Victory by Tim Stain

My name is Tim Stain and I was born in Adelaide, Australia. My life-long ambition was to become a captain with a major airline. I started my career in 1991 and in 1998, I moved to Hong Kong as a second officer for Cathay Pacific. It was here in Hong Kong that I met an unbelievably happy lady who introduced me into the practice. She emanated peace, confidence, and wisdom despite her own personal circumstances. The practice brought me a lot of happiness and success. I was blessed with many friends, discovered new hobbies, and my job was predictable and stable. I felt happy but not challenged. In 2015 I decided to undergo Captain training. This decision unleashed a crippling fear of failure within me. It became all-consuming. The fear kept me small and fixated on my own issues and relying heavily on external factors like successes and validations to make me happy. I undertook a 21-hour chanting challenge to have the wisdom and courage to crush my fears around not being a success. The Daishonin said ‘become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you’.[1] I turned towards deepening my prayers and determination to really change my life on a deeper level.

Instead of focusing on just becoming a Commander of an airline, I focused on becoming the Commander of Kosen-rufu and demonstrate the unlimited power of faith. I began to do my best instead of letting fear dictate me. By the end of my Cathay Pacific Commander’s course, the training department wanted me to become a training Captain! I also met my soul mate, Adam, whom has been steadfast in standing by me in what was to become the biggest challenge of our lives.

On September the 23rd 2018 I had an event that changed my life forever. I had a massive stroke due to a carotid artery dissection. Overnight I was stripped of everything and plunged into the bleakest thoughts and fundamental darkness consumed me. I was paralysed down the right side. Unable to speak, swallow, write and struggling to co-ordinate my gestures, the doctors didn’t think I was ever going to walk or talk again. The consequences of the stroke were so devastating that my life felt diminished and insignificant. Everything I knew about happiness, success, health and faith was thrown upside down. It was during this period, the support of my friends in the Buddhist community and my partner, Adam, were so instrumental. He was also amazing in helping me with all the rehab that I had to do; learning how to eat, speak, write, and walk again. The Daishonin assured that “even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may fall down on an uneven path”.[2]

While in hospital I constantly reflected on my life. Having a well-paid job, my ‘jet setting life’, the parties, the friends, the travel had all ended. I had taken for granted all the things we do every day, like speaking and walking. What is the purpose of my life now? With sheer determination and persistence, I dedicated myself to achieving a full recovery. Three months later I walked out of the hospital unassisted!

As great as that sounds, it was the easy part. The real battle began then. Everything changes after the stroke. Physically I am slower and tire easily. I suffer with neurological fatigue. Sometimes it lasts 2 days. Any activity involving thinking triggers severe mental fatigue, which means I can’t focus on any task and I stumble over words. I am obsessed with my blood pressure. My greatest fear is if I were to have another stroke I would not be able to survive and it haunts me to the core. I was getting very frustrated because I was not recovering 100%. I was constantly comparing who I was before the stroke and who I had become. I felt ‘less than’. Victimhood gripped me. I lost motivation, interest and pleasure in enjoyable activities. I became withdrawn and depressed.

This Devil of Illness was shrinking my life so small that I saw my life as shattered, and the stroke had taken everything away from me. On close inspection, the stroke is actually not the cause of my suffering. My suffering comes from putting “Tim-the-Pilot” as the centre of my life. ‘Tim-the-Pilot” is what I do, NOT who I am! When I resolved to put the Mystic Law at the centre of my life, I was able to reach into the depths of my life to understand that ‘Tim the pilot’ was only a fraction of who I was. At the core I am an eternal spiritual being and the essence of the Lotus Sutra. I had to grasp that this stroke was actually a blessing. This was the ultimate vehicle to deepen my faith. Faith is the most powerful force in the world! President Ikeda encourages that people of strong faith are fearless and can overcome anything. There is no obstacle or adversity that cannot be surmounted. In the very depths of their lives, no matter what happens, they lead lives of great joy. I wanted to live this way. With this newfound determination, wisdom and courage my life force is now directed towards confidently living out my life and to triumph over all. Even if I slur my words, stumble over pronunciation, take a long time to put my thoughts into words, and struggle to convey my thoughts adequately, I still know that there’s actually something bigger than my own body. The Gosho says, “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?”[3] I started listening to Nam-Myoho- Renge-Kyo on headsets, and through a lot of speech therapy, I was able to chant out loud again. The lotus flower grows in a muddy swamp. After my experience of having the stroke, I was in the world of hell or the muddy swamp. What has grown out of it has become something incredibly more beautiful. It was like turning poison into medicine.

Success to me now is focusing on the beauty that life has to offer in the small things, such as breathing in life in the morning, painting, riding my horse, and spending quality time with my partner without the need to aspire to my previous view of perfection. I still have numerous challenges. My speech is not perfect. I still have neurological fatigue but I never let these things get me down anymore. To be alive is the most precious gift of all. The new chapter is all about being triumphant. Never giving up hope. Never being defeated. It’s my vow and my mission to help alleviate suffering in this world by always engaging in Kosen Rufu.

In my local group I send daily guidance as a way to collectively deepen our faith together to strengthen our practice.

President Ikeda said, “to be healthy body and mind is to live vigorously, dedicating wholeheartedly to accomplish one’s mission in this existence”.[4] To share my story, is to become a true Commander of Kosen Rufu inspiring others to soar the horizon of VICTORY!


[1] WND1, p.502

[2] WND1, p.598

[3] WND1, p.412

[4] NL4001XW LS46, p.4