The biggest defeat can be the biggest victory


The biggest defeat of my life was a fact I started smoking.                  The biggest victory of my life was a fact I quit smoking.                                 - Kosen Ishikawa - 


It’s been almost 10 years since I quit smoking.  Now I almost forgot about pleasure of smoking and I never want cigarette again but it was actually very hard for me to quit smoking. 


 I started smoking when I was 20 years old.  I was a college student in Yokohama but found little meaning to study various “unnecessary” subjects.    Of course, I was wrong but young.  I ran away from taking some exams and I started travelling the Pacific side of the Honshu, Japan with my brand-new backpack.  At that time, I was so inspired by the life of Kobou Daishi who spent youth time as travelling and I regarded this backpack trip as a wild training to know the world.


I visited many temples, shrines and famous sightseeing sites during the day time and at night, I slept on the benches at the train stations.   At that time, there was no smart phone or tablet with me.   While spending lonely nights at the benches of the stations, I started missing “something.”  If I were a beer-drinker, I probably wouldn’t need a cigarette, but I first bought a cigarette from the vending machine at Toyohashi station in Aichi prefecture. I remember I was looking at the cigarette package for a few hours , thinking whether I should stop starting cigarette.   But I defeated.  I bought a lighter at the convenience store at midnight and started smoking.  My first impression of smoking was “NOOOOO Good!!!  It was nothing but smoky.  However, I assumed if I continued smoking, sooner or later, I should feel good.   So I smoked cigarette again and again till I felt good.  After all, I didn’t feel good on that night but  on the next day, I found myself addicted to the cigarette.  This was my biggest regret and the biggest defeat of my life since I spent over 17 years and plenty money for the habits of smoking cigarettes even after I came to Kauai.


Because of this biggest defeat, however, I felt supreme sense of victory when I was successful to quit smoking.   Quitting smoking brought me more time, more saving money, more hobbies and better heath and of course more weight but the most important fact to quit smoking was to deepen my understanding of Buddhism.  In addition, this success gave me lots of confidence to deliver the Buddhist teachings because of the triumph over the most difficult and tough battle. 


The secret to quit smoking for me was actually to get back to the basics of the Buddhism which regards life as suffering.   Smoking was same thing.  It is not pleasure but more suffering is caused by the smoking.   It’s very simple but this simple discovery of “suffering” in smoking actually made me wish to be free of suffering.   At the same time, I did more Nenbutsu to get rid of the desires of smoking.  Of course, I’m thankful to my wife, too, who gave me good food.


Once again, the biggest defeat of my life was a fact I started smoking and the biggest victory of my life so far was a fact I quit smoking cigarette….Life is not always fun, pleasant and happy rather more mistakes and sufferings are always happening around us.  But if we rightly realize our sufferings and mistakes around us, there should be always ways to get out of suffering.   

                                                                         Namu Amida Butsu