Breaking Open the Dam of Truth
I was a journalist on an aircraft carrier in the summer of 2005 during operation Iraqi Freedom. My ship was active in one of the very last combat missions before the war was officially declared over. Stress on the ship was through the roof. I almost collapsed one day from the heat. I became dehydrated and those days I smoked heavily. Coming back from a cigarette break, I saw my boss and I remember feeling dizzy. Still, I tried to appear like I was fine. My boss, who was my fierce rival, noticed my fatigue and pale color. She took me to the hospital despite our conflicts. Everyone was stressed out on that ship, but thankfully we still looked out for each other.
After leaving the Gulf, I made multiple plans to get out early of the military, but they were delayed or denied because of protocol and orders. Once I finally left and came back to stay in the United States, I would find myself in even worse conditions.
The stress of living at a moment’s notice and the constant rush of adrenaline from aboard a warship put me on alert even in comfortable settings at home. Oddly enough, my biggest hardship became that everything was too easy for me to handle. It was as if I had been squeezed of every drop and then left out to dry. I was unprepared for how difficult a transition it would be to become a civilian.
I just thought, “If I get a new job this suffering would end.”
This proved to be false even after I became a newswriter for a tabloid in San Diego. Though I enjoyed this work in the entertainment field, still the suffering persisted. And persisted.
I had been going through such a very tough period in my life that I moved back home. I was going to church every week but could not find answers there that were fulfilling or related to my suffering. My parents had been open during my childhood and allowed me to choose between the faiths of Catholicism or Baptism.
Faith in Christianity Lost
In boot camp, I was very religious. It worked for me during those months of being yelled at and undergoing the rigorous physical training. But when I got out, the same prayers didn’t work. Even running with all my might didn’t work.
It was at this most trying time for me in my life that I began to lose faith in Christianity. So the day finally came, and I made the decision to give up and not listen anymore at the church I grew up in.
It felt like believing in God did not apply to me anymore. The core of what was troubling me was not addressed by Christianity. Why would God punish me with such cruelty I felt that I did not deserve? How can I be a good man and persevere following these practices when prayer can betray me in my moment of need? I just could not understand why God was doing these things to me. What more do you want out of me? Such questions troubled me deeply. I felt they were unanswerable and buried myself in studies at a local community college.
It was there that after just a couple of weeks of losing all hope that I encountered the depth of Buddha’s wisdom. I had always been curious with Buddhism, but this time I was able to listen and grasp it more fully. For the first time, I learned the Law of Cause and Effect, and I realized it was the answer I had been looking for. I began to feel it deeply in my bones.
I understood that things that had happened to me because of what I had done. This made perfect sense to me. I must have planted the cause of my misfortune somewhere in my past to harvest these results. I started to see things that I had done in my life and the realizations started taking place. The anxiety of having to work all the time was indescribable, and yet now it had meaning. Buddhism made me realize that I had done something to earn that effect. There was no one to blame but myself.
This is how I came to meet Shin Watanabe on that campus. He just came right up to me that first day and asked me if I had thought about the purpose of life. I could tell he was born in Japan from his accent, but I was more dumbfounded by the timing of his question. I agreed to listen to his presentation because I was on a break between classes and his friendly nature.
Over the Language Barrier
Immediately, I found some spelling errors and mistakes in what he was showing to me from my training in writing. However, I also knew from communications that the most important part of writing is the message, and there was very deep content staring up at me from the page. He barely spoke any English, and I knew only broken phrases in Japanese. Despite this obstacle, I would ask him questions, and he always came back with the answer the next week. We developed a strong friendship and met often. From those presentations and the lectures of Takamori Sensei, I was inspired and have been working on 17 presentations for more than a year with the help of many more missionaries.
That’s how my understanding of Buddhism has grown. How fortunate I am to know that none of my suffering was in vain. Now I have a real labor to work on, spreading Buddhism to Americans. I am so grateful for Amida Buddha to lifting me from that desperate situation and giving me a mission. The slow trickle of Buddhism made its way across the world into my heart, and my dream is to break open the dam to flood the English-speaking community with its infinite wisdom.
Felix Crosser, Los Angeles
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #08, Feeling the Law of Cause & Effect Deeply in My Bones
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