by Emile Svitzer

(Used with permission of the author)

While doing gongyo and chanting daimoku this morning, I found myself praying for the people of the South Asian countries affected by the recent devastation. Though concerned for all the lives there, I could not help but think about one person in particular: a Men’s Division member in India named Java.

I met Java at the Florida Nature and Culture Center (FNCC) Men’s Division Conference in August of 2003. Encountering Java and what he had to share has profoundly affected my life, as well as the lives of those with whom I have shared my experience of meeting him.

On the first day of the conference, I noticed that some men, perhaps less outgoing than others, were sitting alone at meal times. I made a determination that at each meal I would find one such man to sit with and hear his story. At the next meal, I noticed an older East Indian gentleman, who appeared to be in his late sixties, sitting alone at a table, so I introduced myself. I’ll never forget how his face lit up with excitement as I introduced myself and asked to join him.

After telling me his actual, full name, which I tried to pronounce, he mercifully told me that everyone just calls him “Java” and that he lived in India. When I expressed how impressed I was that he had made such a long journey to the Men’s Division conference, Java confessed that he had actually been in Washington State when he heard about the conference and decided to come. He had gone there to visit a member who was facing an obstacle and needed encouragement. Somehow, I was even more amazed by this than the idea that he had traveled all the way from India for the FNCC conference — and I told him so. That’s when he laughed at me (in a very nice way) and told me about his first experience meeting SGI President Ikeda.

At the beginning of his practice, about thirty years ago, Java traveled to Japan, where he had the great fortune to receive personal guidance from President Ikeda. At that time, Java was very poor and had spent the last of his money to make the trip. Thus, he immediately complained to President Ikeda that this terrible poverty karma was his big problem in life and the one thing he most wanted to overcome.

Sitting down with him, President Ikeda said, “So, you want a lot of money, then?”

“Yes,” Java said.

“And if you get it, what will you do with all this money?”

Of course, Java had a whole list of things he intended to do with the money, but sensing that President Ikeda’s question was deeper than this, he did not immediately answer. Sensei went on: “Java, you may ask me for a knife, and I might give it to you. But what will you do with it? Will you use it to hurt someone... to hurt yourself? Or will you use it to carve an ordinary piece of wood into the image of the Buddha?

“From a Buddhist perspective, everything in life has two purposes: its basic purpose and its true purpose.

“The basic purpose of this building we are sitting in now, for instance, is to protect me from the sun and the rain while I sit here. But the true purpose of the building is to protect me from the sun and the rain while I sit here... and encourage one person.

“The basic purpose of a car is to enable you to travel a long distance. But the true purpose of a car is to enable you to travel a long distance... and encourage one person.

“The purpose of having money is to buy gasoline to put in the car, so that you can travel a long distance. But the true purpose of having money is to buy gasoline to put in the car, so that you can travel a long distance... and encourage one person.

“Why do we pray each morning, during gongyo, for the protection of the Buddhist gods? We pray for the protection of the Buddhist gods so that we will be safe as we drive in our car, and travel a long distance... and encourage one person.

“If you possess a thing, like a car, but do not realize its true purpose, then you may as well throw it away. But if you pray for your desires with a sincere determination to realize its true purpose, then you will always have what you need.”


Java told me that he went home from Japan with his “mind totally blown” — and with a new determination. From that moment on, he began to chant from this new Buddhist perspective, just as President Ikeda prescribed. Shortly thereafter, Java’s son became extremely successful and wealthy in his business and retired Java from work. Java has never had to worry about money since. His son provides him all the money he ever needs so that he can go anywhere in the world, at any time... and encourage one person. That’s what Java was doing in Washington State.

During our meal, Java went on to share other guidance he had received from Sensei, but now my own mind was too blown to absorb it all. Unfortunately, that was the only time I got to have a private dialogue with Java at FNCC, as I was determined to stick to my plan of sitting with someone new at each meal. So I went around telling all the other men’s division if you get a chance to speak with this fellow Java, seek him out … he’ll blow your mind.” From then on, at meal times, there was always a huge crowd of men around Java’s table and all we could do was wave to each other across the room. 

Since that FNCC conference, I’ve shared Java’s story with dozens of individuals and at various meetings, hopefully encouraging at least one person. I have determined that in 2005, I will make Java’s determination my own, putting President Ikeda’s profound guidance to work in my prayers and in my actions.

President Ikeda’s daily guidance (For Today and Tomorrow, December 29) reads: 

“Who is truly great? I hope you can develop the ability to discern true human greatness. A great person is someone who forges unity among human beings through sincere dialogue, armed with a solid philosophy, feet firmly planted on the ground. A great person is one who lives among the people and earns their unshakable trust. Fickle popularity and temporary fads are nothing but illusions.”
When I read that, I thought again of Java. I regret that we didn’t exchange email addresses. If anyone out there knows how to reach him, please let me know. I would like to know that he is all right. I am praying that he is. And if he is all right, then I know exactly what he’s doing.