This post is my experience of practising Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism so far. At the time of writing, I had been practicing for about 11 months.

Some history

It was from one of my aunts that I had first heard of Nichiren Buddhism in 2012. She had been struggling with a major health issue which, according to her, mystically got resolved. However, it was only in August 2013 that I got inspired by a close friend who was my age to start my journey as an active Buddhist.

Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t have any major problem which compelled me to take up this faith. I’ve generally been spiritually inclined and have dabbled in a few disciplines for the past few years. I’ve tried practicing Yoga, Vipassna, and teachings from the Bhagvad Gita at various points in time.

A lot of doubt

When I joined SGI, I came with my fair share of skepticism and mental baggage. I had a million questions. How could chanting a simple phrase, reciting a passage from an ancient scripture in a language I couldn’t understand, possibly help me realize the true meaning of life? However, I knew that the deepest mysteries of life cannot be understood in a matter of days, so I believed a couple of close friends who also practiced, and persisted.

I chanted regular diamoku, beginning from 5 mins a day, and slowly increasing my appetite. I didn’t chant towards any specific goals – I prayed for my general well being and happiness of my friends and family. And I prayed to become a better person.

Gradually, my prayers shifted to my workplace. It must’ve been because I generally give importance to work above anything else. I chanted to achieve certain goals at work. Such a thing was new because I used to think that living for one’s selfish desires is foolish, always wondering why other members in faith did so. However, I realised I was not different. Each time I met with a success, I added another item to the list.

Also, I always had doubts, uptil May 2014, about the mystic nature of the law. I was never sure whether it was my hard work which led to good results or the Law which helped create the right circumstances. Small miracles happened almost every month – I completed every responsibility entrusted to me at work – even roles I had never done before. I was growing professionally. I chanted for my mother’s health and to take care of her health and it happened – she became healthier.

When things take a new turn

It was in Feb 2014, when I converted a client at work and got a promotion, that things took a new turn.

This client was pushy and performance driven. He wanted results, no matter what. My organisation was lax and chilled out. It had not delivered any great work in any other account. I however, worked hard and slowly, took on more work that I could handle. The client soon realised that our team was new to the role so he started questioning whether we were capable enough for the job they had paid us for.

I fervently chanted for ideas to market their website. There were several seemingly unsurmountable challenges. It was a startup with no goodwill or market exposure. There were no marketing case studies to learn or copy from. Especially for startups. We had a very, very tight budget and virtually no experience. Neither did anyone else at my agency.

Fortunately, we hit upon a great campaign idea – something which had a “viral” nature. Our clients had been singing “viral, viral, viral” from day 1, not realising that you cannot manufacture a viral campaign. But I was wrong. You can do it. Even against all odds.

We came up with the idea of Breaking Stereotypes. It was actually quite simple and the idea came out during a brainstorming session when Shirin, my partner in crime offhandedly remarked that we needed to send a message about Delhi men. She said – “Yeah, its not like all men from Delhi are creeps. You know, I’m from Delhi and I’m not a rapist.” It was the a-ha moment.

Indians (humans in general) are fond of stereotyping and within Delhi, one can spot a 100 stereotypes. Our plan was to make people think about this habit and get them to question it through a fun photo campaign using real people holding whiteboards with catchy taglines. Some of the initial ones we cracked were:

1. I’m from Delhi and I’m not a rapist.

2. I’m from UP and I’m not a goonda.

3. I’m from the North East and I’m not chinki.

4. I’m a punjabi but I don’t always eat butter chicken/drink patiala pegs.

5. I’m a muslim and I’m not a terrorist.

6. I’m have short hair but I’m not a lesbian.

7. I’m from Gurgaon and I know how to drive.

8. I’m from Delhi and I like Bombay.

And so on…The idea was to be local and humorous.

Now all we had to do was execute the idea, which again turned out to be difficult.

We (a two man team with a hired photographer with little experience in such marketing work) had to execute a 100 photoshoots, all over Delhi, within 2 weeks.

An ambitious goal.

And I had to take care of my existing roles at work. It sucked the juice out of me. I kept chanting, but almost gave up several times. I took guidance from Chinmay, Harish, and other senior leaders and they all told me to have faith, chant more, study more and visit more. And not give up. I persisted. Everyday the client called us, telling us that the campaign is not working, his money might have been wasted, they want more results, more reach. I became anxious, hit several mood swings and also tasted depression. It was quite painful. I actually went mental dealing with this. There were many times when I wanted to quit and run away from the madness. But somehow I didn’t. Throughout the struggle, my friends and family supported me and told me even if I failed, it wouldn’t matter. I had tried hard enough.

It was a month long journey which felt like the Daishonin’s journey to Sado Island. When you have walked 11 long days bracing all sorts of difficulties, you lose the bigger picture and feel like giving up. But you have to walk till the 12th day to appreciate the moon over the valley on the other side. Otherwise its a waste. Keeping this story in mind, I walked.

And one day, things turned just around. Even though I personally came to a point when success or failure didn’t matter. We had completed the campaign to the best of our ability.

Yes. That's me participating in my own movie. Hitchcock style.
Yes. That’s me participating in my own movie. Hitchcock style.
breaking stereotypes
Some pictures from the campaign.

But mysteriously, we achieved all the desired goals. All of them. I wanted to drive 5000 registrations to the website by 15th May, and it happened. An unknown man, someone who noone in our or the client’s organisation, knew made our entire campaign viral. Suddenly everyone was talking about it. If some of you are active on social media, you might have heard of it – #breakingstereotypes. Colleagues in my organisation were thrilled. Everyone congratulated me and my team. Sabki bolti band ho gayi. In fact, the Gohonzon ended up giving me much more than I had wanted – the campaign got covered in almost all major newspapers and media outlets. Industry folks called up my boss and congratulated our team. We suddenly got a host of business leads and everywhere our team went, they discussed the campaign.

The end result

I have changed emotionally and spiritually after this experience. It took a lot out of me. I was burned out after the campaign. However, my faith in the practice has increased.

Someone has said that when your composure finally returns and you are able to evaluate the experience, its almost as if it happened to somebody else because you’re calm and detached.

Sensei’s always told us the value of struggling and challenging ourselves. It’s only when we’re in a world of struggles and difficulty do we actually get the opportunity to do something really magical. Its the bad times, the pushy clients, the tough boss, the unlucky life circumstances which help us to polish ourselves and truly bring out the best in ourselves.

I have realised that if you work hard enough, and persist long enough, you can do anything. To keep yourself going, you need to have strong faith.

I’m still a long, long way from being indestructibly happy from within. I still harbour doubts in the mystic law from time to time. But I continue to practice with enthusiasm, praying that I’m able to really inspire those around me through my personal experience and proof. I still have to develop the ichinen to really understand Sensei’s heart and help promote Kosen Rufu. But at least I have a direction.

I would like to end by urging all of you to really look within and understand your mission in life. Please pray very hard to the Gohonzon for all your wishes to come true. Nothing is impossible. I will pray that all of us can continue developing and deepening our faith and practice so that we can help spread infinite joy wherever we go.

My next mission

This experience has really increased my self confidence and belief in my own abilities. Shortly after finishing this campaign, I decided to quit my job and move back home with the goal of transforming my family business and with it, many of my family members who are lost in the world of pleasure. I want to really inspire them to take up faith and change their lives. I’m shifting back to my hometown and I hope to start a new chapter there in the future. It’s going to be a difficult journey, but armed with the power of the Lotus Sutra, I am quite sure of victory.

Thank you for patiently reading this experience.