How the Teachings Taught Me Gratitude to My Family

Sri Lanka Dharma Center

by Dhammi Ranasingha

This religious testimony was delivered during the ceremony for a Poya Day of observing the Buddhist precepts at the Sri Lanka Dharma Center on March 5, 2015.

Ms. Dhammi Ranasingha.

I was born in the city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka on January 5, 1961. I have eight family members–my mother and father, three elder brothers, an elder sister, and a younger sister. My father had been a village mayor and had supported our family by cultivating rice. My mother had been a housewife and taken care of our family as hard as she could. Our family was all living together in harmony. My father was proud of living without debts. He loved me very much.
My father had lent a room of our house to a man. The man had rented the room in order to work in Polonnaruwa. When my father became sick, he had looked after my father with tender care. I was charmed by that kind man and married him on September 5, 1980. I have been living with my husband since then.
He is from the city of Anuradhapura and was in charge of a warehouse owned by a semi-governmental corporation that built houses for the needy in Polonnaruwa. My father had been sick for about a year before my marriage, and my husband had taken care of my father very well. My father liked him so much.
My father was delighted at my marriage from the bottom of his heart. He transferred his house to me and gave me his rice fields. Three months later, he died of a heart attack.
After our marriage, my husband changed his job and started working for a company that produces and distributes cashew nuts in the eastern part of Sri Lanka. It was, however, the conflict area in civil war, so he had to quit his job due to the danger of terrorism. He returned to Polonnaruwa and got a job as a secretary to a government official.
Our son was born in 1982, and our daughter was born in 1984. During that time, my husbands stable income allowed us to build a large house in the city of Polonnaruwa. We also had a small house. In addition, we had yet another small house, in the city of Anuradhapura, where my husband was born, which we had substantially rebuilt. During the period of twelve years we lived in Polonnaruwa, we owned four houses, including one given by my father.
However, by that time, we were hoping to move to Colombo, former capital city of the country, to provide our children with a better education. Our minds were occupied with this wish for them. We sold our large house and gave one of the small ones to one of our maids, whose family did not have a house. We also gave away the house given by our father to our elder brother, and donated the rice fields to a local temple. We transferred the house in Anuradhapura to my husbands mother. In spite of the opposition of our parents and siblings, we moved to Colombo in 1992. My husband started to work for a shipping company, and the salary was better than the one he used to earn in Anuradhapura.
Some time later, he was advised to go to Japan to work. We thought he could earn more in Japan, and thus we borrowed a lot of money for the traveling expenses to Japan. In 1996, he went to Japan. However, he lost his job two months after his arrival. I had to send money to him from Sri Lanka for his living expenses in Japan. So we had to borrow more money.

Ms. Dhammi Ranasingha delivers her religious testimony during the ceremony for a Poya Day of observing the precepts at the Sri Lanka Dharma Center.

