Igniting my Buddha Nature 
My Introduction to Nichiren Buddhism 

By Rob Davis 
The year 2006 was the worst and the most challenging year of the 31 years I've lived, yet it ended on the most positive note ever. In January 2006, everything for me seemed quite normal: good relationship, good job with promotions, financially secure, etc. Yet something was missing.  
I had been raised with strong religious conviction and I was active in my church, but I still couldn't pinpoint just what my life was missing. Finally, in mid-January, the whole world began to collapse with no known explanation. Horrible depression and anxiety set in. It became an effort to do anything, much less get out of bed and function enough to even carry out the simplest task.  

And then... the day I never saw coming. On February 12, 2006, I don't remember much of what happened, but I do remember "coming to" in the emergency room after a nearly successful suicide attempt. The doctors admitted me to a psychiatric facility from which I was discharged in one week. Being placed in a day hospitalization program with a diagnosis of major clinical depression, anxiety disorder, and a personality disorder, I returned home. In less than 24 hours, the emergency room was again graced with my presence with yet a second suicide attempt. Again, back to the hospital for a week and back into the day program, this time with some changes to my diagnosis to now include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One week in the day program passed and here I was again in the emergency room with now a third suicide attempt. 
It was now mid-March. 
Again I was placed in a day hospital program. The thing that most bothered the doctors was that I was completely unable to recall these events or anything that happened before them. I was literally losing hours of my life; sometimes even days were completely missing. So they began testing for a disorder called DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder. 
During this period of testing, I was hospitalized for the long term on a PTSD/Trauma Disorders Unit, because these losses of time with suicidality were continuing over and over.  
In May of 2006, I was allowed to return home, loaded up with five different psychiatric medications, but I was still partially confined to the hospital with a day program. My full diagnosis now included major depression, anxiety disorder, psychosis, and borderline personality disorder; and if you know anything about Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scoring, I was at a 30, with normal functioning being 75 or greater. If you are not familiar with GAF scoring, that pretty much means I was 100% disabled and unable to work. It was recommended that I remain confined to a psychiatric institution for a longer period of time.  
At last, in July of 2006, I emerged back into society and was able to return home with my five psychiatric medications. At this point, I was highly medicated and was emotionless, flat, and a complete zombie, hardly aware of my own existence.  
Everyday life continued to be a struggle, even simple things like taking a shower or eating. All I did was watch TV and hope for something to change. 
In mid-July, while I was lying on the sofa watching television, something came on TV that would spark the most phenomenal change in my life. I believe most everyone is familiar with Tina Turner and her fantastic true story "What's Love Got to Do with It." This was the million and a half time I had seen this movie, but there was something different about it this time. The words “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” echoed over and over in my head, in almost a haunting manner. So the next day, on the way to my therapist, I stopped off at the library to find out more about this thing called Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and Buddhism. 
I was reading this nearly 500-page book titled "Buddhism for Dummies," yet wasn't finding anything about this Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo thing, but I knew since I had started "saying" it a few minutes each day, I was regaining my personality and starting to emerge from some type of emotional/psychiatric hell.  
Finally, midway through the book, there was a very short paragraph about Tina Turner and the Soka Gakkai. I laid the book down and Googled “Soka Gakkai.” I was happy to discover that this wasn't some elite organization for the rich and famous (as other forms of Buddhism were beginning to seem). I emailed my local SGI community center. In less than one hour, I received a very impressive reply from Steve, one of the DC/Baltimore leaders. He invited me to my first meeting on that Sunday and without hesitating, I agreed to go. And so the journey began. 
We talked a lot on the way and although we didn't know each other, the dialogue was great. He assured me that through this practice I would overcome life's obstacles and my life condition would greatly improve. I didn't take him lightly but smugly thought, OK, let's see the proof.  
In attendance at the first meeting were two wonderful women, Linda and Ellen, and Steve and little insignificant me. We chanted for about 15 minutes, did this thing called gongyo that was in Sino-Japanese, chanted for about 15 more minutes. During this process, a bright shining light I had never felt in my life was already beginning to emerge. I returned home from the meeting with a new sense of hope, as if my life had just been won back. 
Immediately, I started getting things together. I went online and studied, reading all I could stand to read, then ordered everything I could afford, including a butsudan. And I went out to the new age store and bought a statue of Shakyamuni and put it on some Ikea tables and chanted my heart out. I found myself immersed in Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and was off and running—all the while, life was regaining some normalcy.  
I was now attending any meeting or SGI event I could get to, and within a month I was so dramatically improved, I was allowed to return to work full-time and was taken off two of the medications. Life had hope at last! The proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" had now completely filled my life and I was overcome with such a great joy that everyone I knew was hearing about Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and I was learning the correct practice through local members and leaders who had taken me under their wing. 
In late October, it was recommended that I receive Gohonzon, the object of devotion and mirror of our lives, which is the major step to becoming a Nichiren Buddhist. I wasn't a bit reluctant as I was seeing this practice completely shifting my life. Work was great, home was great, my life was even greater than it had ever been before. Now, the date was set for me to receive Gohonzon. Leaders visited my home and were quite shocked to see my altar was already set up and ready to go. Of course, the statue had to go, which was fine by me, because all I needed was Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. 
November 2006 had arrived at last. By now, my therapist and psychiatrist were shocked at the change in my life and they both agreed that it was due to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism and chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. The diagnoses were being re-examined as well as the medications. Although it was ultimately decided that I remain on three of the original five medications, there had been significant progress and my therapy sessions were cut from two a week to every two weeks. 
November 19 arrived, the most joyous day of my life. By now, no one would believe the changes, except those who had been there to see where I started and how far I had come and those few were pleasantly surprised. The Gohonzon was now in my home and there was no stopping me now. Life progressed and progressed. I was promoted at work, was being recognized as a leader and trendsetter among my peers. People actually started asking me about Buddhism. 
I met my friend Nettie right after receiving Gohonzon and we talked about Buddhism and Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo nearly every day. We grew uncommonly close, as if we had known each other forever. She attended her first meeting on January 1, 2007, for our New Year's Gongyo, where we had an impressive gathering. We grew together in practice and attended activities together. Life was still heading straight uphill and Nettie decided to get her Gohonzon. My life condition shot through the roof!! Not only was I happy again, but someone else had found the same happiness. 
All that being said, my medications were again revisited. The major one that I was on was discontinued and the anxiety one was reduced, and will continue to reduce, because the dose must be tapered off very slowly to prevent serious problems and side effects. By summer of this year, it is hoped that all my medications will be discontinued. (And as of May 18, 2007, all medications were discontinued.) 
Although many obstacles have come up, through chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and reciting portions of the Lotus Sutra daily, and reaching out to others about this practice, life has so dramatically improved, there are no words to describe it. My best friend and I now practice together and we attend Soka Gakkai activities together. 
We have also worked to coordinate an introductory meeting at my home on Friday evenings. Additionally, I have made many friends in my district and throughout the U.S. I was blessed with a family of people who have kept me strong, encouraged me, and have chanted enough daimoku for me to move mountain ranges, and who stand firmly beside me. Life has gone from a hopeless state, bound in life's hell to absolute bliss!! This practice has changed my life and now I'm watching it transform the lives of others.  
Many things have come up to deter me, but all have been resolved with a firm practice and strong faith in my Buddhist practice. Daily another and another obstacle are overcome. I hope that through this note, others might be encouraged and know without a shadow of a doubt, this Tina Turner, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo thing that was such a mystery a year ago, really, truly works!!