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The Sutra That Saved Me

Nichiren practitioner Johnny Edward Dean Jr. displays on how his every day observe and chanting the Odaimoku from the Lotus Sutra helped him navigate psychological well being challenges through the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a time in my life, nothing was going as I anticipated it to. I used to be residing in Chicago, Illinois, going to high school for a second grasp’s diploma, freelancing, consulting, operating a rental unit, and dealing to construct a non-profit group within the metropolis. It was hectic, nevertheless it appeared snug on the time. Even although I used to be attempting to maintain my psychological well being by taking remedy for despair and ADHD, I used to be burning out and changing into overly stimulated. When the Covid-19 pandemic surfaced in 2020, all my objectives and so-called alternatives vanished one after the other.

One night time, I used to be sitting alone in my residence, newly single and not too long ago fired from my job. I made a decision to name a cousin residing in Tucson, Arizona, packed up two suitcases, and left Chicago for Tucson with the hopes of constructing a change. I quickly found that I had no entry to psychological well being care help in Tucson, and the difficulties of adjusting my medical health insurance have been tough to navigate. Within a number of weeks, I started listening to voices from the partitions. This expertise coupled with my despair and ADHD was terrifying. I heard voices creeping round me saying that they might discover and kill me, and that it doesn’t matter what I did, I’d fail and die. These auditory hallucinations made me really feel like there was an audio gadget in my head, or somebody following me and hacking my telephone, or I used to be caught in some psycho horror movie. I used to be paranoid and remoted. How may I take note of the current second underneath these situations?

When we chant, it’s like our mouths turn out to be the palms of the buddha.

I turned to Nichiren bishop Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin, for recommendation, who jogged my memory to have religion and to make my observe the muse of my life, by referencing Nichiren’s writing Reply to Kyo’o. In this writing, Nichiren sends encouragement to Kyo’o, Shijo Kingo’s toddler daughter who grew to become severely in poor health. As a type of encouragement, Nichiren writes to Kyo’o, “Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?”

The Thirteenth-century Buddhist priest Nichiren Daishonin held a sheer dedication to unfold the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, regardless of enduring a lifetime of hardships. In my very own struggles with psychological well being, his story has served as inspiration, showcasing how a agency resolve in a single’s observe will help overcome obstacles.

In Nichiren’s writing Nakatsukasa Saemonnojo-do-no (Reply to Nakatsukasa Saemon-no-jo), he explains sickness to a religious follower and samurai, Shijo Kingo. There are two sorts of sickness, he says: sickness of the physique and sickness of the thoughts. Nichiren tells Shijo that it doesn’t require a buddha to treatment sickness of the physique, which I see as true, as we’ve got skillful docs working inside their specialised craft for these in want. However, it may well require greater than a skillful physician to heal the thoughts. Instead, says Nichiren, curing the sickness of our minds requires our every day observe.

Those who uphold the Lotus Sutra imagine that we’re all buddhas in our current physique. Furthermore, even should you don’t imagine the Lotus Sutra, however rejoice on the listening to of the Odaimoku, the advantage obtained is big.

Despite the every day hardships of life, our religion stays sturdy in our observe. Nevertheless, we generally discover ourselves overwhelmed by the complexities of life, which might negatively influence our psychological well being. The inevitable overwhelm of life, coupled with rising charges of prescribed psychological well being remedy within the United States, allude to a nationwide psychological well being disaster. In 2020, The National Alliance on Mental Illness shared that one in 5 adults within the U.S. — roughly 52.9 million individuals — have skilled psychological sickness.

Human becomers, rising in direction of the attractive second wherein we will all turn out to be buddhas.

There are two largely unrecognized teams dealing with psychological well being points within the United States: Black and Hispanic males. In Tori DeAngelis’ article titled “Black Men’s Mental Health Matters,” she states that solely 26.4% of Black and Hispanic males ages 18 to 44 who expertise every day anxiousness assaults and despair are doubtless to make use of psychological well being companies, in comparison with the 45.4% of non-Hispanic white males who make the most of these companies. According to the American Psychiatric Association, just one in three Black adults who want psychological well being care companies obtain it, indicating that whereas Black and Hispanic males do make the most of some companies, it’s tough to achieve entry. Overall, there exists an absence of well being suppliers recognizing the distinctive contextual variations of Black and Hispanic sufferers.

When my psychological well being waned, I found that getting critical with my observe helped. In the Nichiren observe, we chant the Odaimoku: Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. When we chant, it’s like our mouths turn out to be the palms of the buddha, and our minds turn out to be the thoughts of the buddha. When I used to be struggling the toughest, I received up, and I chanted, even because the voices in my head droned on. I chanted earlier than I went to mattress, and listened to recordings of the Odiamoku whereas I slept. On the times I felt like giving up, I had my sangha supporting me and giving me love. I didn’t chant for something particular, however to mature from the state of affairs I used to be in. I submerged myself within the Odaimoku. Over time, the voices settled to mere whispers each time I received anxious. The state of affairs didn’t change, however my view did: I wasn’t afraid anymore. My religion was strengthened and polished by this harsh state of affairs — as concern dissolved, knowledge grew.

My journey isn’t over. There remains to be a lot for me to be taught and overcome, however I share my story to encourage others to maintain their heads held excessive. If you chant the Odiamoku, preserve chanting it. If one other Buddhist observe works for you, I counsel you retain at it. Remember that ultimately, we’re all human becomers, rising in direction of the attractive second wherein we will all turn out to be buddhas. In life, there shall be hassle, however practitioners could make “good trouble,” because the Civil Rights icon and late U.S. Representative John Lewis known as it, as a result of there are political points at hand that require our assist as bodhisattvas. Trust in your observe.

It is promised by Shakyamuni Buddha to Star-King Flower in Chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra that “this sutra saves all living beings.” No matter what state of affairs you might be in, interact within the observe that connects you to the cosmic regulation. If the end result seems dire, dreadful, or some type of doubt nestles upon your coronary heart, that’s the second when the Odaimoku faucets you and reminds you that you’re the hopes and goals of the enslaved, the persecuted, the misplaced, the ignored, the forgotten, and the oppressed — so rise!


This article just isn’t supposed to offer or exchange remedy choices for individuals who might endure from medical despair or different types of psychological sickness.

If you’re in want of assist, you’ll be able to name the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to entry free, 24/7 confidential service for individuals in suicidal disaster or emotional misery, or these round them. The Lifeline offers assist, info, and native assets. You can even textual content the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 free of charge 24/7 assist with a educated disaster counselor straight away.

For associated readings, view our archive of Buddhist views on psychological well being.


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