True life story and testimony of
a former long-time devout worshipper of Gohonzon
(Her name is omitted here for the sake of privacy.)
Compiled by Vachiravan Vanlaeiad
I am the eldest daughter born into a Chinese-Thai family named Sim in a district of Thonburi (which is located on the west side of Bangkok – across the Chao Phraya River). I have one younger sister and two younger brothers. My paternal grandfather had migrated from the mainland China. And because of my ancestors’ hard-working nature and fierce-fighting spirit, my parents had inherited a very big plot of land on which orange orchards were grown.
My parents were very religious, adopting both Chinese beliefs and Buddhism as our family’s religion. They were very strict and serious in worshipping Chinese deities as well as our Sim family ancestors, both in China and in Thailand. At the same time my mother was a devout Buddhist, regularly giving alms to Buddhist monks. So I had to strictly follow their religious practices. Despite this religious obedience, however, I had felt there’s still a big hollow located deep inside my heart. And since I was the eldest daughter in a traditional Chinese family, I had worked hard since at a very young age to help my parents, in our orchards and in our house.
But no matter how hard I worked, I felt that my parents loved and cared for me much less than for my two younger brothers or perhaps they didn’t love me at all. For the Chinese family, sons are much more valued than daughters. Therefore I had been deprived of parental love since the day I was born. This might be the main reason I was so precocious.
I remember when I was only 6 years old; an old man living near our house had died. He was very kind to me. I was so shock and distressed that I started thinking about death and the meaning of life. I also started reading a lot of books about life and Buddhism. Although I was discouraged by my father regarding my formal education attainment, I had fought so hard to be able to get my high-school diploma and later in life my Bachelor’s degree from an open university in Bangkok.
I have been an incorrigible serious thinker. For when I was only a teenager of 17 years of age, one of my nephews was ordained as a Buddhist monk despite being still very wayward (for he had just made a young girl pregnant!), and their parents had paid obeisance to him. I wondered at that time why people had to pay great respect to Buddhist monks just because they wore yellow robes. In my opinion, the word “monk” means the one who practices righteousness. And in other occasions, I saw my mother giving alms to monks with a lot of good things and these things were so superfluous that some of the monks’ attendants had used them as playing things! Some monks had even studied astrology and practiced fortune telling, which was not Buddhism at all. I thus focused myself on reading the teachings of Buddhist monks such as Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Panyanandha Bhikkhu and Luang Phor Chah. These three monks have been widely and highly respected. After studying a lot of these Buddhist teachings, I had realized that the concept of attaining Nirvana is the way to help only oneself (which is selfish!) and consequently leaves all burdens to others. So I concluded then that this was not the path I would take. Therefore, I had continued searching for principles of belief to make life balance, worldly and spiritually, in order to be able to help both myself and others. For helping myself and others was my life’s only goal.
After finishing high-school educational level from a renowned school in Bangkok, I had started working with the Pakistani-Bangladeshi Airlines. But when I was later working at a tour company, I had met my present husband. He was a cute Japanese guy who was clean and gentle and polite (which was my type!). So in 1982 I had married this Japanese man and went to stay with him in Japan.
While living in Japan and being only a house wife, I had known a woman who had left Christianity to be a follower of Nichiren Buddhism (a Mahayana Buddhism generally founded by the 13th-century Japanese Buddhist reformer Nichiren). [Anyone wants to know more about Nichiren Buddhism, please click on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nichiren_Buddhism]. Because of loneliness caused by being a new comer in Japan, I had converted to this religion for I wanted to make more friends. And I loved going to their neighborhood discussion meetings for people there were kind and hospitable.
Their teaching concept of living for oneself and others was in accordance with my intended life’s goal. So I had made the decision to thoroughly study this new religion. However, since I had made an affirmation that I would not follow other religions except Buddhism. And this religion teaches the principle of cause and effect and that everything happens because of karma or action: in body, in mind, and in speech. That is, doing good deed reaping good and doing bad deed reaping bad, which has already been proven by science. I thus had attended the formal acceptance ritual and I was then given a sacred sheet called Gohonzon which is an inscription of the ten spiritual realms of existence, written in Chinese and Sanskrit, with “Nam(u) Myoho Renge Kyo” in the center. The Gohonzon is described as an object for focus of devotion acknowledged by most followers of Nichiren Buddhism. And the chanting of the phrase “Nam(u) Myoho Renge Kyo” is the basic practice for revealing one’s Buddha nature in daily life. The chanting of this essential phrase is also a common practice among all followers of Nichiren Buddhism.
