The Physical Toll of Anger 

by Jerry Pecarsky 
(Used with permission from the author) 

I grew up with a lot of violence in my life. My father suffered a brutal upbringing, and passed his anger on to me. On average, he struck my head at least once a day, seven days a week, and humiliated and verbally abused me in public. Growing up in this environment created overwhelming anger in me. If someone put their hands on me, I retaliated, violently. 

When I started practicing Nichiren Buddhism, I was at a point where my anger was destroying my life, physically and emotionally. 

For a number of years, I saw a chiropractor ¡ª due to the internal rage that affected my spine, I developed three herniated disks. The chiropractor told me that he knew that this was going to happen and at this point could not do anything more for me. He recommended an orthopedic surgeon. When the surgeon took X-rays, he explained that the base of my spine was like that of a 65-year-old man and he would have to inject a papaya enzyme into the disks to dissolve them and then do fusion surgery. 

I did not have health insurance nor the finances to do this, and I didn¡¯t want the fusion surgery due to the physical limits it would put on my life. I was 39 years old and had been chanting for only eight months. My cousin Leslie told me, ¡°You keep on talking about this Buddhism all the time, so why don't you use it to heal yourself?¡± I realized she was right and told the chiropractor that I would be back in two weeks and at the end of that time, I would be fine. 

The chiropractor looked at me like I was crazy and asked if this was more of my Buddhist mumbo-jumbo. He also said that even if I was a surgeon, I could not heal my own back in two years, least of all two weeks! I said to him that I would see him in two weeks and I would be fine. 

The physical pain was so overwhelming that I could not chant in one position for more than two minutes. My two hours of daimoku per day were done in a variety of positions: sitting, standing, and lying down. I was determined that somehow, during that two week period of time, my back would heal. At the end of ten days of chanting, I got up and was walking around my bedroom, and I couldn't figure out what was missing. After a few minutes, I realized that it was the back pain that was missing. I figured that if I went to the chiropractor after ten days, it would freak him out, so I waited the full two weeks. I went back to the chiropractor's office and his mouth dropped open, and he asked me ¡°What did you do?¡± 

I asked ¡°Why?¡± He said that 90% of the problems in my back had healed themselves. I told him that I did the Buddhist mumbo-jumbo as he called it and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. 

I returned to work two weeks later. But within one month after my back healed, I woke up one morning and could hardly get out of bed. I know how it feels to be beaten, and it felt like I¡¯d gone 15 rounds with Rocky Marciano.  

Every morning I clean my altar, but on that morning I was in such pain I could not raise my arms. I figured the universe will not come to an end if one morning Jerry Pecarsky can't clean his altar. So I shuffled out of the room then shuffled back thinking I needed to show respect for my own life and appreciation for the fact that my back healed. I forced myself to lift my arm to dust and the moment I touched the top of my butsudan, the pain was gone. With my hand still touching the top of the butsudan, I said, ¡°The pain is gone!¡± The gongyo that I did that morning was from my heart ¡ª total apprciation. 

That night, I went to a meeting and I asked the women's division leader who led it what had happened to me and how it came about. What she said not only encouraged me, but has stayed with me for my 22 years of practice.  

She said, ¡°You challenged your life and made yourself clean your altar.¡± She asked me, ¡°When you throw a stone into the water, does it make one ripple or many ripples?¡± I replied many ripples. She asked me what I needed most in my life that morning. I said I needed the pain to go away. She said that was my conspicuous benefit (the first ripple) but that the other ripples went deep into my life, and would affect me as time went on. She said what I did that morning may have seemed small to me, but it was enormous to the universe 

The violence and anger that I grew up with had such a negative effect on my life, both physically and emotionally, that had it not been for the mercy of the woman who introduced me to this practice of true Buddhism, today I would either be in prison, in a wheelchair, or dead. Without the Gohonzon in my life, I would have remained in the four lower worlds of Hell, Hunger, Animality, and Anger. 

I am truly a man who has great fortune in his life.