By Lana Favero-Maimoni-Carvahlo
What I would like to share are just a few experiences I've had since I began my practice — which have lead to very significant changes in my life.
Six years ago, a friend of mine invited me to move to Florida and work with her cleaning apartments on Williams Island. It was very different from my life in Brazil, where my family had two housekeepers working for us ... yes, this was the life I gave up to live in America, yet I did my best to help support my family and we were happy to be here.
Soon after my move, I made a strong connection to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, started chanting consistently, and attending Buddhist activities.
Before long, I was able to stop cleaning houses and go to school to study English. The better my English became, the more ideas I had about a career and my future here in this beautiful culturally diverse state, which I had grown to love. Unfortunately, the challenges were coming from all directions. For instance, I bought a car and then had to go back to cleaning houses to pay for the car, among other things.
I found this frustrating and didn't understand why it was happening. [I later learned, during one of the Sophia group study meetings (which I love being a part of), that it was all part of doing my "human revolution", or "changing/cleaning up" of my karma.] Still, through the encouragement and support of my friends and guides in faith, I continued to chant a lot with hope in my heart.
I started to see the sequence of my life changing and to understand why, as I began cleaning for one of the realtors on Williams Island. Around the same time, I volunteered some of my extra time to help SGI with the popular Earth Charter event they were sponsoring here in South Florida. I helped put labels and stamps on postcards for guests and members. Ironically, the very next day, after arriving at the realtor's house to clean, she asked me to help in her office ... and doing, guess WHAT??? Putting labels and stamps on postcards.
By this time, I had become an SGI vice group leader and had the pleasure of doing such things as invitations, flyers, organizing songs, making gifts, and anything else I could do to help the SGI members and guests enjoy their meeting. I also developed the heart and understanding to chant more and more for others' happiness, creating a bigger capacity in my life to grow and find GREATER joy in my day-to-day existence.
Before I realized it, I had found that not only did I enjoy creating with my hands, but that I was pretty good at it. I also used my computer more than ever before and could actually see a possible future with it.
Learning later of my (growing) computer experience, and liking the work I had done so much, this Realtor hired me to help in the office twice a week, while only cleaning for her ONCE a week. The balance of my life was looking much better!
Earlier this year, there was a buzz about another big event being supported by SGI, called Diversity 99, a Latin-Caribbean multi-cultural festival planned for May.
At the first planning meeting for this event, I decided to stick my head in to see what it was all about. By the end of the meeting, I found myself in charge of the Graphic Design committee. Not only had I become very busy with my new group responsibilities, my two daughters (now also SGI-active), my husband, and my new job — but I was also VERY insecure with such a big responsibility as these graphics which I had never done before on this scale. I really thought I should know more about graphics to be in charge of this committee.
My first obstacle was my computer. It was very old and did not have the capacity to execute the graphics necessary to support this event. This was SOOO hard for me. I wanted to quit many times because I just didn't think I was good enough, or no matter how much I wanted to learn what was needed and do everything well, there was just not enough time!
Fortunately, I had the support of SGI activities and study material, like the World Tribune and Living Buddhism, which were irreplaceable when no one was available to guide me to the Gohonzon. These publications are where I could learn how FAITH can REALLY equal daily life while challenging my weaknesses.
Our mentor in faith, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, says in his encouragement to us: "When exposed to a good influence, people can polish their personalities and strengthen their lives, displaying excellent qualities and ability, therefore we must never be satisfied with remaining as we are; instead we should always strive to develop ourselves seeking as many good influences as possible. We who are fortunate enough to have this magnificent Gohonzon to chant to, are able to build for ourselves the happiness and most fortunate lives imaginable!" (Why is Faith Necessary? Vol. 2)
It was these words and the constant support of my friends and guides in faith that helped me to determine to always do consistent gongyo, chant more and not give up! I had to work hard, but from that point on, I never regretted the day that I entered the room for that first planning meeting. Eventually, several people with more resources in graphics than I, as well as other compassionate and diligent members, worked together with me to make a VERY successful team.
In the meantime, back at the Realtor’s office, my boss and now friend, was hinting about needing an assistant. And guess what??? This job would include COMPUTER GRAPHICS AND EVERYTHING I was working on for the Diversity Festival ... WOW! I explained my obstacle to her, of not knowing computer graphics, but she said, "Find a school, I'll pay for it!" I was very happy and felt at that moment, a strong sense of appreciation to the Gohonzon and all who had supported me, for the results I saw of the causes I made.
The Festival was a complete success!!!
Many wonderful benefits followed, which clearly were not coincidence:
Due to illness, I had to miss my first few computer classes, which I thought might be the big “obstacle” that would stand in my way. Lo and behold, the universe was still responding to my life condition, which had grown to an even greater capacity than the illness, due to my still consistent Buddhist practice. I soon learned that some close friends from Brazil had just moved here. And guess what??? One of them is a computer graphics designer and knows EVERYTHING there is to know about this field ... plus, she has a talent for teaching, is very easy to learn from, has extra time, AND a beautiful heart! WOW, again!
I am happy to say that I have already begun my classes with her. I pinch myself every now and then to make sure I'm not dreaming. She has also attended a few Buddhist meetings with her heart wide open to learn as much as possible and try out this practice.
My new career is under way. More than anything, I not only have the newly acquired tools to move ahead, but although I still have SO much to learn about HOW this Buddhism actually works, I DO know now that it DOES work! Based on the actual proof I have had in this short time, I also know that I NOW have the tools needed to make all of my dreams come true, and what is meant by Faith-Equals-Daily-Life, as well as why faith, even without maybe having all of the knowledge first, IS Necessary!
I am confidently determined to show this in every area of my life, by being the best PERSON, best WIFE, best MOTHER, best FRIEND, and best LEADER for World Peace that I can be through my valuable daily practice of FAITH!
President Ikeda says, "Faith is to fear nothing — to stand unswayed — the power to win over (surmount) — whatever the obstacle ... Belief is nothing extraordinary. It is actually the basis for living. If we believe in something VALUABLE, then even without understanding, our belief enables us to gain something!"
Thank You all VERY much for your continued support ... now let's win TOGETHER!!!