I Am a Buddha – A Woman of Unlimited Self Esteem

By Leah Bryant

Before I started practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in 1990, I lived a very hungry and angry lifestyle. I was working illegally in the U.S. after completing my studies there.

The pay was low because I was illegal. I lived from paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t save the money I earned. I was depressed and angry. I went to movies, discos, shopped, drank beers, and smoked many cigarettes to fill the emotional pain. By mid-month, I never had money left to pay the utility bills or buy groceries.

My mother had drummed into me that I was stupid and naïve and would never amount to anything. I believed her and had no self-esteem. Whenever I had a problem at work I was too scared to speak to the boss — my tongue would dry up and I would cry because I couldn’t express or articulate my needs.

In 1990 I spoke about this to my travel agent in Miami, Heather Adir, and she suggested I chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo three times before I talk to my boss. Suddenly I had power and conviction in myself. I got the raise and the terms I needed. I never looked back.

Chanting gave me a new sense of self-worth and self-respect. From then on I have had many wonderful experiences, humongous obstacles, but tremendous growth as a human being.

I managed two record companies and worked with many world-renowned artists and actors, mostly because of my training as a Byakuren and other responsibilities I held in SGI-USA.

I always had a beautiful place to live, especially since it was usually the district or chapter meeting place. As a foreigner living abroad in the United States, I had continuous protection from the Gohonzon. With the help of U.S. Immigration, I even managed to overturn my illegal status by getting continual business visas.

I returned to Kenya as a single mother to raise my young daughter and fulfill the determination I made to Sensei that in the 21st Century that I would be a leader for African kosen-rufu. Living with my mother brought back all my old fears and I began to lose my self-esteem all over again. Daily fighting made me wish I could leave her, but I felt guilty at the same time. My life condition wavered as did my practice.

My boss was also shouting at me and I decided I had had enough and quit a well-paying job with no idea how I would live, but I knew that I must become happy. My fellow member Angelika and I decided to set up a mini-kaikan [Buddhist Community Center] so that we could make the cause to have many members in Mombasa.

I made a fresh determination on January 1, 2004, that by December 31st, I would have total victory in my career, my home, and my relationships with my family. I also determined that my daughter and I would become happy, and that I would do my utmost for kosen rufu in Kenya. I started chanting consistently again, studying the Gosho and Sensei’s guidance. I threw myself into activities.

Out of the blue in April, I was called to Nairobi and informed by SGI Japan and our Africa affairs leader Mr. Minai that I would be appointed as Vice National Women’s leader, Chapter leader, Treasurer, and on the Executive Committee Board for SGI Kenya. I was shocked and scared, but my training reminded me to accept with courage and joy.

Now I had to really had to show actual proof of this faith not only to my family and friends but also to my fellow members. How could I do that with no job, very little income from my farming, and living with my mother at my age and with a young daughter who would need to go to school soon?

Somehow I knew that I needed to take my self-esteem back and that it would mean digging deep into myself to eradicate all the negative and destructive feelings I held on to from childhood.

Mystically I started finding articles about women and self-esteem. The guidance was to chant to have unlimited self-esteem, to awaken your own greatness, to manifest the extraordinary side of you, to be outrageously successful, to display your Buddhahood, to consistently manifest your Buddha nature, and to finally really respect, appreciate, and value yourself because you are a Buddha.

It was so difficult and painful in the beginning. I realized I no longer believed in myself and my Buddhahood. I made goals half-heartedly and the results were equally minimal. Slowly but surely, I started seeing concrete tangible benefits.

We helped organize a Women and Young Women’s training seminar in Mombasa in September. The topic was “Peace Begins With Me.” The focus of the open, honest, gut-wrenching, emotional, and passionate discussions was “Self-Esteem and Believing You Are a Buddha”.

We all grew that weekend. I know that I did. When Mr. Minai, our SGI African Affairs leader came from London in October for a leadership training course we organized, I asked him for guidance regarding attaining benefits. He said we must make sure we are practicing correctly, making concrete goals with deadlines, and that we must have pure faith.

I read from the Gosho “Reply to the Lay Nun Nichigon”:

“Whether or not your prayer is answered will depend on your faith; (if it is not) I will be in no way to blame… When water is clear, the moon is reflected. Our minds are like the water. Faith that is weak is like muddy water, while faith that is brave is like clear water.”
I determined to muster up all my faith, and to engage the power of the mystic law to show actual proof of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

I knew that I had to have a stable job again so that I could be independent, give my daughter the education and opportunities she deserved to have, and move to a wonderful home for kosen rufu.

With my WD leader Masumi Odari’s encouragement, I set a goal that I would have my job for kosen rufu by November 18th with a certain salary figure. I also wrote the guidance that my best friend in the U.S., Judie Macalino, had been given by Sensei: chant for a job that would use my talents and skills, be financially rewarding, and still have time for activities.

The day before Mr. Minai came down to Mombasa, my ex-boss called my District Leader to enquire about me because he had a project in mind for me. I was shocked. I didn’t want to work for him again in that position of strictly clearing and forwarding. And I had left his job without proper notice! I used to even hide if I saw him at the supermarket.

I chanted and realized I am a Buddha, a Lion King!

I read in “The Drum at the Gate of Thunder”: 

“A woman who embraces the Lion King of the Lotus Sutra never fears any of the beasts of hell or of the realms of hungry spirits and animals. All the offenses committed by a woman in her lifetime are like dry grass, and the single character myo of the Lotus Sutra is like a small spark. When a small spark is set to a large expanse of grass, not only the grass but also the big trees and large stones will all be consumed. Such is the power of the fire of wisdom in the single character myo. Not only will all offenses vanish, but they will become sources of benefit. This is what changing poison into amrita means.”
I realized this might be the answer to my prayers and I should put my trust in the Gohonzon instead of having fears. The least it would do would be to change poison into medicine. I made the call. By November 15th after a bit of very courageous, firm, and confident negotiation, I was employed as the Business Development Manager for Spedag International, with my first account being clearing and forwarding for Lafarge Kenya and Uganda (cement factories). I got the salary I wrote down — even after taxes! I have my own office and my own staff and am now a senior manager in the company. In February I will receive my company car which will help me get to Chapter activities.

Now at work I get to do what I enjoy doing — pushing, organizing, communicating and keeping all the VIP’s happy — all traits learned from my training as Byakuren.

The boss that I used to have so many problems with, whose happiness I chanted sincerely for last year, has changed his character and is now my greatest ally in the company. He comes to me for advice about personnel problems because he says that, as a Buddhist, I see through people and get the truth.

My job will be flying me to Nairobi a few times a month so that I can continue to perform my duties as a SGI National leader for board meetings, etc.

My relationship with my mother has improved and we have been able to have heart to heart discussions. I have learned not to fight back, but to appreciate her for everything she sacrificed for me, as well as being my zenshishiki [good friend].

My daughter is enrolled in a good nursery school and has learned how to chant.

Again with Masumi’s encouragement, I made another goal to have my house for kosen rufu, near the beach, at a certain rent by December 31st. I have just signed the lease — the cottage is beautiful, on a compound right next to the beach, and the rent is exactly what I determined!

My daughter and I will start moving our belongings in on Christmas Day! I am so excited as this will be the first time I have ever rented my own place in Kenya!

I have renewed my faith and am filled with incredible joy that I had the courage, determination, and wisdom to believe in the Gohonzon, which meant I had to believe in myself. I AM a BUDDHA! I AM manifesting the extraordinary side of me. I AM a woman of unlimited self-esteem!!!