Shining like the sun
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has called on the SGI Women’s members to always shine like the sun. Be the sun of the family. I must admit that even though I have been practising Nichiren Buddhism for 41 years I have always felt daunted by this call. I mean I cannot shine like the sun all the time. I am human too and I do feel down sometimes.
For example four years ago, just three years after we migrated here to Sydney from Malaysia, and about two months after my father’s passing, my husband went to work in the Middle East. At about the same time too, my elder daughter left home to study in a University in the Gold Coast – leaving just my younger daughter and me at home. And that’s when I had difficulty with her.
I really felt very, very down at that time. I would cry every time I was on my own and even in public places like on the bus or the train! How could I possibly shine like the sun?
She was in year 10 then. I teach in the city so every day I had to leave home early. I would make her breakfast, pack her lunch and wake her up before I left home, trusting that she will be able to get to school on time on her own, which she never did. She was constantly late and on some days, she would just jig school! Gradually, she also began to neglect her schoolwork. She hardly did her homework and of course the school began to call me very often with regards to her lateness, truancy and not submitting work.
Whenever I tried to talk to her about it, she would react very angrily and lock herself in her room and would refuse to talk to me for days. I felt dejected, sad and angry all at once. I wanted to rebut her each time but I was also afraid of losing her. So I would also lock myself in my room and stay clear out of her way.
My only outlet at that time other than work were Soka Gakkai activities. I would spend all my free time supporting the members in my region, home visiting and chanting with and encouraging members who were facing difficulties in their lives based on the Daishonin’s Buddhism and President Ikeda’s guidance. This really helped me feel as though my life was worthwhile and kept me going in those difficult times. In fact this experience of having to cope without my husband has enabled me to empathise with the pain and suffering of other women in my region who are single, widowed or single mothers. I find that my own experience has really enabled me to support them better.
But it took me two whole years of grief before I determined to really focus my prayers on being happy myself. In order to make even greater efforts to strive harder and further and to challenge myself to talk to even one more person about Buddhism other than the members in my region, I decided to start a group discussion meeting in my house.
At first, I found myself whispering each time I shared with my fellow group members about my struggles with my younger daughter knowing that she could hear me in her room. Eventually, I realised that the reason I whispered was because I was blaming her for adding to my grief, that I was wanting her to change. Realising that, I made a determination that although it seemed ridiculous to me at that time, I will from then on try to change myself. I stopped whispering during my group meetings and spoke normally about my own feelings and determination to do my own human revolution. That felt really liberating, actually.
However the situation with my daughter did not improve. In fact towards the second half of the third year, she was given a second warning from the school which meant that if she received another warning she would be barred from taking the HSC! We both had to be called up for an interview by the school.
It was only then that I decided to talk to the college where I work about my struggles with my daughter. Because of that determination to want to change myself, the protective functions of life begun to be activated around me.
The college was sympathetic and allowed me to start late every day so I could drop her off at school every morning before I went to work. Thankfully, at that time Josephine (NSW Assistant Women’s leader) who lives near me, offered to give me a lift to Burwood where she works, so I could get to work on time from there after dropping my daughter off at school. I am truly grateful to Josephine. Inspired by Josephine’s selfless unconditional kindness, I decided to do the same for my daughter. I no longer felt any anger towards her. In fact I quite enjoyed those last few months before her HSC exams serving her like a princess. I would literally lay down every meal in front of her, clean up after she has finished and would happily clean up all her mess. She responded well to this and worked really hard making up for lost time. Her efforts paid off. In fact she actually did very well, qualifying herself to study Law and Science at the Australian National University in Canberra.
After dropping her off at the college where she boards in Canberra, I took a whole year off in celebration and joined my husband in Abu Dhabi. I thought naively that, that was the end of all my troubles with my daughter. But a week after I left, she came home and took the car to attend her friend’s birthday party without letting us know. On her way home after the party, driving under the influence of alcohol, she banged the car onto a pole and badly damaged the car. I found out only when I returned home a couple of months later.
Wanting very much to hear the truth from her, I was determined to make the dialogue that night when both she and my elder daughter got home for holidays like the ones I have in my own group meeting. I assured her that I only wanted her to tell us the truth so we could help her and that we were not there to judge her.
Feeling supported and remorseful, she broke down and told us how the police had been involved and she was charged and fined in court and her L license was suspended! After she finished, for the first time in three years I was able to hug and kiss her and tell her how much I love her despite all that happened and that we should all be thankful that neither she nor anyone else was hurt in that accident – something that I have found hard to do for the past three years when she was playing up in school.
Also because of this seemingly negative incident, my younger daughter who had always found it hard to speak about what’s really going on in her life managed to open up and I was also able to speak freely to her without any fear of turning her away.
That incident turned out to be the turning point in our strained relationship.
Now we communicate openly and she regularly calls me to let me know of her struggles. She has also since become more conscientious in her studies.
I’ve learnt from this experience that when I focus on supporting the person rather than trying to fix the situation the outcome is better.
I now understand that to shine like the sun doesn’t mean that I have to be perfect or brilliant or all knowing. Instead it is about constantly polishing myself to be able to generate warmth and support and become the sun that encourages hope, growth and happiness and not the type of sun that burns everyone up in its light. As my elder daughter said to me a few days ago, just being there with warmth and dauntless spirit when she was down is always reassuring and encouraging.
Undoubtedly, I will continue to have challenging problems, but I also realise now the truth of what President Ikeda has said in his guidance, “…that the scale of our karma is actually a reflection of the scale of our mission as well as the benefit we would eventually receive.” (SGNL8736)
I no longer feel intimidated by the call to always shine like the sun. In fact I am determined to always shine like the sun not only in my family and in our movement for kosen-rufu, but also in society, striving to warm frozen hearts with bright compassion, like the indiscriminating rays of the sun.