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Realizing the Dignity of Life

Francisca Annan, Ghana

[From the SGI Quarterly

Francisca Annan has worked as a nurse at the Tema General Hospital in Ghana for the past 23 years. Although she was always dedicated to her work, Ms. Annan feels that she has gained increased compassion for others, as well as a clearer understanding of the purpose of life, since she began practicing Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism in 1981. Before that, she approached her work purely from a professional point of view, working according to the dictates of her profession.

Ms. Annan was introduced to the practice of Buddhism by a former patient who wanted to thank her for nursing him during his illness. She recalls, "He told me about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which he referred to as the greatest treasure he could give me ... one that would benefit me the rest of my life."

At first, because she was already a firm believer in another religion, Ms. Annan was not interested in what he had to say. However, because he was so sincere and well-behaved, and a true gentleman, Ms. Annan accepted his invitation to attend a culture festival held at the Arts Center in Accra. 

Eventually, she would accept his hand in marriage. Ms. Annan was deeply moved by the enthusiasm and dynamism of the show, especially because she had thought that members of a religious organization would be quiet and reserved and would not engage in traditional Ghanaian drumming and dancing with such vigor. In fact, she was so impressed with the SGI's objective of promoting culture and education that she decided to begin practicing Buddhism. 

Treatment with Dignity
As her understanding of Buddhism deepened, Ms. Annan's views on life began to change, leading to a change in attitude towards her patients. She recalls, "I realized how precious life is and learned that every human being should be treated equally. I became more compassionate towards my patients, instilling them with hope, confidence and joy, no matter how hopeless their situation seemed to be." She also developed a more serious attitude toward her work, and especially toward patients with communicable diseases: "Many nurses are reluctant to treat such patients, but I make a special effort to treat them with dignity, based on my conviction that they also have a right to live."

"My patients and colleagues alike have confidence in me, and they notice that I am somehow different from the other nurses. Whenever I am on duty, my colleagues feel at ease because they are confident that I am capable of handling difficult and complex cases."

Because of this experience, Ms. Annan began to practice Buddhism even more vigorously. One day, however, thieves broke into her home and stole all her clothing. In the midst of all these problems, she remembered the words of Nichiren Daishonin, "As practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge, vying with one other to interfere...." Ms. Annan recalls, "I therefore encouraged myself not to waver and courageously carried on in my practice. I also tried to encourage my three young children. They never complained, even though on many occasions we had to walk long distances to meeting places."

Poison into Medicine
Another experience which put Ms. Annan's faith to the test occurred when her son suddenly started having convulsions and seemed to be on the verge of death. Despite all her medical knowledge and her best efforts, his condition worsened. She rushed him to the hospital, chanting daimoku with the firm conviction that he would recover. Today, her son is the epitome of health.

Ms. Annan recalls a time when she experienced difficulty concentrating during gongyo and had doubts about her practice. About the same time, her husband started complaining that she was participating in too many Buddhist activities. She was so surprised by his change in attitude that she wondered if he was really the same person. At one point, she even felt like quitting the practice.

Demoralized and confused, Ms. Annan turned to a senior member who advised her that instead of giving up, she should strengthen her determination to encourage her husband in his Buddhist practice. Soon after receiving this guidance, she attended a study seminar in Accra where she was deeply encouraged by the following passage from the writings of Nichiren Daishonin:

"Although I and my disciples may encounter difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we shall as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not harbor 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."
Actual Proof
While at the seminar, she renewed her determination to work for world peace after viewing the film "The Human Revolution," which details the challenges faced by the successive presidents of the Soka Gakkai. On New Year's Day 1995, Ms. Annan made a determination to have an "Everything first" attitude. In order to have more time available to do Buddhist activities, she rearranged her work schedule. She was able to obtain permission to work night duty for an entire year. This schedule change enabled her to do her best at work as well as to participate in the culture festivals and other SGI Buddhist activities together with her husband and children throughout the year.

Last year, Ms. Annan was presented the Tema Municipality Best Nurse of the Year Award. She was truly surprised to receive this rare honor and believes that it was bestowed upon her as a result of her Buddhist practice. Moreover, the award encouraged her in the fight to protect and cherish the dignity of human life in her profession as a nurse.

Filled with confidence, Ms. Annan says, "Looking back, I realize that all those problems in my practice have given me the hope to continue and never falter along the way. I am convinced that no matter what situation may confront me, I will always overcome every problem with faith in the Gohonzon."