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19 December, 2016

That day…I felt one with the universe

At the crack of dawn….I tip-toed out of my room, to the refugee area, adjoining my sister’s apartment. I look up at the sky – ablaze with a million, shimmering stars – no moon. Don’t know how long I stood there, blank and vacuous, except that my heart felt heavy with tears, and suddenly – I heard the hum of a chant I’ve had a rather difficult, one would say non-existent relationship with God.

I do believe in a higher intelligence that apparently runs the world, but having led a difficult life from childhood, I’ve always struggled to believe in a merciful, divine entity that would look out for me. Therefore, when I learnt about my liver cancer and the immediate need for a transplant, the initial reaction was NOT – why me? because it’s adversity has been a part of my life — but rather, okay, so what now?

I knew, unlike my sisters, I didn’t have the physical, financial, emotional, even spiritual means and resources to counter the problem, so I started disintegrating under its onerous weight. I became reckless about my health, forgetful, lethargic and clinically depressed. I often found myself picking up small issues with my octogenarian Dad, losing patience with my pre-teen daughter, and sobbing uncontrollably on phone whenever I spoke to one of my sisters, as their worlds looking so incredibly more promising than mine.

I had no will, no energy when my sister Poonam and her husband Arun took me to meet a full line up of doctors, take all kind of pathological tests, and wait passively for the cadaver donation. The ‘work up’ to the transplant sapped the little physical energy that a dysfunctional liver had left in me.

I felt at the lowest ebb of my life – alone, abandoned, unloved, uncared for. My sisters counselled that God was benevolent, I must feel gratitude, despite the odds – but all I felt was a huge, dollop of repressed anger and a vacuum growing as big in size, as the malignant tumour I was carrying on my liver.

My sisters started preparing me for the surgery mentally, emotionally and physically. But I wasn’t really concerned about those aspects. As a single earner, I was more worried about the financial implications. I felt sorry for myself. It was a hugely negative state, and I was unable to climb out of it.

This was the time when I got introduced to two members of BSG through my sisters. We met, interacted, and talked. I heard them, attended a few sessions, was impressed and started chanting. My sisters chanted more, and I believe everybody assembled here also chanted on my behalf. I felt moved. Totally strangers and they were showing their care for me. I felt humbled.

In my moment of deep despair, I found a hidden, well-spring of support in my family, friends and total strangers. They stood by me rock solid. The what’s app group ‘yes’ that my family made assigned responsibilities – who’d take appointments; who’d book lab tests; who’d follow up with the TPA for the insurance claim – and to this day, those chores remain divided and sorted.

But my time was running out, and there was still no donor in sight. Worried my sister, Poonam discussed the issue with the two BSG members and they started taking turns encouraging us, chanting with us, visiting us – and keeping our sagging morale high. They counselled that I must work on every cell in my body and implore it to repair itself with focussed chanting to create high-decibel, pro-life vibes.

Sensei says “When your determination changes everything begins to move in the direction you desire… every cell in your body orients itself in that direction”…. This is what happened with us too…. As we prepared ourselves to face this challenge with hope and courage… , we received a call from Sahyadri Hospital in Pune. Although the hospital initially ranked low on our list, it turned out to be the best choice for me.

I had an excellent team of doctors and paramedic staff. What usually takes 10-12 hours, took six hours and I was wheeled out of the operation theatre (OT) in six hours. The second day they removed the central line, then the catheter, and third day I was walking. A week later, I got discharged – and here I am sharing my story with you, three and a half months down the line.

Post surgery, I still haven’t gotton into the practice of chanting that regularly yet. But I know both my sisters non-stop during my surgery. I would not say I have developed total faith in the power of the law yet… but I definitely believe that something has turned around in my heart… initially when members would discuss anything with me and share about Sensei, I was cynical, not really believing. Then came a stage when while I heard them discuss Buddhism – I would just cry….

Today, I feel hopeful and happy when someone home visits me or tries to teach me Gongyo…. Recently a member shared with me that in Nishiren Daishonin’s Buddhism – the Correct way to practise was to “practise for one self and practise for others” …. I am determined to make an effort towards this… I am determined to read Dr. Daisaku Ikeda’s writings and understand more about the law.

The past few months appear like a nightmare, something that may have happened to another person in another life, on another planet. Not me. I talk to my liver and my other organs and feel they live in harmony.

For the first time in my life, I’ve begun to feel positive vibes flowing towards me. For the first time in my life, I feel lighter, worry-free, and loved. For the first time in my life, I want to believe. I feel a kind of softness, a protective ring around me. I feel I’ve matured and grown into a better person. More optimistic, patient, forgiving and happy.

Once, I remember, climbing out of my bed at 5 am in the morning. It was a couple of weeks after my surgery. I was recuperating at Poonam’s place. Still getting used to all the medicines, the routine pathological tests etc., I was in deep physical pain and discomfort, and felt extremely weak and vulnerable, those days.
On that particular morning, I put on my mask, socks, jacket, cap, shoe covers – the full safety gear – and got dressed for my morning walk. I stepped into the balcony and looked above.

It was a star-lit night. There were millions of stars twinkling in the dark sky. All of a sudden, I felt as if I heard the sound of chants. I can’t recall what exactly it was but it sure sounded like an energy vibration – as if the whole universe was singing in chorus. The sound rose to a crescendo and I felt tears streaming down my eyes. The experience lasted only for a few seconds, but it was my moment of bliss.

I felt so much happier, at peace and contended in that one moment of my life that I sent up one powerful prayer – let me not ever forget the memory of this moment. If only, I could live in that moment for the rest of my life! If, that moment could be stretched to eternity!

I realize that if I’ve received an extension on my life, I need to find the purpose for it. I need to find creative, useful and happy ways of adding more value to the world, I’ve been put back into. I chant, but I need to do it more rigorously now, and for others. I’ve owe to Soka Gokkai. Indeed I owe my life to the practice.