Learning to Trust Myself

By Robert Brown

People usually see me as someone without a care in the world. A smiling face, a laugh someone who enjoys life. It doesn't mean, however, that I am going through life with an easy passage.

This is my experience:

21 April 1992 was one of the happiest days of my life. I began work as a prison officer, a job that I adored. 26 February 1998, my birthday, was one of the worst days of my life. I was suspended from the prison service. I felt as if my life had collapsed. But being suspended on full pay wasn't too bad I thought, as I could do whatever I wanted and still be paid a salary. I thought that everything would be okay since I was chanting.

In April, I heard that I had lost my case and was to be dismissed from the prison service. An appeal was lodged, and I did a lot of Buddhist activities, along with organizing stewarding for "Crusaid Walk for Life 1998." On the walk, I met a man who was soon to become my boyfriend. I immediately felt that this man was a gift from the Gohonzon and was my "kosen-rufu partner."

In August I found out that I had lost my appeal. Another appeal was lodged, but now I was no longer being paid. I began temping for an employment agency, but this brought in a lot less than I was earning in the prison service. Meanwhile, my relationship subtly began to take first place in my life. I tried to cut down on my spending, yet through pressure from my boyfriend and guilt that I wasn't good enough to have him, I continued to spend as I always had done, buying things for him and myself. On the surface everything was fine I had a fantastic relationship, dinner cooked every night, a bath ready when I got back from work, a beautiful man yet no time to do daimoku.

My boyfriend began to resent my Buddhist practice and arranged for us to do things which would mean I'd get home too late to chant. This began to happen more and more. I gave him a schedule of our monthly meetings, highlighting the ones I would be attending, but I was made to feel guilty about going. His desire for control and need was attractive to my desire to feel needed and wanted. My chanting decreased at a remarkable rate.

Things were going sour in our relationship, yet my desire to feel needed was so strong that I tried all I could to keep us together except chant. Quite a few times he said it was either Buddhism or him. I knew this wasn't an option, yet in a way, he didn't need to persuade me to cut down on my practice I was cutting down on my own.

Things got worse but I realized that I was not courageous enough to finish with him. This was one of the reasons why I was chanting so little daimoku so I wouldn't have to face it.

Around November, I won my case against unfair dismissal and was given the choice of reinstatement or compensation. I chose compensation. You may ask why I made that decision, when I could have had the job I loved so much back. The reason was that my boyfriend had said that he would leave me if I worked shifts. He was able to feed on my desire, so I made my decision against my heart.

It was a very hard time for me. Friends would ask me why I chose compensation and I would give reasoned answers, but not heartfelt ones. After SGI-UK's general meeting in 1999, I realized again that I should not be with my boyfriend. I wanted to be with someone who would respect me and my practice. I went home and chanted a lot of daimoku to have the courage to finish with him. However, instead of trusting my Buddhahood, my desire took over and we began our relationship again.

Eventually I got to the point where I had had enough. I really couldn't take any more. On 26 February 1999, my birthday, we finished again. The next few months were the worst of my life. I had so much to face up to and my ex was trying to turn Buddhist friends and even family against me. Every day something would happen to dampen my spirits. All I could do was chant. However, the more I chanted, the worse it seemed to get. It was a struggle to keep smiling. I thought that as long as I kept chanting, everything would be okay, and people would see the truth of what was being said.

I didn't do anything about the rumors though, until I heard that a particularly vicious one about me was going around among fellow Buddhists. A couple of days later, I told my Buddhist group members that I had heard of this rumor and explained the truth. For the first time I began to face up to things and take action. Not long after that, my ex phoned the police and got me arrested for credit card fraud. I was questioned and was as honest as I could be in my answers. When I arrived home from the police station I chanted some more, and arranged to have guidance in faith.

Just as I felt it couldn't get any worse, my boss received an "anonymous" call telling her of my arrest. I explained everything to my boss and she sent a very supportive fax to the police. I decided that I had to start facing up to what was happening. While seeing this guy I had run up debts of about £12,000  in nine months. I began to sort these out and contacted everyone to begin paying them back. I threw myself into further Buddhist activities and rededicated my life to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and ME.

One particular line from the Gosho kept me going. In "The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra," Nichiren Daishonin says: "one who chants the daimoku as the Lotus Sutra teaches will never have a twisted mind. For one should know that, unless the mind of the Buddha enters into our bodies, we cannot in fact chant the daimoku." (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 670; Major Writings, Vol. 5, p. 198.)

I returned to the police station and after checking my version of events, they decided not to take it any further. I had begun to change. Instead of worrying about what others would think, I decided to trust my own judgment and Buddhahood.

Gradually my friends began to see the truth and started talking with me again. Even though it was hard, I just had to keep going.

One thing I realize through all of this is how much of a good friend my ex has been to me. He wasn't the cause of what I was going through in my life I was (and am). He was there for me to see the effects. I didn't take control when I was suspended from my job I just let things happen. In our relationship, this tendency came up again and I was made to face it and to learn to trust myself, relying on my Buddhahood and not another's life-state.

I look back and see that my ex was, after all, my "kosen-rufu partner" as he enabled me to move my life forward. I have a lot to thank him for. You see me now, not as a person with nothing to chant about, but as someone who realizes that as long as I concentrate on kosen-rufu, then everything else can be dealt with.