A Great Vow

Hello everyone, my name is Eugene Maurice Plenty Chief; I am a Native American Indian. I have been practicing our wonderful Buddhism for three years now.

I was born and raised as a Christian and Mormon, on an Indian Reservation in North Dakota. I am the oldest of seven brothers and three sisters. We grew up in an environment of alcoholism, poverty, and physical and verbal abuse. Every day was a struggle. I often received uncalled for beatings from my mother; on occasion, from my uncles.

People often talked very bad about our family because we were poor. Even our own relatives said terrible things to us. It was a most uncomfortable way to grow up. I told my brothers and sister that some day I would leave and never return.

In my last year of high school, I lived with my grandmother. Just before graduation day I went to see my mother, to give the great news; I was finally going to graduate. I figured my mother would be overwhelmed with joy upon hearing of my achievement. Instead, she looked at me without a smile and said, “You are just going to become a bum like all the other high school graduates in this town!”

I was really shocked! I couldn’t believe what she was saying to me. I turned to her and said “After I graduate, I will leave this place and I won’t ever return! I will make it, I will become very rich!” She just laughed and said, sure! Shortly after graduation, I went to a cooking school; then a year later, I went to another trade school to learn clerical work. I have always been fascinated with Japan so I joined the military, figuring that it was the only way to come to Japan. 

My dream came true — the military sent me to Okinawa in 1986. I spent six years in the military and another eight years in Okinawa as a civilian after I finished. When I was 21, I married an Okinawa woman and we were married for 13 years. We had ups and downs with our relationship. As time went on, we slowly grew apart, mainly because I was an alcoholic and abusive. We even had a daughter, hoping that things would change. To our misfortune, nothing got better. We divorced in 1999. I am sure they are doing their best. I often pray for their happiness and good health.

At this same time I met my beautiful Junko. She was always very sweet and kind to me. After just a few months of seeing each other we decided to get married. We started to live together — then she got pregnant.

A few months later we got married.  She often told me about Buddhism.

Around this time, my alcoholism got worse. I was in denial. I became abusive to her. I was losing control of my own life. I just didn’t realize it until it was too late. I will never forget that last day together. It was the most terrible time of my life. She a made a comment that I didn’t agree with and, without thinking, I struck her. She told me that was the last thing she would take from me, and she was going to leave. My life hit rock bottom at this moment. My alcoholism was at its peak — I was barely making enough to pay rent and utilities. On top of all this, I had a severely herniated back.

At first, I couldn’t understand why she left. What I didn’t realize was how hard she was trying to help me change my life. I just knew that I wanted my family back. I just didn’t know what to do about it.

I chanted a total of 792 hours of daimoku in the next three months. I was determined to overcome my bad karma and change my entire life for my family. 

I literally lost everything, everything except our precious Gohonzon.

Everywhere I turned for help, people turned their backs on me. I had nothing, and most of all, I was very, very alone. I chanted earnestly. I would chant and cry for hours and hours, both day and night.

I really missed my daughters and wife. I forced myself to smile. There were times that I couldn’t even go shopping, because everywhere I looked I thought I saw my wife and children. So without buying anything I would just go home and sit in front of the Gohonzon and chant while tears rolled down my cheeks.

After the first month, I ran out of food, all I had left was a container of Miso paste that my wife had left. Before going to work I would have a teaspoon of miso, and after I returned from work I would drink lots and lots of water. I chanted for hours to keep my mind off of food. For two and half months I walked to and from work, because I didn’t have money for the train. (It was an hour and 45 minutes in both directions.)

At times I questioned myself about our Buddhism. I often asked myself why and what our SGI organization was about. Where was the support? Where was all the compassion for each other and others? I honestly couldn’t understand. I honestly didn’t know anything about our Buddhism. Except for “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.”

The more I chanted the farther away my lovely family seemed to go. I figured I wasn’t chanting enough, so I would chant even more and more. But I still continued to fall deeper and deeper into despair. At times, the pain was so unbearable I started to think that suicide was the only answer.

On a couple of occasions when I was about to take my own life, the doorbell would ring. I would put the knife down and wipe the tears from my eyes, and answer the door — it was the newspaper lady. She always showed her concern for me. She would ask how I was doing, and she always encouraged me. She would say “You separated from your wife for a reason, a good reason. Everything will turn out for the best. Don’t give up. Trust your heart, and everything will go in the right direction. If you are meant for each other you will meet again. Just trust your daimoku and trust the Gohonzon.”

The pain of total loneliness was so intense, it was like a balloon being inflated in my chest, ready to burst at any moment. My earnest daimoku and my deep love for my family were the only things that were keeping me from giving up.

I started to chant harder and harder, saying to myself, saying to the Gohonzon, that somehow I was going to overcome my bad karma, no matter what it took. If I had to do it alone, I would! I would do it with daimoku alone.

