Winning Through Faith and Perseverance

By Bill Ray [Excerpted from the December 7th, 2001, World Tribune]
With help from Joseph Rogers, M.D.

I first encountered Buddhism nearly seven years ago at the age of 40. My life at that time was an unbelievable mess due to deep, crippling depression.

Being a police officer required that I handle not only my problems but others’ problems as well. I also suffered from intense chest pains which landed me in a cardiac intensive care unit. I took a medical leave of absence, filled out a worker’s compensation claim and, while on disability, tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

While on leave, two of my supervisors visited me at home. They informed me that I was no longer on active duty and took my badge. In addition, the chief of police issued a memo forbidding anyone in my department from having any contact with me. I suspect that this had to do with my filing a worker’s compensation claim.  My feelings of anger and uselessness reached such new depths that I contemplated suicide.

Within a week, a local emergency room physician, who was also reserve police officer, paid me a visit. I had heard that he was a Buddhist, so I asked him questions, just out of curiosity.

He told me about the benefits of chanting Nam Myoho-renge-kyo and how it functions as “good medicine” for your life. He continued to encourage me during his frequent visits, despite the personal risk he was taking in defiance of the department’s order forbidding anyone to talk to me. This soon led me to try chanting. I had nothing to lose.

After my first 30 minutes of chanting to the Gohonzon, I felt happy for the first time in months. After years of suffering, I felt hope again.

Unemployment, poverty, constant anxiety, health problems, and low self-esteem were daily issues. My friend encouraged me to challenge the severity of my life and view it as an opportunity for growth. Rather than long philosophical discussions, our conversations always led us to the Gohonzon to chant Daimoku. At first, I found this irritating. But my friend would often chant with me for hours. We also studied the Gosho. The words of Nichiren Daishonin came alive for me:

“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. Then you will experience boundless joy from the law.” (WND p. 681, “Happiness in this World”)

Chanting daimoku for hours on end turned out to be the best thing I could do.  In time, I managed to develop a strong determination to “continue chanting Nam Myoho-renge-kyo no matter what happens.”

The times that followed were hard. Chanting and my friendships with SGI members were my only safety net.

I got a job as a youth counselor.  To make ends meet, I took on other part-time jobs. After a year and a half of struggling, I was offered a low-paying, part-time job at a well-known Police Department. I challenged myself to do the best job I could to show actual proof of my Buddhist practice.

Soon I was successfully preparing cases for trial and obtaining convictions. After three years, I was overseeing 200 active cases. This earned me recognition and led to a promotion to a full-time position.

Still, my efforts to find a full-time sworn peace officer’s position met with dead-ends. Without it, my certification would soon expire. I felt angry and discouraged and was about ready to give up when I remembered the Daishonin’s words “Continue chanting Nam Myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens.” At that moment, my life changed and I began to break through my obstacles.

The State of California hired me as a full-time sworn police officer in a position suited to my needs. I now train new officers and do my best to nurture in them the confidence that they have the power to win.

I have also met a wonderful woman, whose determination in her Buddhist practice has encouraged me immensely, and we have build a foundation for our lives together. We recently bought a house together where we can hold meetings.

In less than seven years, my life has totally transformed. Though I have achieved outward success, nothing compares to the changes inside. Low self-esteem has been replaced with confidence and depression is now a thing of the past. Best of all, I have developed the strength to “Continue chanting Nam Myoho-renge-kyo no matter what happens.”