Thursday, January 2, 2014

A letter to my mentor(s)

Dear Sensei,

As a child my biggest idol was my mother. She has always been a dynamic woman and the reason for my existence in this life! She had conceived me at the late age of 39 and was the only one, even going against the doctor's wishes, who determined to give birth to me, in spite of many health complications. She calls me the sanity of her life... but I feel eternally grateful that she chose to bring me to this world. As a college professor and in phases the single bread earner in the family, she never lapsed in her duties towards me as a mother. Through her strict and yet ever loving ways, she taught me the values of life... love, respect, forbearance, perseverance, courage and determination. 

The lady of our lives... me, my father and my elder brother
Amidst the many trials and tribulations which adorned my childhood, she was truly a 'man' of the house, holding all the scattering threads of the family together. At that time, neither of us were in the practice and sometimes I wonder how my life could have changed if she encountered the Law earlier than she did. But in spite of lacking the practice, she never lacked faith. I learnt from her to smile during difficult times, to add value and happiness to the lives of others and to share whatever one owns freely. Though she was born a decade after your birth, she truly was my first mentor and I take the opportunity of your 86th birthday to thank her and the universe for us having each other in this lifetime.  

I also fondly remember two other ladies who were educators with the spirit of faith and compassion. I studied at a Sri Aurobindo Ashram school which was headed by a dynamic lady Ms. Jaya Mitter, whom we fondly called Jaya Miss! 

Though the school was guided by the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, very similar to Nichiren's Buddhism, she added a modern twist to everything we did at school. Be it setting up one of the first computer labs in the city in those days, to organising huge cultural evenings to expose her students to art and culture, to being the first school to have its own public art gallery, Jaya Miss was simply a towering personality. 

Her boundless energy had her connected to each and every student and each and every member of staff and her overflowing compassion was well guarded by her strict approach to life and its values. She knew how to celebrate the achievements of people, unite them and move ahead together with no one left behind. She also knew how to state the hard truth to drive home the point of truth. She had a special fondness for me, as I was one of those rare male dancers at that time, and mentored me with personal care. 

My third experience of another dynamic woman is the Principal of the school I worked at early on in my fifteen year old career in education. Her name is Madhavi Kapur and she was heading the school at that time... one of the most revolutionarily progressive schools at that time. I learnt the technicalities of being a good educator from her. She had a penchant for catering to the needs of each and every student and ensured that each teacher functioned from that same vision. She knew how to celebrate life, art and culture and brought these elements into the curriculum. Learning was always fun and interactive and yet fiercely personalised and value driven. She taught me the ropes of class management, student assessment and integrated learning. She also taught me that education is for life and not just for passing examinations and thus, needs to be holistic. This echoed with my own school experiences and eventually helped me grow as an educator who always connects with students from the heart. 
Radiant Adi
Her radiant smiles and vibrant energy filled my teaching experience with precious memories, which I truly cherish. True to the name by which we all called her, Adi (elder sister), she was my first mentor in my professional arena. She is a visionary and has since moved ahead in starting her own foundation and her own new school called Aman Setu or the Peace Bridge. You can well understand by now, how strong an influence these ladies have had in helping me choose and shape my career in education.

Around the time that I worked with Adi, I encountered the Law through my mother, who had already begun practising. It was then that I discovered you. In the beginning you were merely a photograph, an entity somewhere far away. But over the last 12 years and more of my faith and practice, your words and guidances have brought you closer to me. I learnt about the hardships you encountered as a child during World War 2 in Japan. I learnt about your fiery spirit when you first took up this faith at the young age of 19, challenging the teachings at first only to better understand it from your your mentor Josei Toda. I learnt about your commitment and faith as you took on the responsibility of taking this life changing practice out of Japan to the rest of the world. 

A mentor of a lifetime and from many lifetimes
As time flew by, you became a real person, someone whom I am yet to meet in person, but somebody with whom I have a daily dialogue. I learnt the tenets of Buddhism from your lectures on Nichiren Daishonin's writings and through your example of fighting the three obstacles and four devils, not just for your own sake, but for the millions of members worldwide and above all your mentor, I learnt the importance of imbibing the values of wisdom, courage and compassion. I learnt how simple and at the same time difficult, it is, to be a good and happy human being. Today you stand proud and tall in the newly erected Soka Gakkai Headquarters and I hope someday to be able to visit the Great Hall of the Vow of Kosen Rufu. I have changed a lot as a person over all these encounters with all of you, my mentors. So in a way this is my salute to all of you. I have changed a lot over the last 12 years of my practice and continue to polish myself further to live up to your vision of your disciples. I also determine that in all my interactions, I must be able to add value to the lives of others through the learning I have gained with my encounters with each of you. Be it the unconditional love my mother taught, hardwork and dedication that Jaya Miss exemplified, passion and compassion that Adi embodies and the ultimate respect for human life that you so beautifully uphold.

Every single day I remember at least one of you, for each of you have touched my hearts in ways that words cannot express or describe. But in my heart, there is an important place each of you have. This undying gratitude to my mentors is my ultimate dedication to you and the Buddhist spirit you edify on this auspicious occasion of your 86th birthday!

In deepest respect,
3rd January, 2013


Subhorup Dasgupta said...

What a lovely, lovely post. It is our greatest good fortune to have encountered the teachings of Nichiren through the untiring efforts of Daisaku Ikeda. Good to see this blog ticking after quite some time.

conversingwiththebuddha said...

It is only in moments of leisure that my thoughts escape the choked vassals of my soul. Thanks for the appreciation!

Madhavi Padma said...

What a wonderful post, Tipu! I remembered all the mentors in my life too starting of course with my mother, who has been the pillar of our family. She is always there in spirit with us. And we are truly blessed and it is really our good fortune to have encountered our mentor, Daisaku Ikeda from various lifetimes and in this lifetime too.

conversingwiththebuddha said...

Yes so true Madhavi. Thank you for the comment!