Winter Always Turns to Spring

By Sandira Michael, HQ Young Woman’s Leader, North West London

Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, which never fails to turn into spring. Never have I heard of winter turning into autumn. Nor have I ever heard of any believer in the lotus Sutra who remained a common mortal. A passage from the sutra reads, “Among these who hear of this Law, there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood.” 
––From the Gosho “Winter Always Turns to Spring”
I first met this practise in 1985 when Helmut asked me to play percussion at a local meeting. I did evening Gongyo and chanted before being dragged out by my then-husband, with the comment that I wasn’t to get involved with those weirdos.

A year later in March 1986, I was sitting in a Tri-Star jet on the runway at Sri Lanka airport when a 10-ton, Tamil Tiger Bomb blew my plane in half, killing 22 of my fellow passengers. The only reason I’m still here is that I was given another boarding pass as I went through the transit lounge, which took me from the back of the plane to the front of second class –– out of the range of the blast. I injured my back in the crush, trying to get out, and for the next 48 hours I thought they would get me. I was afraid to be alone, thinking terrorists would leap out from behind the curtains or up through the loo and machine gun us all to death.

I chanted on that occasion but I also thanked God, Allah, and anyone else out there just for good measure.

I didn’t meet the practise again until a year later on tour in Ireland with John Konnel Hinks. I wasn’t happy. My marriage was breaking up and I was feeling more and more disconnected with everyone. What he said made sense so I just gave it a go, and kept going, no matter what.

Eventually I stopped jumping at loud bangs or being afraid of crowded places. I figured I was lucky and that my lesson was in realising the damage that being in a war situation does to people, the mental and emotional scars it leaves. And I realised that without the Gohonzon it takes years and generations to let go of the effects of war. I thanked the universe for protecting me and tried to get on with life.

My back went from bad to worse. I found it hard to sit with my palms together to chant and was exhausted, developed a severe candida infection, and had an underactive thyroid to boot. I was very fortunate to see the best osteopaths and receive massages from my friend Irene for practically nothing for years. I got accident compensation and then slowly my back settled to a workable state. 

I met another man and fell in love, but I was so caught up in the fear of losing him that I never found time to chant about my health. I thought I was just stuck with it, so I endured. The emotional cause of candida infection is said to be (according to Louise Hay) “demanding and untrusting in relationships.” I figured that by concentrating on my relationship karma I would improve my health. And, as I made each breakthrough, I would find a more appropriate health regime for my illnesses and get that much closer to being well (but not my back).

About seven years into my practise I decided to do Keibi at Taplow Court. Rather unusually for me, I went with no shopping list, just a determination to offer myself for Kosen Rufu. I had a real struggle staying awake through my hour’s diamoku in Toda Hall every day. I drank copious amounts of coffee, and even marched on the spot, to try and stay awake. Somehow, on the Thursday of that week, I broke through. On Friday morning, I was going for my break and walked out of the old building heading towards the cedar walk. As I passed under the oak tree I felt a rush of energy up my spine and what can only be described as bliss. I knew without a shadow of doubt that I was at that point where winter turns to spring. I couldn’t see it yet, but the buds were there. There was absolutely no reason to be afraid ever again, and all my desires would come true. In terms of a lifetime, it can take a long time for those buds to appear. I had to have faith.

The major and most fundamental change came 3 years ago when I started chanting to understand the master disciple relationship. Quite by accident, one day I found myself chanting to develop a connection to President Ikeda (Sensei). Literally before my eyes, I saw on one side my ex-boyfriend and on the other, Sensei. I had to make a choice! Well, the boyfriend thing was long gone so I thought, what the hell, I choose Sensei.

I started to chant to understand Sensei’s heart and to develop an abundant life force like his. The first goal helped me understand what Kosen Rufu was all about; the second had a dramatic effect on my health. I suddenly found an Ayurvedic doctor who diagnosed my thyroid problem, and cleared up my candida. I felt well for the first time in years. (But we didn’t look at my back problems –– I was sure that that would never change!) 

I did 3 Trets courses in 18 months, fitting in two Keibi in that time, followed by two other courses. At the last two Trets courses, I had two major panic attacks, the first ones in years. One about a bomb in London for New Year 1999. The second was a rough landing at Stansted, which had every one cheering and myself scared to death. I thought I was going to die!

In my daily life, I had been having disaster after disaster. If anything could break down, blow up, or fall to bits –– in that time period, it did! (Although I always ended up with a better car/computer/watch/whatever, each time.) 

Then in September 2000, I decided to try chanting to trust the Gohonzon, saying "I trust you, Gohonzon; I trust you, Gohonzon; I trust you, Gohonzon." 

Everything just changed at that point –– it was like coming out of the bad dream that I’d been in for 14 years. By connecting with Sensei and chanting to trust the Gohonzon, I brought myself out of the post-traumatic stress I had suffered. This, for those of you who have no notion of this disorder, is a miracle (it is caused by extreme shock or trauma –– in my case the bombing). Most people do not recover without a lot of help. Some never do.

Then I went to a new cranial osteopath. He started by telling me he’d never seen a back more traumatized. The only person who came close, he said, was someone who’d been in the Athens earthquake. Why hadn’t anyone ever told me this before? Because I had been too traumatised. He’d never met anyone so crooked, thinking she was straight. He then said not to worry; that my back was telling him it wanted to straighten up.

I was (in effect) shaped like a banana with only two thirds of my lungs working. It was so scary and exciting at the same time that I just ran around telling everyone. I went back over the bombing in my mind and realised that all this time I had been feeling guilty for having survived, and terribly afraid to live. Inside, I was still hiding in case the terrorists found me and shot me for having survived. Coming out from post-traumatic stress is like learning to live again. 

I was standing in front of the mirror in my lounge, saying over and over in my mind “I want to live –– I have the courage to live –– I want to live,” and, before my eyes, I watched my back straighten up. Like a sci-fi movie, only real. My osteopath is amazed at how fast things have changed and improved for me. He even asked, “What’s the rush?” I had to reply that my deadline is May 3rd, 2001, when I take responsibility for Kosen Rufu as Sensei’s disciple. 

I know my family is riddled with fear. It’s always "don’t do this," "don’t do that," "you’ll fail!" On a very deep level, we are afraid to live. I had to be in that bombing and I had to start chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, because it was the only way I could change my family karma. I have no regrets!

Originally published in the UK Express.