on the Stage of Life
My dear friend Cindy introduced me to Buddhism. I was hostile and uncomfortable with her faith in it. I told her that I thought it was weird. I hated that she practiced it. I couldn't understand why she would do something I saw as flaky.
When I began to experience panic attacks in July of 1998, my view of life began to unravel. Overcome with the feeling that I was losing my mind, I sought therapy.
Through therapy, I came to recognize that I had been sexually abused. I was living in a state of denial. I was devastated, scared to death, and didn't know who I was anymore. I began to feel suicidal.
I am an opera singer, and in the midst of all this pain, I flew to New York for an audition. While there I stayed with my friend Cindy and her husband, Michael.
When they did their morning prayers, I tried chanting with them. I felt so foolish that I started to laugh. Michael had a wonderful response. He said "That's great! You are already experiencing the joy of Buddhahood!"
They were not angry with me for laughing during their ceremony. I was dumbfounded. What happened to the strict rules I had associated with religion?
One of Cindy's friend who barely knew me gave me a copy of The Winning Life, a sutra book, and some beads. I was deeply touched that this person cared enough to give me these gifts. I wasn't used to such sincerity so I decided to start practicing.
I started to chant and do Gongyo. I became concerned because each time I chanted, I would burst into tears. I continued chanting because I did not know what else I could do.
Cindy told me that Buddhism functions like a mirror to show us the reality of our lives and what we need to change through our practice.
The SGI members took great care of me, but I was still having severe panic attacks and feeling suicidal. Despite all this, I performed well and was recognized for my singing and pleasant attitude.
Then my sickness came to a head. There was a three-day period when I couldn't stop myself from tormented laughter and insomnia. I was haunted by suicidal thoughts. I hit rock bottom.
Because of my Buddhist prayers, I was able to find excellent doctors. I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. It took me all summer to adjust to the medications. I was awarded a grant in recognition of my career potential.
I moved back in with my parents. I was still depressed and could barely get out of bed. I found another wonderful therapist in Washington DC, who truly cared about me.
The members continued to care for me. I hadn't received the Gohonzon yet, but one of the leaders encouraged me to receive it and another gave me an altar. I couldn't believe her generosity.
I could see the benefits in my life. My parents and I were communicating sincerely with each other and my relationship with my sister made me feel joyful. My parents embraced my practice and I enshrined my Gohonzon in November of 1999.
I met a group of incredible young women while participating in SGI youth division activities. One asked me if I might be interested in attending an Arts Division conference at the FNCC. I didn't know what the FNCC was but I decided to go.
It was amazing! I met artists from all over the U.S. When I spoke to Danny Nagashima, I explained my situation, dreams, and worries to him. He was understanding and compassionate; he suggested that I think of all the lives I could touch with my voice. He encouraged me to sing for kosen rufu. I determined at that moment to sing for world peace and the happiness of humanity.
My inner human revolution was reflected in the lovely relationships I was building with colleagues.
I received a call from the Virginia Opera. They wanted me to be the understudy for Carmen and sing with their Young Artists Program. I had chanted to be involved in this program — my exact prayer had been answered!
Besides the role of Carmen, I work with elementary school children who are learning a children's opera called "Cinderella." After lunch we performed the opera for the entire school. Talk about singing for kosen rufu! I love working with such beautiful, pure children every day, and chant to touch their lives.
Recently, I was in a supermarket. As I stood at the freezer section, contemplating what kind of ice cream to buy, I noticed a little girl with a huge smile running toward me. She gave me a big hug, and I realized she was one of the performers in "Cinderella."
practice has allowed me to experience incredible gifts of humanity. I will
forever sing for world peace and the happiness of humanity.