I have to be honest, when I was asked to talk about my experience with Faith, a mixture of questions and doubts arose within me, tangling like a cotton wire. I could not find a central point, I could not understand where to start and where to end, how could I give a meaning to something so simple and, at the same time, so complex. Thus, I looked for the origin in myself.
Starting from myself means tracing my path with Faith, a path that started when I was a kid. I was born in Italy, precisely in a small land in Southern Italy, where catholic culture lies in the centre of each household. The home of the Pope. The habitation of a religion that surrounds every aspect of people’s lives. It is embodied everywhere: in the traditions, in the way of living, in the gestures, in the way of speaking and even in the way someone dresses. Always there. It accompanies and welcomes us since the day we are born, becoming a cultural heritage that we carry with us even if one is not so close to Faith or simply does not practice the religion.
I have carried this heritage for years. This connection was dictated by the relationship with my grandmother, the typical Southern Italian grandma, a woman with very deep Faith. It was a sort of love relationship that accompanied her for her whole life until the moment she died. I was fascinated by this deep relation to Faith that gave her the strength to overcome difficulties with courage and determination and become a role model for me.
I wanted this love story for myself. I wished to find something to hold a deep faith and believe it for real and not because this was the heritage weight I was carrying. Then, a question started to haunt my mind: Do I feel this Faith as mine?
This question became the centre of my life. My curiosity and my research spirit made me analyse what my thought and feelings were. I would dissect those thoughts and see to understand what the word “faith” meant for me, most of all, which was my Faith.
And there I go and encounter the Buddhism of the Sokka Gakkai founded on the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. I was 18 years old, and I was working in a hotel as a touristic animator. One day I heard someone chanting some words. It was a new sound for me, so unique and warm. But it all ended there. In the following years, I met other practitioners of this Buddhism. They invited me to their meetings in their house, where they would encourage each other to talk about Buddhism. They encouraged me to try it myself and chant these words, but I was sceptic. I was too rational to try something that looked somehow transcendental to me. I was fascinated, but I continued my path in trying to answer that haunting question.
Years went by, and the encounter with this religion, this life philosophy, left me something inside. It enriched me, and it gave me the opportunity to discover something new. So I decided to leave behind the rational me and get close to this Faith after a difficult and tumultuous moment in my life. I decided to try on myself what it meant to look for happiness.
Happiness: a vital condition that everyone wants to reach. A word that evokes the thoughts of a serene, peaceful life where everything goes well and where, like in fairy tales, everyone lives happily ever after.
Well, the thing that hit me was that in the Buddhism of the Soka Gakkai, happiness is not the absence of problems. On the contrary, it is the ability to look at problems as opportunities to grow, evolve and be grateful. Difficulties are the opportunities that allow you to do that little bit of what is called your human revolution.
Happiness is a constant exercise built every day through the three bases of Buddhism: Faith, practice and study.
Faith means to believe. Believe that the mystic law permeates the whole universe. A bond may be called Karma or the notorious law of cause and effect. We believe that we are one with the universe and that the individual and environment are one. We do not believe in the presence of a superior figure, of a god who decides for us, but we believe deeply that we decide for ourselves, that we are at the centre, that the way we decide to live our lives gives direction, not only to our day but to our life itself. Believing that everything comes to you for a reason. Believing that we are perfectly equipped to face any difficulty that life puts before us and overcome it, win with our own life.
Practising Buddhism concretely means chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo daily. These words represent the Mystic Law that permeates the universe. Moreover, we chant two passages from the Lotus Sutra, which are considered the most important Buddhist scriptures written between the 1st and 2nd centuries b.c. This daily practice encapsulates the rhythm of the whole universe and allows one to open up, connect and tune in to it.
The Study of Buddhism is one of the fundamental parts of the practice. This gives us the opportunity to deepen Buddhism and experience it with our own lives based on the writings of Nichiren Daishonin (the monk that founded the Lotus Sutra Buddhism in the 1200s) and the presidents of the Soka Gakkai Association such as Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (the first president), Josei Toda (second president) and Daisaku Ikeda (third president)
This is only the basis of a religion and philosophy that embraces so many aspects of human life, but this is what fascinated me and allowed me to approach a world. A complex, difficult, sometimes torturous, but beautiful and full of joys world: the world within me.
What I was able to understand from my experience is that there is nothing superior. No matter what you believe, surely it will be perfect for you, but the most important thing is just to believe and trust. The important thing is to have Faith.
“Whatever flower you are,
when your time comes, you will blossom.
a long, cold night will pass.
Even from the dreams of the night you will draw strength and nourishment.
So be patient about what happens to you
and cared for and loved
without comparing you
or wanting to be another flower,
because there is no better flower than that
which opens in the fullness of what is.
And when that happens,
you can find out
that you were dreaming
to be a flower
that had to bloom. “