On the 27th of December 2001, I was literally at my end. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I wasn’t sure if I would make it through that night. I felt as though it was the last day of my life.

That morning, on 28th after doing gongyo (at 1:30 a.m.), I suddenly remembered that it was the 100th day after my family had left, the 100th day of chanting earnest daimoku. I had heard that 100 days after great bad happens, great good will happen. So with this thought, I sat up and faced the Gohonzon, and said “Well, Gohonzon (and to my wife as though she was present), if this is true then so be it! Up until today, I haven’t given up. Somehow, somehow I’ve made it this far. My daimoku to my most trusted Gohonzon and my profound love for you and our daughters has been the only power enabling me to maintain strength and faith, the strength to continue moving forward. From this day forward, I will stand firm with great trust in our Gohonzon, with great courage and strong indestructible faith, I will rid myself of all bad karma traits. I will not lose in this lifetime and I won’t let you lose either.”

Then I made the following vow in faith: “I vow to uphold all the percepts of the Mystic Law to save each and every person from suffering. I will dedicate the rest of my natural life to our Buddhism, for the sake of worldwide kosen-rufu. This is my true reason for living my life.”

While I was making this vow, something very, very amazing started to happen — my entire body started to quiver beyond belief. After I stopped trembling, I felt different. All my sorrows, worries, my terribly herniated back pain, and all the deep lonesomeness were gone. Instead I was overwhelmed with great happiness and full of energy. Warm tears of happiness were ceaselessly rolling down my face. I can’t explain that wonderful feeling.

To this day I still feel that same way, that great feeling still overwhelms me. If I were to put it into words, to somehow enable another person to imagine or understand that feeling, I would use this quote of Mr. Toda: “It’s like lying on your back in a wide open space looking up at the sky with arms and legs outstretched and all that you wish for immediately appears. No matter how much you give away, there is always more. It is never exhausted.” This was the exact feeling of that experience. What I thought had lasted only for a couple of minutes, turned out to be an amazing three hours.

There is much, much more to that experience, things that I cannot explain, yet understand from the depths of my heart. I will never forget this grand experience. After the experience, I told myself that my wife and children would come home within a month’s time and that I would make everything possible in my life: the impossible to possible.

I am more than determined to fulfill my mission in this lifetime, and without fail! Here is a quick overview of what I have been doing ever since that wonderful day.

