Friday, August 25, 2017

Avnita Bir's Experience of JUSTICE!

My name is Avnita Bir and I have been practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism for one and a half years. I feel I have had a very seeking spirit and have experienced many benefits as actual proofs of the faith. 
I recently had a life changing experience, which both challenged and reinforced my faith in the Gohonzon. My family went through the darkest period of our lives, as my brother became a victim of a horrific conspiracy in which he was forcibly and unlawfully detained for false, fabricated cases under inexplicable circumstances. Shocked, uncertain about how to deal with the crisis, we began fighting a battle we had no clue how to go about. It was providence that had taken me to Delhi when this tragedy struck in the middle of the night on 1st July. Trying to understand how the system works, during what seemed like endless days, all I could do was resort to my faith and abundant, powerful daimoku. Throughout this period, as we fought the system, I got strength from my chanting. My brother seemed to be in a very low life condition and no support seemed to be reaching him. Josei Toda wrote in HR, Vol. IX, and I quote, “When your life is at stake, you struggle with every single ounce of your energy. However, the battle against your own karma is even harder than that. Life and faith are exactly the same. To think that you can get through somehow, just because you believe in true Buddhism, is not real faith at all. When you try so hard that the sweat streams off your brow and you squeeze out wisdom, which you didn’t even think you had, then you can make the impossible possible. And that’s the time when the Gohonzon will protect you in every way, shape and form. There’s no doubt about that.”
A senior in faith would daily send me Gosho messages and encouragement and that became my anchor through the long period of darkness. One of the earliest messages she sent me was about President Ikeda's Osaka campaign and his arrest and unjust detention on false charges for a crime he did not commit. That he was exonerated of all charges and his honor restored, instilled hope in me. In that moment I felt that my brother was a noble Buddha who was practicing the concept of 'voluntarily assuming karma' and that he had taken this suffering on himself in order to lead his family into the Practice. And I was confident that the Gohonzon would surely protect him. Seeing my strong and courageous faith, my family members, especially my young nephews and nieces, also joined me. It felt as though this was Human Revolution for the family as everyone rallied together like one united force. Sensei Ikeda says, and I quote, “ From one perspective, gongyo and daimoku are lyrics and songs. They are an ode to life.  I hope, therefore, that your gongyo and daimoku will be such that even people who are not practicing will be favorably impressed by the sonorous and invigorating sound of your voices. That too will contribute to the spread of kosen-rufu.” As much as my prayers were for my brother, they were also for my family to see the actual proof of strong resolute faith.
Even as I prayed, there were hindrances and obstacles in the form of deadlocks, delays and disappointments that would try to shake my faith and courage. Nichiren Daishonin says and I quote, "A coward cannot have any prayers answered.” That gave me courage to start each day with powerful gongyo and daimoku.
"Faith in the Mystic Law is the basis for victory. Chanting nam myoho renge kyo is the ultimate driving force that enables us to break through all obstacles, undefeated by any problem or suffering.” Even as I prayed for winter to turn into spring, I prayed for a higher life condition not just for my brother but also for those who had caused him this suffering and for poison to change into medicine. The situation was tricky and complicated and we needed to have not just strength and fortitude to deal with it but also the right strategy to be able to take the right decisions. I prayed  to the Gohonzon for my brother's protection and for the family to have wisdom to take the right steps towards a positive outcome. Even in the face of many mistakes we made because we were ignorant in these matters, there was new learning at every step. Sensei Ikeda says, and I quote, “Wisdom is invisible. It can only be gauged by a person’s actual conduct and behavior.”
A month had passed by and despite all our efforts, we had not been able to make any breakthrough. My spirit was reaching breaking point as I prepared for the hearing on the 1st of August. That morning a senior leader from Mumbai called me and gave me guidance. She said walk into the court with the determination of Sensei. Sensei Ikeda says, and I quote, “When your determination changes, everything else will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fibre in your being will immediately orient itself towards your success.” And win we did! That was our first victory. That day I also had another breakthrough. I got an appointment to meet Dr. Ouchi in South Extension despite his very busy travel schedule. The session with him was very valuable as he explained to me how this incident was an opportunity for me to feel empowered and in turn empower my family through my faith and practice. Our second victory took another ten days to happen but the actual proofs of faith and resolute prayer continued till the very end when my brother finally came back home on 12th August, stronger than ever and with the added compassion for humanity and kosen-rufu that he was able to carry out even in the midst of the negative environment in which he had found himself. 
The learnings and benefits from this entire experience were manifold. Even though he was initially angry at the injustice of the system, my brother did not give up on prayer. I happened to read his diary and was very happy to see nam myoho renge kyo on top of every page. He hadn't been a follower of Buddhism but my prayers had reached him. My aged parents with whom I barely got time to spend living in Mumbai, started to rely on me for hope and action to help their dear son. I became the second son for them. The family became closer and this was the human revolution we much needed. I returned to Mumbai feeling victorious and with an indomitable spirit that I never had before.
Nichiren Daishonin writes “On Prayer” and I quote, “Though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun rises in the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered.”
Today I determine to live the Gosho and share the actual proof of faith and victory through my experience as one of the most powerful ways to advance kosen-rufu.

