By Jharna Narang, Mumbai
Yesterday was 26/11. Exactly 3 years ago, I was supposed to come to Delhi for the Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) General Meeting. But I never made it because of the terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26/11/2008. I had gone to the Taj Mahal hotel with my family to celebrate my only brother’s birthday. My father, mother and brother were all shot and killed that night. I too was hit by four bullets, in my stomach, arms and pelvis, and left to die.
Nichiren Buddhism says, “Buddhism teaches that , when the Buddha nature manifest itself from within, it will receive protection from without” (‘The three kinds of Treasure’). I was chanting continuously while hiding in one of the rooms. Even when I was shot, after the second and third bullet hit me, I remember thinking, “I cannot die. My work is not finished yet!”
This fierce inner determination resulted in a whole universe conspiring to save my life. I was among the first few to be rescued and taken to the hospital. Although I had no identification and doctors could barely feel my pulse, they didn’t give up on me and operate immediately.
For the next two months, I fought to stay alive in the ICU. Every day there was a fresh crisis, a new emergency. Nineteen doctors from different disciplines worked in constant consultation with each other, trying to pull me through. My kidneys had failed. Both my legs are immobilized because of the damage to my spinal cord. I had internal bleeding which the doctors just could not stop and the constant threat of septicemias. Amazingly, though, the bullets had missed all my vital organs and my face remained unscratched.
My struggle to live went hand in hand with my struggle to practice faith. After a major surgery, when I regained consciousness, the first thing I remember saying was, “Let’s do gongyo!” Because of the tubes in my throat, I could barely speak, but I would struggle to whisper the liturgy. At times, all I was able to do was listen to members as they chanted or read President Ikeda’s guidance aloud for me. I yearned to join my hands in prayer but my palms would not come together because of the multiple injuries to my arms.
As my right hip was crushed, the doctors feared I could never walk again. Someone even donated a motorized wheelchair meant for completely disabled patients, but I refused to accept that I would have to use it, though I could barely stand at that time. I tried to study Ikeda Sensei’s guidance and Gosho, though it was difficult to even hold up a book.
However, every time I was disheartened, leaders and members were right there, on hand, to encourage me again and again. I received my Omamori Gohonzon during that time. Ikeda Sensai kept sending gifts and messages that made me feel cherished and gave me courage to carry on , no matter how bleak the future seemed.
I believe all the causes I have created over the eight years of my Buddhist practice manifested as good fortune at this crucial moment in my life. All my medical expenses, running into lakhs of rupees, were borne by Tata Trust Fund; the first bill itself came to 40 lakh.
With physiotherapy, both my arms gradually became functional and I was able to take a few steps. And so, after eight excruciating months in hospital, I finally went home – to an empty house, filled with painful memories.
A new battle began. I was alone, totally dependent on nurses and staff. Seeing me as a helpless, bedridden patient, they try to dominate me. But one day I said: “Enough! I am practicing this philosophy and refuse to feel crippled:” Again and again I reminded myself to rely on the law, and not upon persons. I took charge, hired a new nurse and maid and started taking active interest in managing everything at home, from ordering my medicine supplies to taking care of my diet. Knowing that I had voluntarily chosen to live, made me summon up the fighting spirit and determination to get life back to normal.
I received prayer beads from Ikeda Sensei. With fresh resolve, I challenged myself to do regular morning and evening gongyo, study the Gosho and read Ikeda Sensei’s guidance. I requested that Gakkai meetings to be held at my house and I managed to sit through them, even if for a short while.
One last crucial surgery which I needed kept getting postponed. It seemed I might have to live with the problem with the rest of my life. But I determined to get over this obstacle also and focused my daimoku on healing my body. Sure enough, after nine months, the surgery was performed successfully. But there were post surgery complications that once again plunged me into darkness and despair. There seemed no end to my suffering.
Leaders encouraged me to respond to Ikeda Sensei’s prayers for me and not give up. Lying in my hospital bed looking out of the window at someone’s kitchen, I though to myself what a joy it would be to be able to stand in the kitchen and cook. At that time, it seemed impossibility. However, 3 weeks later, I stood in my cousin’s kitchen and made Chinese soup for her family. The power of the Mystic law is absolutely unfathomable.
True to my initial prayer, I am now standing on my own feet, both literally and figuratively. I begun to lead a normal life, going for films and lunches with friends. At present, I live with my uncle. He has taken my father’s place and it has been very healing for both of us. I have once more taken up more responsibilities as an Area leader.
Soon after I re-enshrined my Gohonzon, my life opened up in unimaginable ways. Before 26/11, I was prone to inertia and procrastination and often felt overwhelmed by circumstances. I remember chanting on the evening on 26/11 itself to transform this negative tendency that has held me back all my life. I am happy to report that now I tackle problems head-on.
All this while, I had left all my financial, property, succession and legal matters to the rest of my family. I felt I was mentally and physically not up to handling such complex and daunting matters. But one day I decided to stop hiding in the background. I took charge of my life, my future. I had to learn everything from scratch. The last six months have been like a crash course in banking, finance, law and many aspects of daily life.
Ikeda Sensei says, “By taking on difficulties, no matter how severe, you can discover your ‘hidden mines’ of wisdom. I am grateful that every day I get to learn in the classroom of life. I am grateful for this second chance. I am grateful to my mentor for training me to become a capable human being.
I also want to express my deepest gratitude to all those who prayed so hard for me during these dark days, including complete strangers from all over the world who heard about me on Facebook. And I especially want to thank those members who kept vigil outside my hospital room 24×7, supporting my grieving family and friends. Through these dialogues of hope, the seeds of Buddhism were sown in their lives, causing some of them to take up faith. My entire family holds the Gakkai in high regard due to the immense support they got.
Despite what I have been through, I do not feel hatred for the terrorists, only compassion. I believe they are victims of their own circumstances and distorted beliefs that make them resort to such violence. Of course, the loss of my family is very painful. I regret not being able to say goodbye. I regret that I did not do everything I wanted to do for them while they were alive. But I have daimoku and prayer for their eternal happiness.
Over the months, I have come to feel an inner certainty that my parents and brother are happy wherever they are. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism teaches us that the benefits of our effort for kosen-rufu extend to seven generations of our family. I believe that the benefits of all causes I create in faith will reach my parents and brother; that’s very reassuring. I also believe what the Gosho promises that I will reunite with my family at Eagle Peak. In the meantime, my must do my life’s work.
So, to start with, I took a flight to Delhi on my own, without any family or maid, the first flight I’ve taken since November 2008, when I was supposed to attend the Bharat Soka Gakkai General Meeting. I have completed that journey at last and stand there to report that I, a disciple of Daisaku Ikeda, have changed poison into medicine and won.
I determine to recover completely and lead a happy and fulfilled life. I determine to get back to the work that I love, get married to my kosen-rufu partner and move to a part of the world where my mission lies. I determine to go to Japan and personally report my absolute victory to Ikeda Sensei. It will be my life’s purpose to actualized his vision by fostering youth and the future division, fighting for a world free of terror.
With thanks to Vrinda Taneja for bringing this amazing experience to our attention.