to get involved by making sure everything was in place for him to have a great start to his new endeavour.
I drew encouragement from SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s writings, and from the Gosho titled “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime”:
“Therefore, when you chant myōhō and recite renge, you must summon up deep faith that Myoho-renge-kyo is your life itself” (WND-1, p3).
I wanted to become the master of my mind rather than let my mind master me. I realized that it’s not our problems that cause us to suffer, it’s our perspective that leads our minds down a negative spiral. By chanting more with this awareness, I was able to transform my worries—that had felt like tidal waves drowning me—into soothing waves that were washing up against my feet. I recognized the negative emotions as fundamental darkness, which was trying to steer me away from my goal. But every time doubt crept in, I went back to my lofty prayer: “If this business will create value for my brother and his partner, this deal will go through!”
I am happy to share that on August 18, 2018, they officially took over the restaurant, and the timing proved to be very fortunate. While we were struggling to sell our business, I had found the perfect local midwife in Calgary—someone who had come into our restaurant once for a bubble tea. Then I experienced the very empowering, though entirely unplanned, home birth of my second daughter. In addition, I was able to spend all that time with my mother in Calgary, who was struggling with her health. I would have been so worried if we had already moved away.
In November 2018, together with my husband and my two daughters, Hazel and Willow, I moved to Vancouver. Now when I look back, I realize how chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, setting goals according to SGI milestones, and participating wholeheartedly in SGI Canada activities with the support of my dear SGI Canada friends all helped me sail through. It put me in the rhythm of the forward momentum of the universe, and it instilled in me the spirit of never giving up. Every time I had set a target date, I remained undefeated, even if my exact goal was not met on time. In his essay “On Hardship and Hope,” President Ikeda quotes Oliver Goldsmith, a famous Irish novelist, saying:
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” (https://tricycle.org/magazine/on-hardship-hope/).
The transition from Calgary to Vancouver has been joyful yet challenging. One of my biggest struggles was not having our own home. The exorbitant prices of Vancouver real estate discouraged me. But with the unconditional support and encouragement of my leaders, I chanted for my kosen-rufu castle—a home where we can host SGI meetings, cultivate joy and meaningful friendships in our community. I would like to share that recently we were able to buy our home.
I can’t imagine where my life would be right now if I didn’t have this philosophy as the compass of my life. My determination is to never cease in my efforts to expand and deepen the eternal good fortune of my entire family, in this lifetime and beyond.
Published in March 2020 New Century