Amazing Singapore James Cook University at Sims Drive

Amazing Kallang MRT beside the Kallang River


Friday, March 8, 2013

From Sleeping in the street to donating a kaikan

[Excerpted from the August, 2000, Living Buddhism, pp. 36-38]
Chieko Yamashita was married after WWII. Her husband failed in business and became obsessed with drinking and gambling.
Her family of four had no place to live, but were given shelter in the corner of a friend's kitchen. During the day, they would stay in a small park, with her infant child crawling around on the ground.
With help they were able to find a tiny one-room apartment; but they were still destitute.
To make dinner, she would go out with two ten-yen coins and buy sardines and spinach. She searched the streets of the outdoor market for dropped coins.
At one point, she had to leave her husband and children. The children were put into childcare. Overcome with anguish at the thought of this, she decided to gather her children and return to her husband. What followed were days of living in fear of physical abuse.
Ms. Yamashita joined the Soka Gakkai in 1965. At the time her husband was unemployed and she was supporting him by selling insurance door-to-door. Her husband also joined, but it was in name only. He would go to great lengths to keep his wife from practicing.
Each night he would beat her and demand that she quit the SGI. On one occasion he destroyed her altar with an ax, doused the wood with kerosene and set it on fire.  She ran out of the house barefoot, clutching the Gohonzon to her chest. She spent the night locked outdoors chanting daimoku until dawn.
Eventually her husband found work. But he was reckless with money and they continued to live in poverty.
Throughout this time, Mrs. Yamashita scrimped and saved with the dream of one day having a house. When she had saved four million yen, she showed her savings passbook to her husband. He snatched it away. When she located it two days later, her account had a balance of zero. He had lost it all at the race track.
A senior in faith told her that she must take ultimate responsibility for her happiness. She was told "Unless you change, you will not be able to accumulate good fortune."
When she heard this, she made up her mind not to give up. She said
"The Daishonin says, 'Buddhism is like the body, and society like the shadow. When the body bends, so does the shadow' (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 1039). I determined to stop swinging between joy and sorrow because of the chaos in my life and to stop complaining about what my husband was or wasn't doing. I decided since this was my karma, I would take responsibility for overcoming it. I realized it was not about anyone else; everything depended on my life condition. I gained a profound conviction in the principle of oneness of life and environment."
Mrs. Yamashita exerted herself wholeheartedly in Gakkai activities. In the process, she was unexpectedly approached about managing some land in front of the train station. In the seventh year of her practice (1972), she was able to open her bicycle parking lot. More than anything else, her attitude began to change. She came to have sympathy for her husband. She came to view her husband as a "good friend' for enabling her to deepen her faith.
She explains, 
"It's amazing. As soon as my resentment toward my husband turned into appreciation, he suddenly lost his infatuation with gambling. And he began to pray to the Gohonzon. For the first time we became a true married couple, able to talk openly and honestly about anything. Through all the negative and positive experiences, my husband taught me about faith. I have grown into a person who can feel incredible appreciation, knowing that I owe everything to the terrible hardship I experienced."  
In addition to transforming her state of life, Mrs. Yamashita has transformed her financial fortune and she was able to realize her longstanding dream of building a private community center.  Daisaku Ikeda gave the center the name "Yamashita Glory Community Center." When she received Mr. Ikeda's calligraphy of these words, she took the characters for community center to mean "Treasure House." 
Although she is the president of a company that operates a bicycle parking lot of approximately 4,000 yards, when asked what she does she says, "I'm just the bicycle lot grandma." 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Protecting the environment

by Shin Won-suk

Shin Won-sukMr. Shin Won-suk cleaning the polluted river
I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism since 1973, and by engaging in SGI activities I have learned the importance of living a contributive life--to be concerned not only for myself but for others and for society as a whole. Taking to heart SGI President Ikeda's constant encouragement to become an asset to our local community and society, I began to think deeply about what I could do to contribute.
It occurred to me that there was no need to start with something big, but there must be something I can do using my skills and background as a landscape gardener. There is a river, the Taehwa, that runs through the city of Ulsan, where I live, which is heavily polluted. I decided to somehow help restore this river.
Throughout history, the Taehwa River has been considered a lifeline for the city's residents. However, Ulsan is one of the most industrialized cities of South Korea, and because of heavy pollution from industrial waste, the Taehwa came to be known as "the river of death."
developing bamboo fieldsDeveloping bamboo fields
I realized that in order to nurture a healthy environment, we must be prepared to actively protect it. Thinking of myself as "the protector of the Taehwa River," I began making time to care for the environment around the river, doing things such as developing bamboo fields, removing waste and pruning branches of trees along the river, inviting local residents and fellow SGI-Korea members to join in.
In 2008, I began serving as chair of a local ecological restoration group with over 700 registered volunteers. Once a week, I engage in volunteer work such as picking up trash from the river, cleaning up hiking trails and recycling waste materials. I also take part in educational activities to raise awareness about environmental protection in the local community such as giving lectures at universities.
Seven years have passed since I began to take action and, as a result of our efforts, the beauty of the Taehwa River has been restored. Fish are once again swimming in its waters, and herons now also make the river their home.
I hope to continue encouraging my fellow SGI-Korea members and local residents to become involved in these activities.
picking up trashVolunteer members picking up trash
The challenge of reviving the environment requires a lot of time and effort. We don't always see immediate results, and at times, I do get frustrated and weary. However, what has kept me going in my efforts to help restore the environment are the simple words of appreciation we get from local residents. Moreover, as I chant every night upon returning home from a day of volunteer work, I feel a deep sense of fulfillment, which in turn becomes a source of energy to continue my efforts. As Nichiren Daishonin states in his writings, "If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one's own way."
In Buddhism, we uphold the principle of "oneness of self and environment," meaning that life and its environment are inseparable. It is deeply rewarding to know that the small step of deciding to do something positive, and my efforts to convey to others the spirit of coexisting with nature, have led to a revival of the environment and the lives of those around me. While it's easy to be overwhelmed by problems in our communities, each of us can do something to make a difference.
[Courtesy January 2013 SGI Quarterly]