Thank you Avnita! 
You are such an inspiration!

Today I take off for Cape Cod for 5 days. I'll post when I return!
Sending love ~ Jamie

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Our RV Journey to see the Eclipse

This is exactly the way the sun looked during the total eclipse

Here's our "rig," an RV that we rented to drive 
to South Carolina to see the total eclipse. Everyone loved the dragon on the front. 

I've always wanted to see a total eclipse. I've heard about how the streetlights come on, everything goes quiet, the sky turns dark enough to see the stars, and everyone joins together in a special moment. 

But only IF there are no clouds obscuring the sun! 

About two weeks ago, I suggested to Ric that we rent an RV and go see the total eclipse. And Ric, being the smart man that he is, said "Yes," found an RV to rent, and a site to reserve where we could see the total eclipse. (That wasn't so easy!) He had to pay a premium for the site, and it was perfect! We drove for two days to get there. 

I chanted everyday for the last two weeks for clear skies. 

And....on the day of the eclipse, after driving for two days, we woke up with clouds. 

So what did I do? You know the answer. 

I went into the RV, and chanted! I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the clouds to go away so we could see the eclipse. I chanted to my life, with all the power in my life. 

Suddenly the skies opened up and everyone in the campground ran for cover as it rained really hard.....and a few minutes later we had clear blue skies. We all breathed a sigh of relief, put on our eclipse glasses and enjoyed the show! 

Here are some of the pictures from our trip. We stayed at the Flamingo Lake RV resort in Jacksonville Florida, and Saluda River resort in South Carolina. 

 Nasa took this one

Our Neighbor in South Carolina.

Ric on our site in the morning, after all the maintenance he did every day. I could never have done this alone. RVs are fun...but it takes a technical mind, and some real strength to do the day-to-day. They are a challenge to drive, and expensive to rent. Ric did it all! And we laughed and had interesting discussions the whole way...(about 700 miles each way) 

I see this through the lens of the new life I've created...and benefit from all the daimoku I've chanted to change my karma. We had great sites, a great time, and a chance to focus on a wonderful event uniting the country and the world. 
I love my life! 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How do we Fight With The Heart of the Lion King?

I wanted to write to you all about how we are renting an RV and heading to South Carolina to see the total eclipse of the sun. It is so exciting! 
Then I got home and heard the latest news and did some studying and want to share this: 

The youth are studying "The Opening of the Eyes" so I picked up a copy to study along with them. 

From the Opening of the Eyes, chapter entitled
"Why the Votary Encounters Persecutions", page 121. 

By Daisaku Ikeda, 

"In my mind I can hear the Daishonin 
calling out vigorously to his followers: 
"If you are not going to fight now, when will you fight? 
My followers, stand up with courage! 
If you fight with the heart of the lion king, 
you will expiate all past offenses 
and transform your karma!
Let us lead to enlightenment even the icchantikas 
(persons of incorrigible disbelief), 
and help free humankind from fundamental darkness!
(illusion, xenophobia (fear of people from other countries)hatred, fear, prejudice and the forces that stop us from practicing, notes from me)
Let us establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land and construct a world where we can all live together happily and peacefully."

