My Second Chance at Life
By Aanchal Arora
Chapter Young Women’s Leader
I’ve been practising Nichiren Buddhism for 17 years. As a result, I have changed from being a shy, introverted youth into a strong, independent woman.
My father died when I was 16. In 2012, I moved from India to Canada on my own, and I started a new life. I got a job in my field, and bought a house. Eventually, my whole family moved to be with me, including my pets. We all received Permanent Resident status in December of 2016, and we were excited to celebrate New Year's Eve together.
We decided to drive up north to Collingwood to an ice sculpting festival. On the way back, we hit an ice patch on a hill. Right away, I chanted in my heart as the car went out of control, sliding around like a toy. Finally, the car stopped on the side of the road. Nobody seemed hurt, and we felt as though we were all safe. We got out of the car one by one, and people rushed to help, as all traffic stopped around us.
Suddenly, a speeding car came down the hill from behind and smashed into us. I was the first to be hit, on my lower body. I fell on the road, hit my head, and felt the tires going over my legs. My sister was hit next, and my brother’s leg got trapped between the cars as he tried to push my sister out of the way. My beloved 17-year-old dog was safe inside the car, unhurt. Certainly he would not have survived any injuries at his age.
Fortunately, my 65-year-old mother was standing just a few steps behind us, and she was completely saved because she was tying her shoelaces at the very moment of the collision. When she stood up, she saw all three of her children lying on the road.
Somebody called 911, and incredibly, a couple of witnesses were off-duty paramedics. They rushed to cover us up, doing everything they could to calm us down, as we were hysterical. I strongly believe that all those people on the road that night were Buddhas who appeared at the crucial moment to protect us, keeping us safe and warm.
I had no sensation on my entire lower right side, and my leg had swelled up to four times its size. When the paramedics put me on the stretcher, I screamed. It felt as though my body was being ripped in two. The next four hours in Orangeville Hospital were a blur. I overheard doctors saying that I might have nerve damage. I was scared and I wanted to ask a lot of questions, but I couldn't speak. Once I regained consciousness, my brother and I were told that we would both need surgery, but that we should go to the hospital in Brampton where we lived. Suddenly we were discharged, wearing temporary casts.
The next day, January 1, we went by ambulance from home to the hospital. We learned that both my brother and I had multiple breaks in our legs, requiring metal rods. When I heard this, I broke down, partly because of the extreme pain, and partly because of the prospect of having a rod inserted into my leg. However, by that time, many members had heard the news and were chanting for me, and somehow I felt very supported and protected.
My brother and I went back and forth from home to the hospital, working through the system to get surgery dates. However, my house was not set up to handle the two of us in our disabled condition, and my family wasn't equipped to handle us medically. On January 3, I became dizzy and I fell down on the floor. My brother and I called an ambulance yet again, and this time we firmly refused to be sent back home. After a wait of eight hours in the emergency lobby, we were finally admitted. They scheduled my surgery for January 4, the next day, and my brother was scheduled for the 6th.
Just before my surgery, I experienced some sensation in my injured leg, which ruled out nerve damage and was very good news; but I was still very nervous. My women's leader told me to chant for the surgeon’s Buddha nature, so he would know the right course of action. I tried chanting while lying in my hospital bed, but it was so hard. I was in extreme pain, and nauseated by the painkillers.
The night before my surgery, a close friend visited me in the hospital and asked me my surgeon’s name. She was amazed and said that he was one of the best, and was head of the department. This reassuring information came to me at the crucial moment, so I could proceed without fear. My surgery went well, but for the next two days, I couldn’t even swallow water, and my blood pressure dropped very low. I have a high tolerance for pain, but this was beyond even my limits.
The next two months of recovery were the toughest months of my entire life physically, mentally and emotionally. There were many days and nights when I broke down in tears of pain and frustration. I had professional help each morning and then again at night. However, in between, I would avoid going to the washroom because of the pain of having to get up and move.
In February my cast came off, and then I could actually see and feel the rod and screws in my leg. Up till then, I guess I had not accepted that I must live with metal in my leg for my entire life. Suddenly, I became very angry at the driver who had injured me. However, I started to do my morning and evening gongyo again, sitting on my bed. Gradually I began to see beyond my anger. I started to read The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and I focused on finding the meaning of this accident in my life. I studied The Human Revolution, and I was deeply affected by the following words from SGI President Daisaku Ikeda:
Nothing is stronger than one’s determination in the moment. The immovable resolution of a single person will, in the end, move the world” (The Human Revolution, Volume 5, p.647).
When I read this, I knew that I needed a concrete goal to pull me forward. I made up my mind that, on May 3, I would attend the special Soka Gakkai Day meeting in Toronto, and that I would walk on my own two legs without any support. Furthermore, I would stand and share my experience. In addition, I made a personal vow to attend every district meeting. Then something wonderful happened. All the youth of my district started to come to my house to prepare for the meetings together.
Meanwhile, my brother and I were working closely with a very good lawyer who dealt with our insurance company on our behalf, to ensure that we received all of our benefits. In the end, although my car had been completely totalled, I was reimbursed its full value, which I had been specifically chanting for.
My workplace was very supportive and put me on short term disability, even though I had started working for the company only two months before the accident. Then, when I was ready, they let me work from home, with only one day a week in the office.
When I reflect upon all my good fortune, I see that my list of benefits goes on. I realize that, even though I had fallen on my head, I had no head or back injuries. I could have died easily, since the speeding car had hit me full on first. I realize that my life was spared, and it is for a reason.
I am proud to say that I did indeed fulfill the goal I made in the midst of my darkest hour. I did walk on my own two feet into the SGI Canada Culture Centre in Toronto on May 3, 2017, and I stood proudly and shared my victory. I demonstrated the immense power of making a personal vow.
My journey continues. My empathy for the suffering of others is that much deeper now, because I live with some pain. However, since my final surgery in January 2018, I am walking as well as before the accident. As Nichiren says, "But still I am not discouraged!" (WND-1, p.747). I believe that I changed karma through this experience.
It is impossible to fathom one's karma. Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse. My present exile is not because of any secular crime. It is solely so that I may expiate in this lifetime my past grave offences and be freed in the next from the three evil paths. (WND-1, p. 303)
I will use every day as my second chance at life, to advance our precious kosen-rufu movement. I am determined to help foster the youth in Halton-Peel Area so that they can stand on their own to fulfill their own unique mission in this precious lifetime.
 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.
Published in September 2018 New Century