Although my husband and I had already married for five years but I’d not conceived yet. I was advised by other peer followers to pray so hard, asking for a child, to the Gohonzo. So I started to pray for a child with intelligence and a good heart. Not long after that I was pregnant and finally delivered a very cute and smart and nice daughter. This had also confirmed that I was on the right path. My other prayers had also been answered. However, the only request I’d been praying for for long years was not granted. That is, having healthy relationship with my own family (especially with my husband).
When I had married my husband in 1981 and moved to live with him in Japan, I had not known him well. Due to my inexperience, I’d seen only the outer characteristics of him. He’s a very nice, gentle, polite, and responsible man. But when I lived with him, the true nature of conservative Japanese man had been revealed. For all my life, although I was raised in a Thai-Chinese family, I’d been given enough freedom to do and think and speak for myself. After marrying him, especially after living with him in his homeland, I’d realized the strict and limited roles of Japanese wife. Moreover, I’d been deprived of love and care from my own family; I’d placed great expectation on my marriage life. But all I’d received was disappointments for I’d not known my Japanese husband well, especially his nature of extreme reservedness and conservativeness.
But I’d also been raised up to be a faithful and dutiful wife. And for all ten long years of being a Nichiren Buddhist, my fervent and incessant prayer for mutual love and understanding in my family had never been answered. During those long years, I’d clung to my hopeful patience, trying to console myself that my husband was a family man and my only daughter was cute and smart and nice.
After ten long years of being a faithful and loyal Nichiren Buddhist, there’re rumors about financial mismanagements and also news about conflicts between the monks and the mentors constantly spreading throughout Japan while I lived there. This had made me tired of this religion as well as its followers. Some of its members were politicians, so we had to participate in their election campaigns, resulting in us being accused of being established as a political base.
Then in 1995, my daughter and I came back to Thailand after having lost my second child. I then had to go to work to support my daughter and myself while my husband was still in Japan working with a company there. However, despite all rumors and scandals, I’d made the decision to continue my beliefs and practices in Nichiren Buddhism. I had opened my house to spread Nichiren Dharma and there’re many people having been converted and then brought to the SGT or Sōka Gakkai Thailand (the Value Creation Association of Thailand which has adopted teaching principles of Nichiren Buddhism. Please click on www.sgt.or.th for further reading) because of my continuous and fervent persuasion. This success had led to my being appointed as a teacher. I had since been determined and committed myself to study this religion more deeply. I had never missed even a training course or a discussion meeting.
Then in 2009, I had read a Thai Dharma sheet which was translated from the Japanese, and found out that the chanting book had been shortened into a tiny one. There’re also other changes too: the SGT’s management had been changed according to the directions given by Daisaku Ikeda. Also the teachings and rituals had been greatly diverted from the original Nichiren Shōshū’s teachings. I couldn’t accept these changes so I felt extremely distressed and disappointed.
Since then I had been so disheartened that I started to be interested in Christianity. This new religious interest had been ignited by a Thai Christian dentist long time ago. At that time there’s a former follower having disappeared from our discussion meeting and chanting group. So I had been assigned to confront her and then bring her back to us. After seeing her I had found out that she’d already converted from Nichiren Buddhism to Christianity. I asked for the reasons of her conversion. She said she had piece of mind. Even though deep in my heart I wanted to convince her back to us, but I instead told her to keep on her new path if she was really happy. She then gave me the New Testament Bible as well as many CDs about Dr Varun Laohaprasit (a well-known brain surgeon based in Washington State, USA)’s sermons and VCDs featuring stories about Jesus Christ and the Bible. When I watched these VCDs I had cried so hard, feeling a great pity towards Jesus when he was crucified and suffered on the cross. After crying for a while while seeing the movie, I had unconsciously knelt down, saying: “Oh God, You had to do these things and died for me. I thank you. I believe You are great and nobody could do like You did. Thank you, God. Amen!”
Despite this, I still had no interest in going to church. However, I still chanted Nam(u) Myoho Renge Kyo and prayed by rote as I had been doing for more than ten years. But this time I had not anymore been so zealous in this path. I had instead taken all my free time reading the Bible. And after reading the Bible for the whole year and during this time my friend who gave me the Bible had constantly prayed so hard for me and called to persuade me to go to her church. Also during this time I still had not clung to the Nichiren Buddhism as fervently as before, I thus felt very guilty. So I had eventually returned all the CDs and the Bible to her and went back to the former routine of chanting and praying to the Gohonzo.
