Monday, 21 May 2012

An old experience, for now

I have been really slacking on my blogging. Amazingly enough, there are a few people who are reading this, and I am really sorry I have let you down.

I have an experience simmering, springing from my recent HQ course, but I haven't got the head to write it up yet, and maybe, who knows, it's not complete after all.

So for now, I will share the first experience I have written in my whole (and admittedly quite long) Buddhist life.

It was originally told at a magical meeting on a boathouse, in honour of the European guests coming to London for the 50th anniversary of SGI in Europe.

It was my first time writing down an experience, and I decided to amend it slightly and share it on my blog.

I am a fukushi. My mother practised before I was born and according to my father, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was one of the first things I learnt to say as a baby.

Not so long after my birth, my family’s financial situation collapsed on every possible side. Both my parents, for different reasons, suffered a bankruptcy, and at the same time my rich grandparents lost everything they had.

Growing up, I never knew how it felt not to have money problems. Since a very young age, I started worrying about money. I had a deeply ingrained feeling that all the doors were shut for me, that I basically didn’t have a future, because of the lack of money. I was a miserable, pessimistic and angry person and I felt completely powerless.
Nevertheless, at 12 years of age, I decided to start practising this Buddhism regularly and at 20 I became a member.
However, I was still convinced I was condemned to stay in my mafia-stricken country for the rest of my life, that there was no escape from poverty and that my whole life would have been just an expedient after another, just survival.

On many occasions I would find myself crying in front of the Gohonzon, repeating to myself that it wasn’t fair, fueling the demon of anger in my heart.
Until finally, I came to the realisation that complaint and anger were not the answer. I fought and fought to find the strength and wisdom within myself to feel gratitude for my predicament. I decided that I was never going to have money problems again and that I would turn myself into a lighthouse of joy for my family.

The very year I became a member, I applied for a scholarship to go to the UK to work as an Italian language assistant. Only 24 people were selected every year out of the whole country. I was one of the best students in my university and I basically thought that that was the chance I was waiting for, that I deserved it. Of course, I didn’t win. This time, I determined not to complain, and I decided to start trusting the Gohonzon with my life, convinced that I didn’t win because something much better for my life was about to happen.

Lo and behold, I had a sudden moment of enlightenment and I finally found a way out of Sicily, moving to the North of Italy to complete my Master’s degree. This was an enormous confidence boost on many levels, and it gave me the opportunity to get to know my father’s side of the family better.

After two wonderful years, I reapplied for the scholarship, and this time I placed 2nd. I was sent to London, where I received my Gohonzon and went to my first course at Taplow Court. During the course, a good friend of mine who was lilac-ing there told me to chant for absolute victory. I absentmindedly nodded, but then I started thinking. Absolute victory was something I had never considered. Survival, yes. Expedients, yes. Little moments of joy, yes. But not absolute victory. 

At the time I was struggling to finish my dissertation, I had to go back to Italy for a week with the impossible task to finish it (which included reading a couple more books in Russian and interview a Professor in Rome), convince my supervisor to allow me to graduate and do all the paperwork. In five days. During those days, I felt my Buddhahood for the first time. I never faltered, never had any doubt, never complained. Didn’t waste an ounce of energy and just kept repeating myself: “I’m a Buddha, I can do it.”. There were times when I would feel my heart shaking under the burden of the task at hand, but I would  instantly grab it, do a sansho and continue with my work. I managed to obtain my first absolute victory, graduating with full marks and mention, and obtaining a prize from my university I needed to survive.

I spent my year in the UK chanting to find my mission, and to go where my mission was. At the end of my assistantship I knew I wanted to live here and become a teacher. I also knew I had to wait for a year to do it, because of an overlap of dates. That is, if they accepted me onto the teacher training course at all. As an Italian speaker with a major in Russian, my chances of getting onto a Spanish with French PGCE didn’t seem so rosy.
How was I ever going to survive? Again, I didn’t falter, I felt no fear at all, just trusting the Gohonzon with my life. During my gap year, I worked in the Ukraine and in Romania, I spent time with my family and I studied French in Liverpool, always managing to start a new job or receive a new scholarship exactly when the previous one was ending. I was accepted onto my chosen course, being actually the first added to the roster.

My PGCE was an emotional roller coaster, with constant feelings of not being good enough. In my second placement, I had a very strict mentor, who on a couple of occasions made me cry for letting him down. After a disappointing formal observation, he told me that I really had to work on my self-esteem issues, because that was the only way to show my potential as a teacher.

Meanwhile, I had started applying for jobs, and I found the perfect job for me: a school that actually offered French, Russian, Spanish and Italian, my four languages. I thought, what are the chances?
This job has my name on it!
Naturally I didn’t get it. 
I went out of the school with two things in my head. One, that my lack of self-esteem had shown and destroyed my chances. Two, that I had to be grateful for not getting the job. If after all my chanting that seemingly perfect job hadn’t happened, that was obviously not the school for me. My mother told me she was proud of me for this attitude (compliments are not my parents’ strongest suit).

The week after, I had an interview for a post as a teacher of Spanish. The school was looking for a specialist, better if experienced, who could establish the language in the school. On the day of the interview, all the other candidates were more experienced, and two of them were Spanish native speakers. I felt not up to that sort of challenge, and I suddenly realised that that was exactly the point. Buddhism is not about being cosy. I had to accept the challenge, even if it scared me. So I told myself, just go for it and kill it. Trust the Gohonzon with your life. 

I got offered the job that afternoon. I also got placed on a higher pay scale point, and I was offered to start working in the summer, that is, working for two weeks and being paid for the holidays. And just to top it up, I passed my PGCE with a 1st.

Now that I have achieved financial security, my goal since I was a little kid, the only thing I can feel is deep, overwhelming gratitude. For having been poor. For having the best parents I could ask for. For having a big buddhist family. For being part of the SGI. And the only thing I want now, and for a while longer, is to give back to this wonderful organisation and to my parents.
To end with my favourite quote: “It will never happen that the prayer of a votary of the Lotus Sutra will go unanswered.” Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.


  1. :) Please keep sharing your experiences :)
    Thank you so much!
    Best from Berlin, Bell

  2. Wonderful ty for sharing!!


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