A Ship To Cross the Sea of Suffering

by Jack Gross

I’m a sixty-year young male who has been practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism for fifteen years. About a year ago my life began to feel stale. The things that made me happy — a beautiful sunset, a windy day on the water, a gathering of friends, the right music to complement my mood — lost their meaning for me. I also began to question my personal relationships. I was not enjoying being with friends and questioned why I continued to maintain relationships that apparently had run their course, or should have never been in the first place.

My life was going from bad to worse and it seemed that nothing brought me joy. Everything I did seemed to be an effort. I went to my leaders for guidance and was encouraged to become more involved in activities. This led to more problems and more chanting. Finally, I realized that the problem was me and it always had been. I’d been completely absorbed in myself without reaching out to others. I was a sponge absorbing life, but not giving anything back.

I have raced sailboats most of my adult life, and have had the good fortune to be mentored by many excellent sailors. I always acknowledged the help I received, but never looked for any opportunity to pass my own experience along.

About five months ago I went to San Pedro. There at a dock I saw a boat that had been in my mind for years. She's a schooner, right out of the 1700's and I was determined to sail on her. Then I found out that she belongs to an organization that works with at-risk kids. My heart sank — all my life I had avoided children. Still, I thought about the boat during my long drive home; I could not get it out of my mind. Here was something that had made my heart race at first sight, but the price was steep. I would have to do things I had always avoided. I wanted to follow my mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, but didn’t know if I had the courage. I went to the Gohonzon and chanted about it.

"Nichiren's disciples cannot accomplish anything if they are cowardly." ("Teaching, Practice and Proof," MW, Vol. 4, p. 111)

I chanted some more and then it was clear. Here was the opportunity to give back some of what I had been given and to prove that this practice works. I bit the bullet and joined the program.

One day on the boat just as the kids finished raising a sail, one of them asked with a big smile if he could hang out with me for the rest of the sail. He talked about how easy I made the job seem, that he was surprised at how well he and his team had done and that he was looking forward to learning more about the boat and the water. He continued to ask questions until we got back to the dock.

On the drive home I replayed the day and realized I could not remember any sailing details, only that conversation. I looked forward to the next time I could be with those kids and continue my dialogue with them. They had reached a place in me I did not know existed and it gave me a feeling of inner warmth I had not felt for a long time.

Since I joined the program my life has been rejuvenated and my entire being has changed. I’m sure that the kids are teaching me more than I can teach them. It’s a mutual mentor-disciple relationship. My life has been refreshed as it expanded to take on new challenges and activities. My joy is boundless and my faith has deepened.

Daisaku Ikeda says, "Faith is light. The hearts of those with strong faith are filled with light. A radiance envelops their lives. People with unshakable conviction in faith enjoy a happiness that is as luminous as the full moon on a dark night, as dazzling as the sun on a clear day.”
Finally, I am ready to reply to my mentor.

This experience appears courtesy of the “Horizon Newsletter.”

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