Vimala Menon, India
[From the SGI Quarterly]
Before Vimala Menon was introduced to Buddhism in 1978, she looked back at the days following her graduation from university with longing. She had graduated from medical school at the University of Delhi in India in 1970 with a strong interest in ophthalmology, the field of eye diseases: "Both the subject and teacher impressed me sufficiently to make me decide to become an eye surgeon," she recalls.
In May 1975, Dr. Menon qualified as an eye specialist and, just one month later, she joined the nation's premier eye institute. By 1978, she had been appointed to a permanent position on its faculty. Yet, in spite of being on the fast track to success, Dr. Menon had come to realize that her "self-confidence was at a low ebb" and that she "had a hopelessly pessimistic attitude." A major shadow hanging over her was the fact that her "family was a very depressed and unhappy one." The gloom which pervaded the Menon family deepened in 1980 when her father passed away. To make matters worse, two of her younger siblings were chronic sufferers of bronchial asthma.
When Dr. Menon learned about the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin in the summer of 1978, she was immediately attracted to the concept of the Mystic Law, which is based on the law of the simultaneity of cause and effect. She shared the belief that "the human being himself is responsible for his or her own life." A few days after being introduced to Buddhism she began to chant and she attended an Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) discussion meeting which impressed her profoundly.
Just as she was about to leave the meeting, a BSG member strode up to her and said, "Please come again next time." It was a simple gesture, but she was overcome by his sincerity. "I involuntarily responded to his powerful words," she recalls. And so she simply replied, "Yes, I will."
Ever since then, her life has seen tremendous improvement. Nine months after Dr. Menon joined BSG, she was deeply moved upon meeting SGI President Ikeda in India: "My vision of a grand life committed to kosen-rufu [world peace based on the principles of Buddhism] opened up for the first time." She noticed that her self-confidence was returning, and even better, her sense of hope for a brighter future was growing.
She exerted herself in her Buddhist activities and discovered her effort was having a direct impact not only on her daily life but on her professional life as well. "Buddhist practice gives me an intuitive approach to many problems," she explains. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, she learned that she could "turn the tide of negative effects in my patients into positive ones."
The changes that were sweeping through her life didn't stop there. Her family situation also improved, in part due to the conversion of her asthma-stricken siblings, both of whom were able to cure their ailment.
Her personal life also underwent great change. Dr. Menon had given up on the idea of finding a partner for life. For her, marriage was an "almost impossible event." Still, she sometimes recalled the words of Mr. Ikeda when they first met in 1979: "One should not hurry up about marriage," the SGI leader advised. "Marriage should be for the sake of happiness." Eleven years after she began to practice Buddhism, the impossible dream became a reality at the age of 41. Two years later, Dr. Menon gave birth to a healthy daughter, proving the "power of prayer and strong ichinen [unshakeable resolve]."
At the end of 1992, she began to exert herself even harder at work, especially in research. She published three new papers related to the diagnosis, prognosis and therapy of eye diseases. As a result, she was granted a three-month fellowship to conduct further research in Japan and the United States. Says she: "I am deeply grateful to my mentor, Mr. Ikeda, and the Soka Gakkai, which has made it possible for me to live such a wonderful and meaningful life."
Dr. Menon's personal reformation has made her even more aware of problems in her environment. Since "society today is highly materialistic," she notes, it has "forgotten the treasures of the heart." That ignoble trend applies to the medical profession as well. "There is so much exploitation of patients by doctors who only see their own monetary gain and do not have any scruples about cheating the patient," she laments.
The Indian eye surgeon refuses to be discouraged by such corruption. She vows instead to do everything she possibly can for other people. One of her favorite passages in a letter written by Nichiren Daishonin to his disciples 700 years ago, states: "That which you give another will become your own sustenance; if you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your own way."
Dr. Menon says that she is "determined
to live my life for the sake of others' happiness and to live a life without
regret, dedicating myself to the Mystic Law to my last breath."