  • - On January 1st, 2002, I started the year by giving a New Year’s speech at my local culture center.
  • - From January 2nd to the 4th, I spent introducing a dear friend to this practice. On the third day of my visit, she took her Gohonzon out and enshrined it properly. She continues to chant earnestly. She too has overcome a lot in her life. Last year, doctors told her that she could never have children because of a hormone imbalance. After four months of earnest daimoku and great determination, she went for a medical check up because she wasn’t feeling good. The doctors were astounded at the results of the physical — she was three months pregnant.
  • - On February 9th, saw my family again! They came home to me. We have been working earnestly on our relationship ever since. Since I have come to the states, we are working earnestly with each other via email and the telephone to rebuild our relationship, but this time with strong faith for each other and other people and for the great sake of worldwide kosen-rufu. We are working on our remarriage. With our continuous efforts and strong determinations, we will definitely make it. I will change the hearts of all those who have doubted me and or our relationship. I will regain everyone’s wholehearted trust and support for me and our relationship.
  • - On February 11th, I gave a speech in Higashi Osaka about my family coming home. The speech enabled five great people to become members and it encouraged another person to strive forward with strong faith. I told him that he wasn’t alone, and I will always be there for him when he needs me.
  • - Between the months of February and June, I spent hours chanting earnest daimoku; studying the Gosho, Lotus Sutra, and guidance materials by President Ikeda, President Toda, and President Makiguchi. I enjoy studying the Gosho; what a rare honor it is to do so.
  • - In July and August, I traveled to Okinawa. I went there to encourage and chant daimoku for a dear friend who had had a near fatal motorcycle accident. Astoundingly, on the third day of my visit, he was discharged from the hospital. The doctors were astonished at his tremendous recovery. (And on December 5th he agreed to accept an Omamori Gohonzon.) To this day, he continues to make changes in his life for a better future.
  • - After returning from Okinawa in August, I received some disturbing news — my mother had had a very serious heart attack. I called and told her that if she really wanted to overcome her illness, she could, and that I would teach her how — by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with great determination, and with a pure heart of happiness for herself and others. This was the only way. I first taught her to spell out Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, then to pronounce it. We started with Sansho and then we chanted together for about five minutes. Slowly but surely her voice started to become more vibrant. She said she felt strange. I told her not to worry, but to trust the daimoku. She aid: “Okay, son.” With a pure heart, great faith, and earnest daimoku, my mother’s wish came true. Three hours after I had talked with her, she was discharged from the hospital. The physicians were startled with the outcome of all the tests they did. They told her that she could go home if she wanted. She was overjoyed. This experience allowed me to introduce 17 other family members to the practice.
  • - In December of that year, I traveled to America to continue introducing all of them, as well as many others to this practice.
  • - On October 13th, I introduced a dear friend to the practice. He received an Omamori Gohonzon.
  • - On October 22nd, I received a heartwarming and encouraging telephone message from President Ikeda. Sensei’s message encouraged my wife and me to continue to fulfill our mission. I immediately sent a copy to my mother and to my wife’s mother who was suffering from cancer. I told them that this message was not just for me, but for them also. This is the second time I received a message from Sensei.
  • - During the months of December 2002 and January 2003, I traveled to the U.S. I spent 3 weeks back home. In this period, I talked to 183 people about our Buddhism. I was determined to rid my wife’s mother of cancer. My brothers and I even shaved our heads bald for her, so she wouldn’t feel alone. After returning from the states, I told my wife I did my best. In March 2003, her mother went for a check up. The results came back negative. All the cancerous cells were gone. My wife and I are so happy for her mother. I called her mother to congratulate her on her great victory. I even sent her a postcard with these words: 
    • “Your very life is the treasure tower.” 
    • “One day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the major world system.” 
    • “The reason that you have survived now until when so many have died was so that you would meet with this affair” and 
    • “…could not this illness of your husband’s be the Buddha’s design, because the Vimalakirti and Nirvana sutras both teach that sick people will surely attain Buddhahood?” 
    • “Life is limited; we must not begrudge it.” 
    • “Summon up the courage of a lion.”
  • - January 2004. On the 10th, I started to use the Internet to introduce others to this Buddhism. I started to talk to my 1st cousin about Buddhism. I called to talk to her about meeting with the local leaders in Kansas City, but she wasn’t at home. Her husband (who is Christian) answered the phone — I didn’t know what to do, so I told him that I had been talking to his wife about Buddhism and that she had decided to practice. He was really surprised and said that it sounded very interesting and wanted to learn more about it. Forty-five minutes later, he decided to practice with his wife. The Kansas City leaders are very nice and great people. (And there is more to her story.)
  • - In March 2004, I learned that my mother’s kidneys were failing. She had only 7% function with her remaining kidney. I returned to the states at the end of April to be a possible donor for her. Currently she is still fighting earnestly to defeat these sicknesses.
  • - On March 7th, I had the great opportunity to meet with Mr. Nagashima and other SGI-USA members that visited our local culture center in Osaka. I gave Mr. Nagashima a copy of this experience. We also chanted daimoku together. He told me that when I came to America to get in contact with him.
  • - On April 6th, I received a third telephone message from Mr. Ikeda. His heartwarming message overwhelmed me with great courage and compassion. I immediately shared this message with my wife and children, as well as other members.
  • - In April of this year, after continuous efforts to reunite with my wife's lovely parents, my heart's daimoku came true. I was able to have a birthday dinner with them as well as with my lovely children and wife. I had always chanted for the day that we could all sit down together and once again chant daimoku together. On this day after we had dinner, I was getting ready to leave, and my daughters ran over and gave me a hug. They said: “Daddy, I love you.” Then my oldest daughter said “Let’s all sit down together, because daddy is leaving for work.” So with this, she called everyone to the Gohonzon, and she rang the bell, and we all did sansho together. Tears of great happiness welled up and started to roll down my cheeks. I was speechless. Then both of our daughters turned around and gave me another big hug. This was a most happy and wonderful day for me.
Since I have been here in America, I haven't had any contact with my family. But, in my heart, I believe that our hearts are one with each other, and that they want our future together to be the happiest in the universe. Our vision of our future together will become reality.

I'll make everything happen. I will continue to build their trust and love for me, for my wife and I, and for our most important children. The power of the Gohonzon is wonderful. My wife and I want her parents to be happy for us. With our hearts as one, I am more than positive that they will wholeheartedly support and accept our relationship, not only for us, but even more so for our two lovely children.

The Daishonin says “There is no greater joy than chanting the daimoku of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.” Our daimoku will change the hearts of the world.

“Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law?” Nothing is impossible!!! No matter what the situation maybe, please continue to chant earnest daimoku to the Gohonzon. You are all beautiful treasure towers of the universe.

“A good leader will always care for each and every individual’s needs, no matter what his or her position maybe. This is a true leader of life.”

“Our organization is for the people, not the people for the organization.”

And “No one should ever be left alone, No one!”

You and I must uphold all the percepts of Nichiren Daishonin’s true Buddhism, as well as President Ikeda’s guidance to the last letter.