However, in January 2012, I felt so discouraged and lonely once more (despite living with my husband and daughter) that I didn’t have the heart to work anymore. Then on 14 February, I thought of calling this friend of mine to ask for the Bible and CDs from her again, but she had called me first to tell me of the news about Dr Varun’s revival meeting which was to be held on 26 February. I had told her that I couldn’t go for I had to attend my former high school’s reunion party on that day. After hanging up the phone and after finishing dressing myself so beautifully in order to go to work, I had read the Bible for an hour and then listened to Dr Varun’s sermons in CD. Then followed by reading the testimonies both of Dr Varun’s and of Kamjon Chao-rat’s, who was a former Senator and staunch follower of Luang Ta Maha Bua (one of the late most respected Buddhist monks), and had used to host a radio program to raise funds for building Buddhist temples throughout Thailand.
Then on that day, 14 February 2012, I’d realized that many competent medical doctors as well as various great professionals had shared their common belief in this Christian God. Therefore, while I was listening to one of Dr Varun’s sermons from beginning to end, which is always followed by the sinner’s prayer led by Dr Varun himself, I had knelt down on the floor, verbally accepting Jesus Christ into my heart (following the leading of Dr Varun). Then I had called my friend and told her that I would go to church the coming Sunday, 19 February.
On that eventful and impressive Sunday, I had been prayed over by being lightly hand-laid-on by Dr. Varun’s wife Pastor Dararat, in order to lead me doing the sinner’s prayer once more. I would never forget the experience I’d received while encountering with God and being anointed by His Holy Spirit: I felt my heart so light like gentle water currents being blown over by gentle breeze, resulting in my unprecedented peace overwhelming my whole self. I’d stood still laughing uncontrollably. And while standing forgetting myself, I’d realized that I was the only one standing while others around me had all lied down on the floor. I thus slowly and gradually lied down on the floor for a long moment until hearing the sounds of others sitting or standing up. All of my life being a Nichiren Buddhist I had been chanting and praying for long hours and most of the time without peace of mind as a result. But this new and wonderful experience I received had been nearly an effortless doing on my part. If you want to taste this experience of heaven on earth, just believe and have faith in God. And His teachings are not too difficult to follow and are summarized in only 2: (1) Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and (2) Love your neighbors as yourself.
When I came home that evening, I was so surprised that my highly conservative and reserved husband had descended from his room upstairs greeting me with these unheard of sentences, “We’d better go to Japan for we’ve never been there for many years now.” After recovering from shock and amazement, I answered him, “Why don’t we go to Chiang Mai instead?” And we all went to Chiang Mai.
After having wholeheartedly converted to Christianity, I’d absolutely renounced all things of Nichiren Buddhism: the Gohonzon; the chanting of “Nam(u) Myoho Renge Kyo “; etc. I’ve been even more zealous spreading the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as persuading many people to church. As a result there’re now at least three families having accepted Christ and regularly attending church.
According to serious warnings that very bad things would happen to the one who rejects the worshiping of, or renounces, the Gohonzon: his/her own head would be smashed into 7 pieces; he/she would surely and eternally be in hell; his/her life would be damaged and devastated to the point of death; etc. So after I’d come to know that my God is the greatest and most powerful, I then prayed to renounce all these curses. And since then I have lived the best life I’d never known before in my whole life of 55 years old. That is, I who had been deprived of love since childhood has now been able to love and give to people unreservedly and unconditionally; my relationship with my husband and daughter has been improving day by day, resulting in increasing mutual love and understanding; my health is much better than before; my finances have been constantly, abundantly, and miraculously provided; my husband has already opened his heart accepting Jesus Christ as His Helper and Savoir; despite this present economic slow-down in Thailand and all over the world, God has blessed me with a brand new car to be used in the services of my church as well as of my brothers and sisters in Christ; and last but not least, I don’t fear death any more for I know that Jesus has already prepared a place for me in heaven after I leave this planet earth.
Now I have dedicated my whole life to God by taking a full-time Master’s Degree Bible course at the ARB’s (formerly TES’s). I pray to God that I would be used by him to lead as many people as possible to be blessed with the above blessings I’ve received, or even much more than I’ve received, both in this life and the life eternal.@