Because we had no income, we had to borrow more money in order to repay the debt. In order to repay apart of the debt, we eventually sold our house in Colombo that we had built after coming here. I earned an income by sewing saris, and my husband quit smoking and drinking. Since he sent us all the income he made in Japan, we could manage to keep providing our children with an education. After my husband came back to Sri Lanka, however, he became depressed, and we led a life of just managing the household budget every day. When I recalled our better life in Polonnaruwa, I lamented our miserable life in Colombo, wondering what made us to experience the life like this.
As we were challenged by such difficulties, my younger sister introduced Rissho Kosei-kai in October of 2006, saying, I am sure you would love this faith. I know you like religious faith.I can never forget the day when I participated in the activity of RK for the first time. When I entered the Dharma center, I received a warm welcome. Everyone joined their palms together before their chest and cheerfully said Good morning!to me. I was very impressed with their cheerful presence and the kind of hospitality that I have rarely experienced in life. This was the beginning of my learning of how to practice the teachings of the Buddha in everyday life.
Since that day, the teachings of the Lotus Sutra have become a support for me in leading a hard life. After I became a member of RK and started to practice what I learned there, I felt more at ease. Observing how I had been facing these challenges, my husband and our two children also encouraged me to continue my practice at the Dharma center. Our hard life still continued. But it was around that time, when Rev. Yamamoto was assigned to the minister of the Sri Lanka Dharma Center. Listening attentively to my stories, Rev. Yamamoto said, Your parents had so deep affection for you that he gave the house and rice fields to you. To thank your parents as much as you can means to practice the Buddhas fundamental teaching of dependent origination.Keeping his guidance in mind, I started to practice feeling gratitude towards my parents after my daily prayer.
When they were alive, I had taken care of them very well. But I realized that I had not felt grateful towards them. When suffering arose, I had lost my feeling of gratitude toward them. Rev. Yamamoto said to me, No matter what problems come up, you should always keep the Buddha in mind. And you should believe that the Buddha always protects and guides you to a right path. Moreover, feeling grateful to your parents, you should walk the Buddha way. Then your problems will be gradually settled.I recited the Lotus Sutra every day, praying that I could put into practice his guidance, and I tried to hear the voice of the Buddha. Then, through these practices, I was able to feel at ease.
Recently, I came to realize that I might have held anger in my heart when I talked to my husband, because I often blamed him for various things. Since he is a wonderful and gentle man, it was easy for me to put the blame on him. As I became aware of my behavior, I came to realize how important it is also to have a feeling of gratitude towards my husband.
Now that I have been performing these practices, although we are still in debt, now I am more confident that we will be able to pay off all our debts someday. At the same time, I have been able to feel the happiness brought to us by the fact that our children always support us. I used to lament how our lives had changed, despite the fact we had had four houses. I now feel the happiness of living together with all of my family members, although we live in a rented house.
Rev. Yamamoto said to me, Because of the suffering of repaying your debts, you and your husband have become a wonderful couple, and your wonderful children have grown up.Before I became a member of RK, I lamented that karma from my previous lives might be the cause of our economic problems, because there were no relatives and people around us who had the sort of problems we had. Because of this, I could not associate with neighbors, and I even considered ending my life. However, now I believe that the Buddha is always guiding us so that we can attain true happiness as a family.
I have now come to feel that I would like to dedicate myself to sharing my experience and the teachings of RK with my neighbors and relatives. At the Sri Lanka Dharma Center, we have started the project, neighboring dharma center to hoza practices which is intended to make membershomes a base for the hoza practice and the dissemination of the teachings. I have taken on the role of community organizer of our neighboring dharma center. This role is open to any member of RK that wishes to offer their house to organize hoza practices and meet with friends and relatives. It does not matter whether the members are poor or affluent. In my hoza practice, I invited Rev. Yamamoto and branch leaders of the Sri Lanka Dharma Center to the hoza, where they teach non-members in an easy-to-understand manner how they can practice the teachings of the Buddha.
Some of those people voluntarily started to learn and practice the teachings of RK at the Sri Lanka Dharma Center. Today, I am glad to announce that a framed Gohonzon has been installed at the house of a member who lives near my house. Some of these people are challenged by various hardships in their lives. Rev. Yamamoto says, Thanks to the dharma children, you can learn a lot about yourself.
What I feel most grateful for after joining RK is that I could learn the importance of being grateful towards my parents, husband, and children. When my husband sees me having difficulties in visiting the Dharma center because I have to take care of my grandchildren, he kindly encourages me to go and practice my Buddha way. It seems that he senses that my mind is fulfilled when I come back from the Dharma center.
However, I have to admit that my gratitude towards my son and daughter is still not enough. Thanks to the support of people around them, both of them have full-time jobs and good positions in their respective companies. They economically support the lives of my husband and myself. I am proud of them. I know I have to be grateful towards them, but I cannot help but feel that their present circumstances were brought about by our efforts to provide them with good education. Since I have such feelings in my mind, it is difficult for me to simply feel gratitude towards their kindness. This is something that I must acknowledge and feel remorse for.
I pledge myself to continue to learn and practice the teachings of RK, to dedicate myself to making an effort for the liberation of many people, and to be diligent in enriching my mind as the Buddhas, filling it with gratitude.

Ms. Dhammi at work, sewing saris.