Pioneer Spirit in Whitehorse Yukon Territory
By Johanna Goossens, Whitehorse
Young Women’s District Leader
I was born in France to a family that practised Nichiren Buddhism, and I grew up close to the border of Switzerland near Geneva. I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo through the Soka Gakkai Young Women’s Group fife and drums corps, called kotekitai.
I would like to share my experience in faith based on the five eternal guidelines of the Soka Gakkai: 1) Faith for a harmonious family; 2) Faith for each person to become happy; 3) Faith for surmounting obstacles; 4) Faith for health and long life; and 5) Faith for absolute victory. These five eternal guidelines of the Soka Gakkai are very meaningful in my life
Three years ago, I came to the Yukon Territory to join my partner, Maxime, who also practises Nichiren Buddhism and who had arrived one year before for his work. When I arrived, I suffered from feeling isolated, so I chanted a lot and prayed for faith for achieving happiness. Step by step, Maxime and I challenged ourselves to open a new path for kosen-rufu in Whitehorse and to build the first steps in actualizing our mentor, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s vision for kosen-rufu here. Together, we created the first discussion meeting in Whitehorse and decided to call our group Galloping Horse. Through challenging myself to share Buddhism with others, and through our prayers for Bodhisattvas of the Earth to emerge, the number of participants at our discussion meetings slowly increased. However, with all these efforts, I started to feel tired and found it difficult to keep organizing discussion meetings. I started to chant for faith for overcoming obstacles, as I could feel obstacles trying to stop me—both from inside and out. When I started to chant in this way, a young women’s member from Vancouver came to Whitehorse to visit her family. She really encouraged us and we were rejuvenated to organize and schedule discussion meetings. Shortly after, her family from India arrived here and joined us for discussion meetings. Now other practitioners from Vancouver and Japan have also moved to Whitehorse, helping to establish the foundation of our group.
At the beginning of July 2017, I was chanting to go to Japan to attend the SGI training course. However, all the participants were confirmed so it wasn’t possible. I decided to chant with faith for absolute victory and planned to go to Japan nonetheless, with the spirit to seek my mentor’s heart. Eventually, although I could not attend the training course, I had a wonderful trip. I created my own personal conference, where I visited Japan and met amazing friends. I realized that the relationship with our mentor only comes from our own decision to respond to his vow to create worldwide kosen-rufu.
This was not the only benefit that came from this trip. I also renewed my faith for a harmonious family. I went to the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in Tokyo to renew my vow for kosen-rufu on July 7. This was a very significant day for me, as it marked the birthday of my aunt, Geneviève, who, together with my mother had brought this practice into our family 40 years ago. Geneviève passed away in February 2016 after battling illness and prolonging her life with an undefeated spirit. On this day when I renewed my vow, Maxime and I received a positive answer to the offer we had made to purchase a house in Whitehorse. This is another important step for the kosen-rufu movement in Whitehorse, as this house will be a home where we can host meetings and welcome our friends to chant.
My family has faced serious health obstacles. Two of my aunts, including Geneviève, have had cancer. My father had cancer two years ago and my mother encountered cancer this year. Witnessing this health karma in our family and inspired by another family’s experience of battling illness with faith, my sisters, my parents, Maxime and I determined together to chant one million daimoku for the absolute victory of our family. We chanted to have faith for health and long life and to transform the family karma of illness. When we finished one million, we kept chanting and have now achieved five million daimoku together. After major surgery and chemotherapy treatment, my mother is now free of cancer.
Maxime and I have also become much more involved in life in Whitehorse. We challenged ourselves to find the best jobs—jobs we would be passionate about, to contribute even more to kosen-rufu in the Yukon.
When I first came to the Yukon, I changed the direction of my career from agrology (agricultural science) to childcare, as I had the opportunity to work for a French-speaking daycare and found it to be the best challenge at that time. A few months ago I realized that something was lacking in this job for me to be fulfilled. With gratitude for this job, which had enabled me to contribute to kosen-rufu until now, I decided that it was time to find work related to my studies in agrology. I am now chanting with the determination to find employment that will enable me to contribute to creating a better environment in the Yukon while allowing me to continue with my other activities and interests.
One of these activities is circus performance. I joined a circus school in Whitehorse a few years ago, and now with the circus staff we are working to develop circus in Whitehorse and in the surrounding communities. We have already started camps in Watson Lake, British Columbia, at the beginning of July for Canada Day.
My determination is to create the best environment for Maxime and myself here in the Yukon. Maxime started beekeeping this summer and we would like to have community gardens next to our house, where people can grow and exchange good vegetables, which are otherwise really expensive here and often of poor quality.
What I find very empowering in Buddhism is the idea that, based on the principle of cause and effect, we are ultimately responsible for our circumstances. Understanding this has made me much more aware of my behaviour and fundamental attitude. I have been able to perceive that the basic cause of my frustration in some circumstances was a lack of wisdom in how I approached such situations.
President Ikeda remarked that, as in sport, a victorious life means winning over oneself. He quotes Jesse Owens, who said:
The true Olympics is life, one’s own inner life. Life itself is an Olympics where we strive each day to better our own personal records. First, one has to be strong. There is no way of winning in this chaotic world if you give in to your weakness. No matter what others may say or do, you should muster your abilities and put these to use. We must each find our own way, blaze our own trail and walk it courageously. In this way we can adorn our lives with lasting victory. (NEW CENTURY, November 2006, p. 21)To conclude, I would like to share with you my determination to continue studying the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin as well as President Ikeda’s guidance. I am determined to contribute to society by always challenging myself to establish a state of profound happiness and wisdom through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.