Learning to Live a Life of Contribution
My suffering began in my home country Italy when I was 9 years old with the separation of my parents. I remember that I saw my father as a hero and when he left I was devastated. I blamed my mother for this to the point of hating her, but being the eldest of two siblings, subconsciously I took charge of any responsibility for the future of my family and cared for everyone. My brother and I grew up with my grandparents while my mother worked two or three different jobs to maintain us, even working on the weekend. Regardless of this, my hatred, anger and resentment towards her was always there. I remember that I was not a happy child but rather an envious, shy boy who had very low self esteem. My feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness and worthlessness were always with me.
While in high school, I moved from a small town to the big city and made friends with guys who were much older than me. From the beginning I joined this group of outsiders, missing school days and making use of hashish and marijuana. I was only 14 years old and my desire to be respected by my “friends” was very strong, as was my need to escape from my discomfort and awkwardness with myself.
Shortly after, I left school and started to work in my home town, again associating with people older than me. This time the drugs we were using were cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy.
It started as a means to be accepted but shortly after I was using as much as anyone. I soon become addicted to the drugs. Once I started, it was difficult to stop, because it was the magic formula to solve all of my issues. In fact when I was under the drug’s effects my problems disappeared and when they came back, I only needed to take more drugs. I had initiated a process to self destruction.
I tried to stop in every way, but did not know how. I was not able to take any responsibility and I preferred to blame my mother and my unfair life for this. This situation lasted ten years and in that time I had made a lot of mess: I had stolen money, sold drugs, lied and manipulated people including my parents, my brother, my ex girlfriend who wanted to send me to a rehabilitation centre. At that point I realised that the time had come to ask for help.
Fortunately I found a self help group called Narcotics Anonymous (NA). From the beginning I felt welcomed, understood and not judged. The first thing I was told was that I wasn’t crazy or perverted or a bad person. I was just sick – sick from an addiction. I was even invited back to the next meeting. Through the personal experiences of people who had given up drugs for a long time, I found the answers I needed and that I had been looking for for years. Implementing the program known as “12 steps”, with the support of other members of the NA group and my will to stay “clean” one day at a time, I slowly succeeded in my goals and a process of hope began for me.
Once I removed the substances, the anesthesia to my life, my inadequacies, the conviction of self-worthlessness, an inability to stand in a group of people – all began to come flooding back to face me. The same things that I had been feeling at fourteen. During the first year of completely abstaining from all drugs including alcohol, I tried to replace the drugs with everything that could possibly give me a sort of momentary comfort. So I spent a lot of money on clothes, I bought a motorcycle and every kind of tool for my job that I really didn’t need. I felt very depressed. It was like nothing in my life was worth it. The need to “use” drugs was not there anymore, but neither was my love for life.
That was the time that my sponsor at NA introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism. Similar to my first NA meeting, I felt completely welcomed at my first Buddhist meeting. I had a feeling that I was in the right place at the right moment. At that time I remember I was so empty and my life seemed to not have any sense, so I continued to attend Buddhist meetings because I was curious and fascinated. I wanted to know more about this new philosophy. I remember one of the things that attracted me to stay was the atmosphere of empathy and love that I could feel in the meeting. I started to meet more people and got more involved in my Buddhist practice and after a few months I decided to receive the Gohonzon.
By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I slowly began to raise my life-state and found hope, but I did not realise the amount of power I had in my hands with the the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, so my old habits quickly returned. My relationship with my mother was still a nightmare and I could not find a way out. While it is easy to believe that we all possess the lower life-states outlined in the Buddhist teachings, believing that we possess Buddhahood is much more difficult.
I continued to chant with a determination to resolve all aspects of my life. I wanted to resolve my tension with my mother, my difficulty to be a part of any group, my shyness and my self-destructive tendencies.
I was used to looking for an easy and quick solution. But once I started to practice I realised that quick solutions don’t exist. So through the close support of SGI members and basing my actions on determined prayer to the Gohonzon, I determined to resolve every single aspect of my life. At the same time I reminded myself to be patient – I had used drugs and tried to destroy myself in many ways for about ten years. It was impossible to resolve everything in a few months.
So, the fight over myself began. The first few weeks were terrible, to the point that I thought, maybe something isn’t working in my Gohonzon, maybe I received the wrong one. But then I read the following guidance from President Ikeda:
[quote author=”Daisaku Ikeda, For Today and Tomorrow”]When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the good and evil capacities of our lives begin to function as the exalted form of fundamental existence. Lives that are full of the pain of hell, lives that are in the state of hunger, lives warped by the state of anger – such lives too begin to move in the direction of creating their own personal happiness and value. Lives being pulled toward misfortune and unhappiness are redirected and pulled in the opposite direction, toward good, when they make the Mystic Law their base.[/quote]
From that moment I started to really understand the importance of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and also that the response from my environment was directly proportional to the importance given to the law, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That means putting the Buddhist practice in the centre of my life, but it doesn’t mean chanting only for myself but also for the others as well as studying, doing activity in the SGI and talking to people about Buddhism.
At that time I had the impression that my future and all my problems were in my hands and it was my responsibility to resolve it. It was just up to me, no anyone else could do it, I stopped blaming my mother and the world around me. For the first time in my life I took 100 per cent responsibility for my life.
I continued to chant with consistency and determination, trusting that what I was doing to transform this problem was the best think that I could do.
With the passage of time, I had the feeling that I was not really satisfied. I was dreaming for a long time to go abroad, learn English, gain overseas work experience, learn about new cultures and meet new people. So early last year I decided to leave everything, and come over here to Australia, and my main goal was to fix things with my mother before leaving, make sure that my departure was not an escape. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the same determination until the day I left Italy and finally realised that she did for me exactly what she was capable to do, and she could not do more.
I accepted her exactly as she was, a human being, without expecting something from her.
At the airport before leaving she told me in tears that she would have done anything for me not to leave, she knew that she was a “bad mother”. I simply replied that I loved her. At that exact moment all the anger and resentments against her disappeared.
I took that plane relieved of this emotional burden, full of energy for the beginning of my new life! And now here I am, ready to start from zero, with the same lightness and enthusiasm of a beginner. Without my old friends, my job, my house, my certitudes. This time I will do my human revolution not alone because I’m surrounded and supported by many SGIA members and new friends, all together in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind” moving forward and contributing to kosen-rufu.
After I had suffered so much and for so long and after overcoming my battle, I couldn’t believe I had been through so much. Looking at the big picture now I realise that it was all fuel for my human revolution and has made me who I am today. Now I’m not the person who seeks fast and easy solutions to life’s challenges anymore, I now take responsibility for my life and do my best to live by example so that I can encourage other people.
I know that the path I have chosen is hard and long, but I’m also aware that with consistent chanting, the support of my fellow SGIA members, my relationship with President Ikeda, and supporting and encouraging others, I will be able to live a contributive life. In closing I would like to share some encouragement from President Ikeda:
“The process of changing poison into medicine begins when we approach difficult experience as an opportunity to reflect on ourselves and to strengthen and develop our courage and compassion. The more we are able to do this, the more we are able to grow in vitality and wisdom and realise a truly expansive state of life.
This teaching of the possibility of profound transformation makes Buddhism a deeply optimistic philosophy. This optimism propels Buddhists as they seek to transform the negative and destructive tendencies within their lives as well as those in society and the world at large.”
[Daniele is from WA]