By Ashish Virmani
I recall the words of the 20th century poet TS Eliot in his poem, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock: “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons”.
Those were precisely my feelings at one point of my life – that life was a wasteland and, as Shakespeare put it in Macbeth, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. This despite the fact that I had been born to loving parents, had had a happy family life, a wonderful education, and all the love and protection in the world. But that’s the thing about individual karma – there’s no accounting for it.
Yet, as I realise in retrospect, there was always this hunger within me – the search for something deeper than the merely superficial, for a spiritual meaning to life.
I found it at the age of 30, thanks to my mother who introduced me to Buddhism. A collective family crisis drew us to it – my father required heart surgery, my businesswoman sister’s company collapsed, and I suffered a work and personal breakdown. Only my mother acted as a powerful beacon of light and strength in this time of chaos.
Over the course of the next few years, Buddhism introduced us to a more empathetic world, a world of caring and considerate people who worked almost selflessly for other peoples’ happiness. Our inner world began to undergo a radical change as we were exposed to Buddhist concepts and perspectives, and as a result the outer world began to change favourably. My father had a successful heart surgery, my sister’s business rallied and emerged stronger than ever, and I got back smartly on the work track in my chosen field – journalism. Three people came out of the darkness thanks to our faith, and my mother’s strong prayers.
In my tenth year of living with the philosophy that the Soka Gakkai outlines, I realise that I am far happier than I ever thought that I could be (touch wood!). I have a more satisfying family relationship, a better work atmosphere, more money and a better lifestyle than I’ve ever had, and it’s all thanks to my faith.
The other thing, of course, is that my life, which never made any sense to me, has started to make sense now. Through the study of Buddhist concepts handed down since Gautama Buddha’s time, one realises that one’s life is immensely significant. My life, which before my spiritual practice had seemed like a chaotic medley of events that might have occurred out of chance or coincidence, was now anchored by a solid and true philosophy of life that produced favourable results. The Soka spirit is all about changing one’s life and the lives of the people in our environments for the better, by acting on a correct philosophy. When I noticed that the causes I made based on this philosophy produced immensely beneficial results in my life and in the lives of those I loved, I didn’t need anything further to be convinced!
The most important thing for me, however, is that I now have a valid reason for living and for the right to be alive. I have found the mission which I was searching for all my life – which lies in teaching others to be happy and showing them the path to happiness that I’ve discovered. It’s not as if there aren’t existential problems – those are there all the time – but one can surmount each and every one of those problems with the correct perspective on life, with prayer followed by correct action. While each day is a new beginning with its attendant ups and downs, I’ve now found a royal road to walk down. So why should I settle for anything less?
Ashish Virmani is a seasoned journalist who believes that he has had a second birth into spirituality and that Buddhism is the primary reason for his existence
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