Forging Friendship Through Dialogue
I started practicing Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism about five months ago and have recognized numerous benefits since then. However, today I would like to share an ongoing experience regarding friendship revolution.
Back in the fall of 2018, I met my best and closest college friend. However, I have never known a time in her life when she wasn’t consistently battling the feeling of being overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, or exhausted. September 2018 is also when I began this practice and started to chant. In the first few months of my practice, I chanted for her happiness. I now realize I sought the law outside of myself because I blamed the environment and the other people in her life for her circumstances, which I believed I had no power to change as I lacked direct control. As the months went by, my friend and I came to trust each other as she self-disclosed to me about her worsening mental health and conflict with her family and friends. During this same span of time, I came to develop a strong inner foundation by deepening my faith through dialogue with other SGI members and studying for the intro exam. I chanted more earnestly to the Gohonzon with determination for my friend to attain victory and achieve happiness, yet I wasn’t following through on my pledge with action or effort.
I noticed my friend’s life condition significantly lower during winter break when we enrolled in the same J-Term course. While we studied and completed the course together, I gained more insight into the current chaos consuming her life. This was the event catalyst, which sparked my desire to see my friend become happy and to continually support her until she overcomes her situation. Although I dealt with my own obstacles back home, I sought President Ikeda’s guidance to “remain strong and unshaken no matter what happens and rather, than focusing on myself, be concerned with helping and imparting hope to others.” With all the dysfunction she deals with on a daily basis, I vowed to be a person she can turn to not only for support, advice, encouragement, and stability, but also joy, smiles, and laughter.
One particular message from the February Living Buddhism made an impression on me. It was exactly what I needed to read at the right time. The quote from President Ikeda’s The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace goes as follows: “…become the kind of leaders whom others regard as a source of reassurance, clarity, peace of mind and courage-people who inspire confidence and hope.” I wrote this quote on my “Soka Victory” personal goal sheet and I read it while I chant daimoku. I increased and blocked out a specific amount of time to chant for my friend and her happiness. Although this is the ultimate goal, in actuality I’m chanting for myself to make habitual changes. Most of this takes the form of setting goals and proactivity. By completing what I need to do ahead of schedule, I am able to make myself more available to spend quality time and support her through her emotional turmoil by being fully present to listen.
I’ve seen the conspicuous benefit from my vow. For example, my friend received higher test scores, good feedback on papers, sought counseling services, and created an action plan to complete her schoolwork, all of which resulted in a positive mindset shift. The driving force behind the inconspicuous benefit and recent breakthrough in our friendship came from me chanting with determination to see my tasks through to the end. This allowed me to put into practice President Ikeda’s guidance that “dialogue begins with listening in earnest to the opinions and ideas of the other person.” My inner character transformation, that is becoming a more effective listener and compassionate person, are qualities that both my friend and myself gain inconspicuous benefit from.
Even though we are both self-reliant, our friendship moved from mere acquaintances to enduring a bond which intertwines our paths. As President Ikeda says, “The bamboo groves of autumn are gorgeous. Each bamboo tree stands independently, growing straight and tall toward the sky. Yet in the ground, out of sight, their roots are interconnected.” This journey I’ve embarked on is an on-going process. While our friendship strengthened and I’ve seen her improvement and success, my new determination is to inspire and encourage her to want to practice. When one works toward their human revolution, others notice. Therefore, it is by exuding the genuine and lasting happiness I achieve through my own human revolution, that she can see proof of her own potential to awaken her innate Buddha nature and attain an improved life condition. While there is more work to be done and I’m sure my friend and I will encounter obstacles, I am unwilling to back down from the opportunity to share this Buddhism and continually change my life for the better.