What does it take to "fight with the heart of a lion king?" Well, as I always mention, I am not employed by the SGI and don't speak for them, but I do practice this Buddhism as hard as I can to change my karma, and change the karma of the world. So I will tell you what this means to me. 

Fighting with the heart of a lion king means looking fearlessly at our own lives, making the deepest vow possible as votaries of the Lotus Sutra to change ourselves, change our karma, SEE ourselves, and chant to change all illusion, all self-slander, all doubt, all in the name of being happy, and in creating a happy world for ourselves and others. It means vowing to have victory in our lives, not just for ourselves, but for kosen-rufu - to show others what is possible.
And it means chanting for the youth. Chanting hard for the youth. In a few seconds, I'll be joining my district's toso to spend an hour chanting for the youth. They are our beacons of hope and they need our daimoku more than ever. They need our prayers more than ever...they are searching for this practice. NOW is the time! 

Let's all be fearless. Let's all join together and chant for the sake of our youth, for the sake of our country and for the sake of our beautiful world! 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Overcoming Problems Through Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo


Yesterday I went to the Tampa bay Region's Kosen-rufu Gongyo and it featured the film of Sensei where he says "Write! Keep Writing! Speak out! Keep speaking!" (paraphrased) and I thought "Yes!" That is Sensei speaking to me, and to all of us. 

This morning I was studying for the Sophia group study meeting on Thursday and I read this about overcoming challenges: 

From the August 2017 Living Buddhism, The New Human Revolution Volume 27, chapter 3, installments 9-12, page 53:

"We can't understand others' hardships if we haven't experiences suffering ourselves. If leaders who lack such empathy come to hold sway over society, it will be a great misfortune for its citizens. That's why I'm always encouraging the youth, our future leaders, to take on challenges and hardships..."

"Struggling with problems is essential to our growth as human beings. It forges our spirit and becomes a source of creativity for opening new ways forward. It is no exaggeration to say that our real abilities are born from our capacity to grapple with problems. Cultivating this capacity, therefore is vital to realizing our full potential as human beings."

Recently I received an email from someone who was looking for a job and considering turning their Gohonzon back in because they hadn't found one yet. And I suggested they go to speak with their senior leaders, because I thought that was the best course of action. Getting guidance can be one of the best things you ever do your yourself. Being open to guidance is being open to to improvement. 

And in reflecting on this email I might think: "You are mistaking the point of this practice." YOU are the Gohonzon. Your power to overcome this suffering rests with you and you alone. Giving back the Gohonzon won't help. Only you can help your life by biting into this problem, not complaining and challenging your life to turn poison into medicine."

Early in my practice I had a terrible boss, and I spent a full hour every morning chanting fiercely and vowing to change this karma and never have a terrible boss again! The boss changed, I changed, and I left that job for a wonderful job I loved for almost 10 years. 

When my son Ben got sick in August of 2013, I never railed "What? My son is sick? Obviously this practice doesn't work!"
No, as documented in this blog, I chanted to overcome this source of suffering. I chanted for him to live a life that he was proud of...I chanted for his happiness, and that this challenge would bring poison into medicine, and create happiness for all. 

Over the next few years I fought valiantly with my practice...chanting two, three, four, five hours a day. Doing shakubuku, studying, having meetings every week at my house. 

And yes, the outcome wasn't what I was chanting for...and then again it was. Right now, I'm leading people who are grieving to happiness through my Grief Relief workshops and individual sessions. I connect people to their loved-ones-in-spirit, just as Ben and I are connected, through the written word.  Ben is helping me. Life is eternal. And he is free of sickness. And I am more grateful than ever for this practice. 

So when we have challenges, let's not erode our fortune by complaining. Let's say "YES! I get it! Another chance for me to challenge my life, build my compassion, and make myself a stronger, wiser fighter for kosen-rufu, my happiness, and the happiness of all!" Rooooaaaaaaarrrr like the lions we are! Go get "em!