Sunday, March 15, 2015

Winning with Courage

Recently, a friend of mine is going through one of her darkest moment. When all odds are against you, people will ask why ME and why our prayers are not answered. Hopefully the story below will help us to understand why so and give us the wisdom and strength to win with courage!

Experience – WINNING WITH COURAGE – By Sherman Edmiston III, New York
 14th September 2012, World Tribune
     My father introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism when I was 18. I begrudgingly attended SGI-USA activities at his insistence, but I rarely chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on my own.
     After graduating from college in 1990, I went to work on Wall Street. I had an exciting career and was doing well financially, but I felt empty and was often depressed.
     In 1995, at age 33, I took stock of my life. At my father’s urging, a local district leader visited me often and encouraged me to chant. I retrieved the Gohonzon from my closet, enshrined it and started attending SGI-USA activities again, including Gajokai and Soka Group, young men’s training groups that support activities behind the scenes. I gained a sense of purpose and the awareness that helping others is one of the most empowering and encouraging things I can do.
     A year later in June 1996, and shortly before my first child, Brittney, was born, I supported behind the scenes during SGI President Ikeda’s visit to New York. Late one night, I was among those called on to meet with President Ikeda. He had made tea and personally served each of us. It was difficult for me to trust anyone, but witnessing his humility and warmth, I felt I could absolutely trust President Ikeda as my mentor in life.
      From then on, these became my two most important commitments; to be the best father and the best disciple I could be.
     Despite continuing to struggle with the feeling that I was broken and unhappy, I also felt a growing sense of confidence and hope, based on my Buddhist practice.
     Over the next several years, my wife and I had three more children, Nina, Amina and Sherman IV (Kueta). I started my own firm and became financially successful, but it didn’t take long for my business to fail, and I lost my life savings. I had to sell many of my assets and was on the verge of being unable to pay the mortgage on our home and tuition at my children’s private school.
     I won over these obstacles by doing my best to support members in my district and push through my limits to financially contribute to the SGI-USA as an expression of my appreciation and deepening humanity gained through my practice.
     I started a new career at a small investment banking firm. Although I was still wading through rough waters, I was back on my financial feet.
     Then, in October 2008, Brittney contracted a debilitating disease that went undiagnosed for six months. Once a straight A student, she lost her ability to focus and became extremely lethargic and depressed.
     I fell into despair at being unable to protect my firstborn child. I sought guidance from my senior in faith and engraved these words from Nichiren Daishonin in my heart: “Wherever your daughter may frolic or play, no harm will come to her, she will move about without fear like the lion king…But your faith alone will determine all these things. A sword is useless in the hands of a coward. The mighty sword of the Lotus Sutra must be wielded by one courageous in faith” (WND-1, 412).
     With only the Gohonzon to turn to, I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to take on my daughter’s pain and suffering as if they were my own, to do my human revolution so that she would be happy and healthy, and fulfil her mission in life. For the first time, I relied on faith more than my intellectual understanding of Buddhism.
     Brittney was diagnosed with Lyme disease. She responded to treatment and was soon back in school. At the same time, I interviewed with and received job offers from many top firms.
     I felt I was on my way back to the top when Brittney spiraled downward again, worse than before. I turned down the job offers and arranged with my firm to work from home so my wife and I could support Brittney’s recovery.
     A recruiter called to ask why I had turned down his excellent offer. When he heard about Brittney, he told me of the doctor, a specialist, who had treated his mother-in-law for the same condition.
     Brittney began treatment with that doctor and was back at school by the spring of 2010.
     She had missed most of the sixth and seventh grade years, however, and school administrators requested she repeat the seventh grade. When she learned she would not be graduating middle school, however, she refused to accept it. We hired a tutor, and she worked throughout the summer until she met all the requirements to enter the eighth grade.
     Next, we sent out several applications for high school, but not one was accepted. It seemed painfully unfair after Brittney had worked so hard. I chanted to have absolute faith that she would fulfill her mission in life, no matter what.
     Then, her middle school principal called us. She was so moved by Brittney’s efforts to graduate that she contacted the head of a private school in Brooklyn, N.Y., to recommend my daughter. Even though it was after the admissions and acceptance deadlines, Brittney applied and was accepted!
     In my area of specialty, I established one of the top advisory practices in the United States. My growth in my career is directly related to the responsibilities that I have assumed in the SGI-USA.
     When my firm was acquired by a consulting firm, the pay structure was radically changed. As a result, even though I was bringing in the biggest deals, my income was less in 2008 and 2009 than in 2007. I had accumulated huge medical bills, so I had no choice but to break through.
     I needed to change firms but I had turned down many top companies before, so I thought my options were limited. I chanted to fulfill my mission and to show actual proof of the Gohonzon and the greatness of my mentor by being victorious.
     Unexpectedly, I got an offer from a firm to head up its creditor advisory practice. They gave me a signing bonus nearly equal to my income for 2008 and 2009 combined, guaranteed my bonus for two years and made me a partner and part owner. I paid off most of my debt and am on solid financial footing again.
     As President Ikeda says: “Victory is not determined by externals. What do you do when the odds are against you? Summon forth all the wisdom you can. Wisdom emerges through prayer. Victory emerges through wisdom”  (Embracing Compassion, vol. 1, 108-109).
     Throughout every challenge, I never stopped doing my best to contribute to kosen-rufu. Without fail, I study Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and President Ikeda’s guidance, and I reach out and encourage as many members as possible.
     Brittney has almost completely recovered, and this month, she started her sophomore year at the same high school. Her illness taught me that when I encounter obstacles, I must win each day, first and foremost by chanting until my courage is greater than my fear.

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