Mary Luciano

Enacting her Training in Daily Life

140119 Mary Luciano 006I was fortunate enough to meet this practice in Australia almost ten years ago.  The immense benefit of coming across Nichiren Buddhism itself goes without saying, however due to the relatively ‘developing’ nature of SGIA I have been fortunate to have had many training opportunities to support the organisation – opportunities that I may not have been given elsewhere.

My training began with holding a Group Meeting with my best friend Lucy when I was a relatively new member. I was most definitely the shadow to Lucy in hosting these meetings, lurking in the background and being the ‘tea maker’ as I struggled with the confidence to even lead chanting. As I continued to be supported by the members of the group and as my confidence in my practice grew, I gradually started taking more responsibility for the group. As a result, my human revolution started to take off!

I was always supported by incredible Youth Leaders who would come from miles around to meet for a coffee, with no greater agenda than to see how I was doing. I really began to rely on these dialogues and to see what a valuable way these people lived their lives.

Because I was desperate to undertake my human revolution (I was fundamentally quite ‘lost’), I took up any opportunity I was offered, regardless of how excruciating it was to say yes (which was nearly all the time). I could see how all these training courses, activities, committee responsibilities etc were opportunities created by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda for me to polish my life. That has really remained so clear to me throughout my practice – how imperative it is to challenge myself moment to moment, however small the challenge may seem, if I want to create a life of value.

I received some very intense training of this kind during a SGI Youth Leader’s training course in Japan in September 2012, where I was invited in my capacity as an Assistant Zone Leader. I struggled throughout the course, mainly because it involved constantly engaging in dialogue with many members from around the world. For a person who likes to escape into their own company, I was really very challenged. I kept remembering how President Ikeda pours his whole life into every encounter and I determined to try to behave like that. It was an extremely intense period and during the trip I went through many emotions, generally feeling very overwhelmed, but at the same time I kept determining to appreciate the person in front of me and act like every moment was the last of my life. I left the course still not quite ‘feeling’ like it had gone well however I had received guidance often to not doubt the effects of the causes made, even if they do not appear immediately.

This type of mentality I strived for in Japan certainly does not come easily to me and I find it is a strong determination I need to make in each moment. But when I am able to bring forth that type of conviction, I find the results are incredible. I believe this is the example President Ikeda shows us in the amazing dialogues he has held with so many different types of people around the world and his continued efforts to encourage all of us with his messages, publications and letters.

In the few leadership positions I have held, especially as a Group Leader, I have met and formed relationships with the most wonderful people, from all walks of life. When I am able to summon up the conviction that the conversation I am having is the most valuable dialogue I will ever have, and the person in front of me the most important, the rest of the world seems to disappear and our conversations are incredible. There are many times however where I have made that determination and the results have not been to my satisfaction!! I am learning that this does not mean the determination is not strong enough, nor am I failing.  It means that the determination I have made, as a cause for my life, has already changed the course of my life.

It is of course, the easier thing to do, to meet with people in the organisation who are all striving with a common mission to advance humanity and who you are supporting with this responsibility in mind.  What I have found just slightly harder is enacting that spirit with those closest to me, such as my husband and family!

I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in May of this year. The pregnancy was wonderful and I was able to carry on meeting members, attending a group and generally get on with my normal life up until he was born. The weeks following Jake’s birth however were a real shock to me. Suddenly I didn’t have the energy to meet with anyone – not even my best friends. I was so sleep deprived I could barely bring myself to pick up the phone to call my Mum.  At least once a day I tried to chant some daimoku, even just threeif that’s all I could manage, and read a line of President Ikeda’s guidance.  This was where the fortune of my training kicked in – to stay connected and to challenge myself even just a little.

Once I found my feet (slightly!) and things calmed down a bit, I still found meeting people and attending groups near impossible. I think I had expected the transition from being a non-mother to a mother to be slightly more gradual, but no, there is no such compassion! Fortunately I was invited to attend a weekly group meeting with SGIA General Director Greg Johns and some other mothers, which I tried to attend each week and which became my link to the group and organisation. I also still tried to speak regularly to Vanessa Loy who is the Zone Leader I support. These conversations were invaluable to me and reminded me of the importance of my struggles in the context of Kosen rufu. Again, this training of moment to moment efforts kept me going and I determined to call a friend once a day. These actions, however seemingly small have kept me on track time and time again.

Over the past months I have gradually become more involved in the organisation and my daily practice but am still pretty much housebound the majority of the time. This is really not how I have been accustomed to living!  I have never been indoors so much and had always been able to pop off to see a friend or chant as much as I needed to.  But what I am realising is that Buddhism  is about daily life, what is in front of me right now, and how I can contribute to that moment, whatever it is I am doing.  So right now that means determining to appreciate my husband and baby at every moment and to use any opportunity which is presented to me in my daily life to do my human revolution. My husband is incredible and it should not, in theory, be difficult to appreciate and support him!  But the tiredness I have experienced since having Jake has been a real struggle, and my daily determination consists of not complaining and still trying to ‘create’ something every day, however I am feeling. I am also going through a stage of terrible headaches and migraines at the moment, which has threatened to really make me very low at times. However I thought recently about how Buddhism exists to overcome sickness (along with birth, ageing and death), and how these headaches (which I have suffered with all my life) do not need to stop me leading a valuable life at any time. So this is another opportunity for me to re-determine.

I know I am fortunate in so many ways, however for now, these are my ‘real’ struggles and I try not to compare them to other’s problems as this then de-values the significance of my daily efforts.

I believe all that training I have been lucky enough to receive really supported me throughout the months following Jake’s birth and will continue to in the different type of life I am going to lead from now on!  I am determined to contribute to kosen-rufu in a way unique to me, and to respond to President Ikeda’s example of living a life of value.

A passage from President Ikeda which has really inspired me on a day to day basis is as follows:

"A life lived without purpose or value, the kind in which one does not know why one is born, is joyless and lacklustre. To just live, eat and die without any real sense of purpose surely represents a life pervaded by the world of Animality. On the other hand, to do, create or contribute something that benefits others, society and ourselves and to dedicate ourselves as long as we live up to that challenge – that is a life of true satisfaction, a life of value. It is a humanistic and lofty way to live."

Daisaku Ikeda, For Today and Tomorrow

[Mary is from NSW]