I am a fortune baby, or born into a family practising Nichiren Buddhism. Since childhood, the teachings of my mentor SGI President Daisaku Ikeda had a profound impact on me and instilled deep-rooted conviction in faith. I had excellent results and this helped me enter a pharmacy course at the University of Nottingham.
The first two years of the course were in Malaysia while the final two years had to be completed in England. While our family wasn’t well-off, we had been prepared for my overseas studies and I strengthened my conviction in faith while making preparations. I believed I was there not just to study but to contribute to the happiness of others.
I arrived in England in September 2016, when the weather was already cold. Furthermore, I had difficult understanding British accents, making communications a challenge.
Participating in SGI-UK activities was also challenging. I had to travel between four to five hours by train from Nottingham to Taplow Court, the SGI UK Headquarters, in Berkshire. The piercing winter winds would freeze my hands and feet and I had to wear three to four layers of clothing to keep warm.
This made me feel even more appreciation towards Malaysia, where SGM centres were nearby and I could even give a lift to members. But no matter how difficult the situation was in UK, I strove to attend each activity with all my might.
In September 2016, the same month I arrived in England, President Ikeda stated in a message, “Please promise with me to work hard over the next two years with our fellow members around the world to expand our network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and forge ahead with energy, wisdom and good cheer to make the triumph of mentor and disciple resound into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law.”
I was determined to respond to President Ikeda’s call to share Nichiren Buddhism with others for their happiness. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-ryo for two hours every day and challenged myself to share Buddhism with my friends. I used to seek for people in my immediate environment with whom I could share Buddhism and my experiences. Chanting helped me step out of my comfort zone and interact with people genuinely, thus building a sense of trust between us.
Within a month, I had heartfelt dialogues with 30 friends and spoke to them about my Buddhist practice. Striving to respond to my mentor’s call helped me overcome my weaknesses in encouraging others. I felt that when we strive for the sake of the happiness of others, we can overcome any obstacle.
In order to reduce my parents’ financial burden, I began looking for a part-time job, while reducing expenses wherever I could. But for some time, I did not receive a reply or call back. I started becoming anxious, but I recalled a passage from Nichiren’s writings that said: “I am praying that no matter how troubled the times may become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters will protect all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground.” (WND-1, pg 444) This passage encourages us to pray with utmost conviction that we will triumph over any obstacle, and this helped me renew my determination to keep praying and striving I win over my situation.
In May 2017, SGI-UK held the “Gandhi, King and Ikeda” exhibition in Nottingham, for which I’m one of the exhibition narrators. During this exhibition, I was able to share the peace ideals of President Ikeda with local residents, alongside that of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Soon after this exhibition ended, I secured a job as a trainee pharmacist, which strengthened my conviction in faith and made me determined to strive to do well at work.
Work proved to be a challenge, as the pharmacy had strict standards that I had to learn quickly. In fact, I had to communicate with customers on the very first day of the job. But I became familiar with my job quickly, and impressed by my performance, my boss offered me a position as a part-time staff. The raise I got enabled me to contribute more towards Soka Gakkai activities, such as attending a training course for European student division members in Germany in the summer of 2017.
I have always wanted to work as a hospital pharmacist in the UK, which was a very competitive position, especially for foreigners. While waiting for responses to my applications, I joined the SGI UK’s Lilac Group, a group supporting activities behind the scenes.
However, months went by without any good news, and my visa was set to expire in 2019. But thanks to the advice of a friend, I successfully became a full-time pharmacist in a community pharmacy. I continued to chant for my goal of working in a hospital, and my prayers were answered when I was hired by a hospital in Cornwall.
When COVID-19 struck in 2020, I prayed that all our members and people around us will be safe, while making efforts to connect with them online. I challenged myself to read President Ikeda’s The New Human Revolution, and shared Buddhism with friends I got in touch in while also encouraging them. One such friend then began joining SGI UK activities, and also watched videos on SGM’s official Youtube channel!
The place where we are is indeed our stage for fulfilling our mission in this lifetime. From this remote town where I am now, I will continue to sow the seeds of happiness and encourage the people around me in this extraordinarily challenging time.
Adapted from the October 2020 issue of COSMIC.