A Ship to cross the Sea of Suffering

"Real happiness is found in the struggles we undergo to realise our goals, in our efforts to move forward." Daisaku Ikeda

An experience…

I have been reading a marvelous book lately called ‘the Buddha in your Mirror’ – by Woody Hochswender, Greg Martin and Ted Morino. It has been shaping some amazing progress in my attitude and approach to faith in Buddhist philosophy.

I came across the happiness section and began to cast thought towards the crux, the pivot of change in my own life. What was it, and how was it that I could have broken through the deep depression and state of hell without hope that I’d been living in for the early years of my life?

Quite often when I am reading the teachings of Buddhism, from Shakyamuni, Nichiren Daishonin, and Daisaku Ikeda my heart and mind simultaneously align. Gaining clarity that in order to break through and experience happiness or fulfillment  in life one must work for the happiness of others. We must awaken to the inherent and unlimited potential in our own lives in order to create change for ourselves and for our environment. To make a difference – To live with purpose.

I’d like to share this passage from the book before I move on.  It touches on the importance of individuals reclaiming a sense of value and purpose in their lives.

“We are strong, and we are weak, none of us are totally one of the other. Simply put, we are strong when we have something important to do, and we are weak when we have nothing meaningful to do. The weakness we observe in those whose lives are ruled by obsessions and addictions is the symptom of a deeply rooted purposelessness that permeates our society.” TBIYM Page 117.

So what happened in my own life that allowed me to create tremendous change? What was it before Buddhism that enabled me to start to look at the path of self improvement?

I could pin point the first real opportunity I had – Which was volunteering for a company called Trade Aid.  A not for profit organisation based on the values and principles of fair trade, restoring dignity and human rights. Empowering producers in developing countries through trade justice.

At that time in my life I was 19 years old and had truly lost faith in humanity. I had lost my grip and perspective in what I was actually living for. Why did I have this life if all that I had was pain and suffering?

Through my psychologist at the time I had been offered a voluntary shift at the shop on Friday mornings from 9am -1pm. She knew the manager and was doing her best to reintroduce me to society.

Although I had accepted the opportunity I was terrified of committing to something. It had been over three years since I’d been able to hold a job, or daily task that involved leaving my house without being under the influence of recreational drugs. A story for another day perhaps.

How was it that I could maintain my responsibility to such a ‘big’ cause at the time?

Many sources of strength and encouragement come to mind. Without whom I don’t believe I could have welled up enough belief in myself to keep contributing even such a small amount.

My psychologist at the time had been kind enough to help me into the position, she was a constant source of push towards productivity.

My partner at the time believed in me so much, that I felt incredibly supported and encouraged to just give it a shot and do my best.

And lastly the store manager took me in, trusted me despite my appearance and background. She saw something in me that encouraged her to share the knowledge and passion of her job without limits. She was the most amazing woman, and will always be someone I’ll think to when in times of doubt. Her belief and trust in me was phenomenal. Her passion for making a difference to peoples lives she’d never met absolutely blew my mind. Her stories of traveling to meet producers of our products uplifted me and gave me hope that the work we were doing really did impact significantly in their lives.

All of these factors led me to the fuel supply of my own passions and determinations to make a ‘real’ and tangible difference to the world around me.

I found that although at the beginning of my journey I fought against many obstacles including the task of getting up in the morning, battling the anxiety of having to leave my home and the necessity of facing and serving people I’d never met before.

I quickly came to realise that I was no longer getting up for myself, but that I was contributing positively to my local and global community in a way that made me feel proud. It made me feel like I had finally found a purpose in life, and I had to keep returning, to keep doing my bit – It gave me a reason to get out of bed and to contribute in a way I’d never been able to before.

I became less about how I was feeling and more about the people whose stories I began to learn, and the stories I could share with others that made them realise that they too could contribute to a better world.

I began to wonder, how is it that we can live on this planet and feel lonely, alone? Isolated, unworthy – hopeless? how is it that I spent my entire teenage years avoiding people, avoiding responsibility when as a global citizen I have a role to play in making the world and my country a better, safer and fairer place? As do you.

It was through my work with Trade Aid that my eyes and heart expanded to the reality of our global connectedness. An interconnection that is inseparable.  I could go into how fair trade changes lives, but the message I want to share is deeper than that.

Through education, and through friends who encourage us to take steps towards actions we think are impossible – we as individuals; I as an individual came to realise that we all have gifts and strengths to share with one another. And most importantly – TOGETHER.

Another wee passage from the Buddha in your mirror book I’d like to share.

“No one exists in isolation. We are connected to parents who conceived and raised us, to teachers who have educated us, and to friends who have encouraged us. We are also linked to people we have never met, who harvest and distribute our food, manufacture our clothing, write the books that shape our thinking – in fact, we are connected to everyone whose efforts help hold together the fabric of society.”

It is through connection, our humanity and dialogue that we come to find purpose in our lives.

A realisation that we are part of a global society that transcends but does not forget that we are individuals all sharing the quest for happiness.

My story doesn’t end there, in fact this sharing was the beginning of a new life. A new self I never knew existed.

Buddhism would help me to unlock the rest…


“Could there ever be a more wonderful story than your own?”  – Nichiren Daishonin

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