(Photo above courtesy of Bella Hanesworth)
Buddhability spoke with Bella Hanesworth on how chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo helped her develop the confidence she needed to pursue her dream in the medical field.
Bella Hanesworth: I didn’t always want to attend medical school. During high school and my first year of college, I met many people pursuing medicine. When they spoke, I would always think something like, Wow! They are so courageous to pursue something so difficult; I could never do that. I was interested in the medical field but didn’t believe I had the ability or necessary character traits to be successful in the profession.
Buddhability: That’s a twist! What changed?
Bella: Not only was I participating in my SGI neighborhood meetings and consistently chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but also supporting other young people, going beyond my comfort zone. Before I realized it, I was becoming more confident in myself. I decided to switch my major to a concentration that would allow me to fulfill the required classes for medical school, just in case I wanted to apply.
As I learned more about other professions in science and healthcare, I increasingly realized that pursuing medical school was the right choice for my life. By the end of my sophomore year, I was fully committed to pursuing medicine.
Buddhability: That’s awesome! So, from there everything started to take off?
Bella: At first it seemed like everything was working out and I was even offered a competitive internship at a prominent hospital in New York City but with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was canceled. I was devastated. My goal to apply to medical school by the end of my senior year looked bleaker as the pandemic continued.
In the middle of these setbacks, my family also experienced a crisis. Because of a health challenge, my father almost lost his livelihood to medication misuse. It was a tough time for my family, and I was filled with anxiety and fear for my father and our family’s future. I also became furious at my father’s doctor, who I held partly responsible. This experience exposed me to the harmful side of medicine, and I began to resent the career I was working so hard to pursue.
Buddhability: This must have been so difficult. What did you do in response?
Bella: My Buddhist practice teaches me that there is no such thing as a life or career without hardship and obstacles. So, I decided not to give in to my frustrations and instead process them by chanting to the Gohonzon. During this time, I was chanting more than ever for my father’s health and happiness, family harmony, and my future. As I chanted, I deeply contemplated what type of daughter, student and potential doctor I wanted to be. My father was able to emerge from the crisis and recover.
My Buddhist practice teaches me that there is no such thing as a life or career without hardship and obstacles. So, I decided not to give in to my frustrations and instead process them by chanting to the Gohonzon.
On top of that, in April 2021, the same prominent hospital that cancelled all internships, hired me for a part-time position similar to the internship I had lost a year ago. However, with this new role, I would receive compensation and interact more with patients. This job was the exact experience I needed to build a robust application for medical school.
And then came the MCAT exam, a 7-hour test required for medical school admission and feeling overwhelmed became my daily reality. Even though I prepared in all the ways possible, I received a lower score than I had hoped. At one point, I broke down and cried during one of my local Buddhist meetings, and the members encouraged me to not give up.
Buddhability: Community support at crucial moments is everything. Was there anything you held onto during that difficult time?
Bella: I kept going back to this encouragement by the Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda:
Nothing is irredeemable in youth. Rather, the worst mistake you can make when young is to give up and not challenge yourselves for fear of failure. The past is the past and the future is the future. Keep moving forward with a steady eye on the future, telling yourselves: “I’ll start from today!” “I’ll start fresh from now, from this moment!” This is the essence of Nichiren Buddhism, the Buddhism of true cause, the spirit to start from the present moment. This is the heart of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Discussions on Youth, p. 26
As I started chanting toward taking it a second time, I pinpointed what I needed to improve, which was actually my confidence. And you can’t study for confidence. You can study all the material but that confidence comes through your chanting. I had a goal score and chanted to choose each answer with confidence and no hesitation. My practice helped me have the courage to retake the exam. It also helped me identify what I needed to do differently, and it helped me on timing too. I finally attained my goal score just in time to apply for medical school this year with interviews already coming in!
As I started chanting toward taking it a second time, I pinpointed what I needed to improve, which was actually my confidence. And you can’t study for confidence. You can study all the material but that confidence comes through your chanting.
Buddhability: Congratulations! What a powerful story. Could you share advice to someone pursuing their dreams and are curious about how chanting could help?
Bella: Just by starting the journey and chanting with the determination, “I’m going to do this,” even if you don’t have concrete actions toward the goal, means you’ve already won.
I’m just proud of myself for getting this far and now I see now how everything happened for the best. So far, I’ve already been accepted into a medical school!