Getting In Touch With My Real Self 

By Ricardo del Rio 

The following experience appeared on Jinzai-Net. 
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[According to the Associated Press, January 16: "Torrential rains last month triggered avalanches of mud, boulders, water and trees that killed between 5,000 and 30,000 people by official estimate. It has been difficult to determine a more accurate casualty count because most of the victims were buried beneath tons of mud or washed out to sea." Most of the victims were along the coast of Vargas State. All SGI-Venezuela members are safe and sheltered. The following experience was shared at New Year’s Gongyo in Caracas and is published here (Jinzai) with permission of Sr. del Rio.] 

Happy 2000. My name is Ricardo del Rio and till several weeks ago I was one of the 450,000 people residing in the Vargas State. 

During the four years I lived there, I created and shared beautiful bonds of friendship and comradeship with the members of this area. What's more, the house where I lived (until three months ago) was used for meetings. 

In September 1999, I moved to an apartment building in Tanaguarenas facing the beach. Three other families lived in the new building. I based my home office there since I work with my computer for an Internet business. I would have never imagined, nor would the rest of the 450,000 inhabitants of this area, the events of December 15. That day changed not only my physical life but also my heart. 

I believe that each of us has an area of our life in which it has been difficult to advance, and in which we advance slowly, and in which, sometimes, we may think mistakenly that we are moving backwards. Years ago, through this practice, I recognized that, in my case, this area corresponded to my emotional life, the treasures of the heart. 

As we all know, it was raining without stop for several days in La Guaira. The 15th of December I didn't drive to Caracas. Together with other members, I tried, over the phone, to convince a dear member to abandon her house in order to avoid an accident. 

At 11:45 while I was watching the news, the power and phone went dead. But I thought everything would return to normal. I decided to sleep on the sofa to be ready to connect with the Internet as soon as power returned. At 2 o'clock in the morning, the caretaker pounded at my door to warn me to move my car because the parking lot was filling with water. I managed to move my car to the visitor's lot. Simultaneously, a feeling of apprehension rose in me — things started to become strange. Sensing that the situation would not improve by dawn, I used my cell phone to call SGI Director Regalado and inform him of what was happening. I asked him to call my parents at daybreak. I didn't want them to worry, since they couldn't contact me. 

That dawn the calamity started: The rain intensified. The water rose towards the building. Some families arrived at our building. Their homes had been carried away by the river. 

All this drove me to my apartment to chant daimoku. Half an hour later a nineteen year old boy appeared naked near the swimming pool. He was covered with bruises and injured. He'd been hurled into the river, toward the sea with his grandfather, when his house in Cerro Grande collapsed. His grandfather was gone. 

At this moment a sense of alert awoke within me. I saw that my life was in danger. The next 24 hours went by with me chanting daimoku, watching the development of the flood, meeting with the other residents to encourage one another, evaluate what was going on, and to evaluate the amount of damage being done to our building. 

At about 8 am on the 16th, an immense avalanche of mud, enormous rocks, broken cars, human beings, gigantic trees, and debris began to flow past the front and behind our building towards the beach. I was stunned. I chanted like a madman. I watched the entire mass, about 7 meters high, thrown towards the sea with an immense strength. The high brick fence in the front of our building was knocked down, as well as the foundations of some neighboring buildings. Cars from the parking lot were pushed into the swimming pool. My car didn't move. I watched as my car, stuck in some tree trunks, was being engulfed by the flood. Facing this catastrophe, the only thing I could do was to sit down as calm as possible and chant daimoku. 

The foundation of my apartment building might give way and drag the building down to the sea. That was a real possibility.

Sitting in front of my Gohonzon, I followed a guidance from Nichiren Daishonin that says: "Be resolved to summon forth the great power of your faith, and chant Nam Myoho-renge-kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the moment of your death. Never seek any other way to inherit the ultimate law and manifest it in your life." I chanted to connect with the life of Nichiren Daishonin and with President Ikeda. 

While listening to the horror of destruction, I prayed, asking myself: "If I were President Ikeda, how would I chant daimoku in this moment" ... I prayed and prayed ... 

I asked myself: "If this is the moment of my death, what does it mean that my faith should be steadfast and correct?" I hovered, struggling on a spiritual edge. Did I possess the state of Buddhahood that can transform my destiny and that of my ancestors? Or was I was a terrified simple common mortal who had no option but to die horribly. 

I remembered the paragraph from “The Opening of the Eyes”: 

"Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubt in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith. Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes." 
My crucial moment had arrived. I struggled to chant daimoku that would not only penetrate my life but that of all in my building and the neighboring buildings. I wished to be here today with you, celebrating the New Year. The image of my parents sprang up. I recalled that already they had gone through the bitter experience of losing two children, and that I, as a Buddha, could not inflict upon them that suffering again. I had a mission to fulfill. From the bottom of my being emerged a profound fountain of filial affection, an intense and calm desire to embrace them, to love them. I wanted to live to tell them and show them and many others, how much I loved them and how much they meant to me. I visualized all those who also have been parents to me: Mrs. and Mr. Regalado and all the members. 

The mud and debris entered with all its strength, filling two floors of the building. From that moment I felt responsible, not only for my own life and happiness, but for that of the other people. I stood up and convinced the other residents that we should leave immediately. A group of huge trees threatened to demolish the building if it were to rain again. We tried to leave for the beach, but the risk of drowning in the mud was too much. How could we get across the river of mud? While I chanted to find the best way out, we remembered my car. It was the only option. My stuck car became like a bridge for us to climb over the raging mud. From the top of the car we managed to get over the outside wall and down to the safety of the beach. Two nights prior the caretaker told me to move my car and now it saved us. 

After being able to get out alive and unhurt from this catastrophe, I am living with my parents following 15 years absence. My heart is full of joy because I had the chance not only of embracing them but of finally pulling out from the depths of my being the fear of loving them genuinely, thanking them for all that they are and have been. I cannot say that I have lost anything. On the contrary, I have gained my own identity, of knowing who I am, the value of my life, that of my family, of your affection and appreciation. My determination is to live without restrictions, as a true disciple of President Ikeda. 

[Translated for Jinzai-Net by L. Konrady]